This may well turn out to be the longest, most exhausting post I have ever written, and for my own mental health, I believe it is long overdue; I have desperately wanted to purge my consciousness of this enormously draining emotional saga for months. It’s been an almost constant lump in my throat since last October, but out of respect for someone else’s privacy, I have abjured my usual habit of therapeutically writing down my problems to get them out of my head, and have uncharacteristically kept quiet about an extremely distressing situation that has been plaguing me.
Two years ago, my oldest and dearest friend, who I have known and loved since I was five, came to myself and Mr K and asked us for help. We have been close friends for over 35 years… 35 years, bear that in the back of your mind as you read the rest of my story. We had a friendship that survived well over 35 years. My FriendAsWas is a single mum. She has a simply gorgeous little daughter, Miss 3 (at the time), and she wanted her to have a sibling in order to complete her little family because her own sibling relationships are very important to her. Upon weighing up her options – those being 1) go out, get drunk, shag some unsuspecting schmuck and trick him into unknown fatherhood, 2) go to a fertility clinic and purchase some Harvard sperm imported from the US, or 3) approach a trusted friend for the necessary gametes. She chose option 3), and came to Mr K and I, asking if he would consider donating sperm to help her achieve her goals – she said it was important to her that children have the opportunity to know their fathers.
Now, this in itself wasn’t so surprising. My FriendAsWas has been single for most of the three decades I have known her, never really managing a stable relationship – being highly intelligent, somewhat socially unusual and having a tendency to find overbearing and horribly arrogant men attractive, tends to do that to you. And over the years, she had many times spoken of her advancing age, dwindling fertility options and eventual desire to have children. My response to this was always the same ‘Well, if it ever comes to it, Mr K would help you out, and as you can see, he makes excellent progeny’ *waves hand at the Small Child as an exemplar. It was always said in jest to lighten the mood, but we both silently acknowledged that it was a rock solid offer should that day ever come. Such was my deep trust and faith in my FriendAsWas, we would have helped her if she found herself racing against the biological clock.
Anyway, she did ask… And after a discussion that lasted for barely five minutes in the kitchen over cooking dinner one night, Mr K and I agreed to help our FriendAsWas without hesitation. You might think a couple would take weeks, or even months, to debate such a huge decision – entering into an agreement to create a new life; creating an entire little person, is no small favour. We are not talking about lending someone a cup of sugar here… but we are not just any couple. We are a couple who has been through many years of heartache, many thousands of dollars, and many gut-wrenching painful surgeries, and god-awful medications in an attempt to overcome our own infertility. We know all too well, the pain that not being able to achieve the family you so fervently desire, leaves behind. We know all too intimately the emptiness and strain of being unable to have a desperately wanted child. So it was a simple equation. My oldest friend who I loved and trusted above all others needed our help to have a child… and we have the means of assisting her. Simple.
So we entered into discussions on how this was to be achieved. We did some research on what informal donations of this nature usually involve, we outlined expectations and talked over what best case scenarios looked like, made sure we were all clear about our obligations and preferences were, to ensure we were all on the same page. We spoke about how much involvement we would have with the child, and what sort of relationship my friend was ideally hoping to forge between her child and its biological father. We discussed potential pitfalls, whether termination was morally objectionable should a severe abnormality be diagnosed, and what would occur in the event of her unexpected death. We covered a lot of bases.
My FriendAsWas used to be a lawyer so we probably more meticulous than most in covering off many issues… and this is the tenor and tone that most of these discussions took. Very collaborative, inclusive, and collegial. The original ‘sell’ looked much like this (snipped from an email to us in Feb 2014):
“i would list some talking points as follows….
firstly whether you’re both interested in/ comfortable with the idea.
secondly what level of involvement you would want at a maximum and at a minimum. as i mentioned i would LOVE the occasional, preferably regular, weekend off (which i haven’t had with the muppet) even if it was just once a month, but that may not suit/ be enough for you guys. i’m not suggesting we need to set up any sort of formal regime, but it would be good to get an idea of how much time you’d see yourself wanting to spend with said child esp after s/he is weaned.
whether you care about birth certificate/naming rights. so far as given names, i’d propose to float a list of preferences to you in advance and you guys veto any you really dont like. i’d probably want to find out the gender in advance, i dont have room for surprises. I’d prefer to be the only parent on the birth certificate only until i’m confident that there are no significant (esp financial ) risks to putting another name on it”
and so on…
and so on…
These discussions proved all very mature and productive. We would never have expected to be included in such things as far as helping her name the child, but took it as a positive sign of the level of involvement our FriendAsWas was hoping to gain from this arrangement. We have always had one of those wonderful friendships built on open communication that meant we spoke about everything and anything, but we didn’t need to live in each other’s back pockets in order to remain close. Everything was as well-conceived (pun intended) as possible and very well thought out.
Given her now advancing years (in fertility stakes anyway), she was keen to get started as soon as possible. So Mr K, who is more needle-phobic than any person I have meet, voluntarily went for some blood tests to ensure he had no communicable nasties, and then dutifully went to visit three times a month at the appointed times for several months to offer his assistance. About four months of trying the homemade shake and bake method passed without success, it was decided that, at 42, and age being a very real factor, it was time to call for reinforcements, and appointments were made with our trusted old fertility specialist, Glenn.
Going from an informal donation to a formal donation did not change the dynamic of what we were trying to achieve – though naturally, it did add a layer of legality across the endeavour that spelt out everyone’s legal rights, responsibilities and obligations (or lack thereof) in a more organized manner. We found ourselves fronting up for compulsory counselling, where we met an affable fellow named Joel whose role was basically to ensure that all parties fully understood what they were entering into. Apparently, we were all of sound mind enough to convince Joel that we were entering into this arrangement with open eyes and in good faith, and we were waved on through to the next step. Specimens were collected and frozen for legally mandated quarantine… oddly, sperm donations need to be quarantined under state law for six months, whereas an egg donation does not… go figure. Which meant more blood tests for Mr K, IVF drugs, and egg collections, embryo creation, and six-month wait for our FriendAsWas.
Eventually, all hoops were jumped through and it was time for FETs (Frozen Embryo Transfers). On the first FET, I had mixed emotions, I wanted it to work for her, I really did, but at the same time, I think part of me was also privately hoping it would fail. I know… It’s not very charitable of me, but I have been through so many IVF cycles, so much failure, so many surgeries, so much pain, so many god-awful disappointments and heartaches that it is really, really, hard for me to feel happy for my friends’ easy pregnancy successes. So I’ll admit it, part of me didn’t want to have to watch someone else achieve something that I had desperately wanted and been denied for over five years of trying, with ease. That first FET failed and all I felt was, ‘Well maybe she understands a little of what I went through’, though it nowhere near compares with the years and years of heartache from over 30 failed transfers. :/ Never mind, second time was a charm and my FriendAsWas found herself happily up the duff as planned.
Things seemed to go on swimmingly and once she got past the first few scary weeks where things could still go tits up, and this pregnancy rapidly turned into a concrete reality, whereupon we felt it was time to tell our 14-year-old son that he was going to have a biological half-sibling. He’s turning into quite the mature little guy and even at 14 he was able to understand the difference between his Dad being the child’s biological father, but not being the child’s parent. He understood that he would be intrinsically connected forever to this little person through their shared biology and that we all hoped he would be able to forge a relationship with s/he. His initial reactions were quite guarded, and once we drew him out on the subject a little – we understood why. It seems his young mind still carries some baggage from a miscarriage I had when he was about four. I had been on IVF for some time and finally achieved a pregnancy, and while the pregnancy was quite early and I was not going to tell him about it yet – my older sister accidentally told him, and asked him how he felt about having a baby brother or sister, when I was only 8 weeks along. He had gotten very excited as only little kids can – he wanted a little brother so much and wanted to meet him right away! Unfortunately, that pregnancy went horribly awry when the feotus failed to develop, (which incidentally is what prompted me to start this whole journal thing way back in 2005) and his little brain didn’t really understand why there was no baby now. For months later, hell even as much as two years after that miscarriage, he would occasionally blindside me out of the blue, asking what happened to the baby and asking where was his little brother. It obviously left a big impact on him, as his reaction to the news he was gaining a half-sibling was an almost apprehensive, ‘wait and see’. It was awful to realize that he had grown up to be ‘realistically optimistic’ about these things.
It was not until the Small Child and I went with my FriendAsWas, to a 20 week ultrasound appointment that he saw the baby was actually real, and on the way home in the car, he started to tell me how cool he thought it was and how he was looking forward to meeting his little half-sister and teaching her ‘lots of stuff’… yes, the baby was to be a little girl.
It was not long after this appointment that I set off on last year’s travels. Anyone who follows my ramblings would know that 2015 turned out to be a much bigger year of travel than I had anticipated… Japan and China for nearly seven weeks, home for barely ten days and then off again to the UK, a transatlantic cruise via Iceland and Norway and a week in New York and New Orleans. Which mean I didn’t see my FriendAsWas from when we left in early July 2015. During the ten days that I was home in between trips, we had a birthday dinner for Mr K, but my FriendAsWas, had RSVP’d to come, but didn’t make it. We did manage to catch up for an hour or so for a cuppa during those ten days, and if she was having any reservations, or experiencing any problems, she didn’t mention it. She seemed like most expectant mothers who already possess a toddler – tired, a bit stressed and overcommitted, but pleased nonetheless.
While I was away, Mr K managed to catch up with our FriendAsWas only a couple of times – though I did get an odd message while I was off weathering the transatlantic storms near Halifax… he was hosting a BBQ at our home for his mother, grandmother, stepfather, his brother and sister and partners and our FriendAsWas so they could get to know each other better??? And … well, actually, I don’t know what the point of the exercise was. I tend to avoid most of my in-laws for long since documented reasons, so I have no idea what this meeting was attempting to achieve. I recall thinking, ‘Oh well, just because I don’t get along with most of them, doesn’t mean she won’t.’ Meh. And I thought nothing more of it.
Once I returned from all my travels at the end of September, I made a couple of attempts to catch up with her – so much to talk about after such a long absence – but my FriendAsWas seemed invariably busy dealing with legal nonsense and somewhat distant. She was often tied up in dealings with her ex-partner – the father of her older daughter – who she has frequently complained is a massive pain in the proverbial over custody matters. In fact, prior to us entering into this adventure to create a child with her, I’d say her Ex had been dominating our conversations for the last three years. She has long claimed he is emotionally abusive towards her daughter, and as a result Miss 3 never wants to visit with him and when she does, she always comes home unsettled, thus things were being dragged through the courts repeatedly to minimize his contact. It was one of those situations whereby the court case had taken over my FriendAsWas’ life entirely, it consumed her and the evidence of this was all over her house as the piles of legal paperwork grew ever higher in carefully arranged bundles on every surface. So she was dealing with all that unpleasantness again and we didn’t manage to get together when I returned from overseas.
Then very unexpectedly, Mr K’s mother died – perfectly healthy one week, going into hospital for some tests and then suddenly her condition was fatal and within 48 hours, she was gone. We were all thrown by the suddenness of her death at barely 60. Amid the shock and disruption caused by the situation, I exchanged messages with my FriendAsWas and she expressed her sympathies as is appropriate, but I started to get an annoying feeling that she was deliberately avoiding my attempts to get together.
Just before the funeral, I again tried to arrange to catch up with her and got a very curt… “Better to leave it til after the birth. Currently trying to extract self from few remaining social engagements. I’m not in the mood.”, text message that was confusing, and hurtful, and something I didn’t have the attention span to fully address, with family funeral arrangements taking up most of our mental energy. Eventually, I replied to this saying that things had been very stressful and that we were all exhausted, but that I felt we needed to talk, as her message had left Mr K and I feeling like an unwanted social obligation.
Which is where things took an extraordinary turn. My FriendAsWas emailed us with an exceedingly cryptic message…
“hi borys – i’m replying to your text this morning, which i’ll assume you’ve sent with Mr K on board.
i’ve had some concerns for a while now at what appears to be the increasing gap in your expectations of me, the degree of input which you (both?) want/ expect to have in matters relating to the (my) baby, and what i’d thought had actually been agreed to.
i have been back to see Joel Cullin (who counselled us at length about our understanding and acceptance of our respective rights and obligations or the absence of them) to check, among other things, whether my recollection was accurate.
his view (i hope i’m quoting him correctly) is that it appeared we have, amongst other problems, developed some “boundary issues”.
he suggested it might be worth our returning for further counselling – partly to check whether everyone is still on the same page? please let me know whether that would be of interest, at my expense obviously.
so i agree – a chat would be a good idea. however i wasn’t in any hurry to bring these matters to a head as you’ve both been away a lot, i’ve had a great deal on my own plate, and as i’m aware that Mr K in particular has just had a really awful few weeks. you will also no doubt understand that my focus at this point has to be on getting through my labour without being subjected to un-necessary stress or external pressures, and then getting the baby home and settled in with us.
i simply don’t have the capacity to take anyone else’s priorities onboard right now.
Way to add to Mr K’s awful few weeks!
Now, given that my last proper conversation with her was in July, and this was now mid-October – I had absolutely NO FUCKING IDEA what the hell she was on about. I quizzed Mr K about the conversations that occurred at the BBQ he arranged while I was away and he was also ignorant of what ‘concerns’ she was referring to, given he spent most of the afternoon cooking and playing host. We can’t imagine anyone in the family said much of consequence. So we were totally in the dark as to what these boundary issues were, but given that she was sounding overwhelmed, and rightly had to focus on her health and wellbeing, I replied that we are here to offer her as much support as she wants, and I hope to come visit her in hospital once her baby was born… just as I had when her first child was born, but that of course if she needs space, she shall have it.
It is probably at this point in the story that I have to make a confession. Due to my horrible IVF history, (and other infertile women will know this feeling well), I had found it increasingly difficult to be happy for my friends when they were having children… but when my FriendAsWas told me she was expecting her first daughter. I was genuinely happy for her – in large part because I knew she was so concerned about her advancing years and continuing single status. Most of my other friends received a lukewarm congratulations and a studious avoidance when their little bundles of joy arrived, but when my FriendAsWas had her first child, I moved heaven and earth to go along to show her my support and offer my congratulations. She was living in Sydney at the time, and I just happened to be visiting friends in Canberra when the baby arrived, so I immediately arranged to drive to Sydney for the day so that I might visit her in hospital and welcome her little charge and see how she was coping. I have never met the father of this child, but was immediately fond of her because I know how much she was wanted. Anyway, the point being – with my FriendAsWas having another child, I would have been there for her regardless of who the child’s father was… the fact that the child was Mr K’s biological progeny was completely irrelevant in my mind.
So we waited… and waited…
And then one afternoon in mid-November, on the drive home from school, I stopped into the butcher shop to buy some kranksy, and ran into my FriendAsWas’ brother. The brother asked me if I had been up to visit her… and I was immediately excited and asked if she was at the hospital. He informed me, that, no: the child had been born about two weeks previous and they were safely at home already. He could have slapped me in the face and I would have felt less shocked. I walked out of there with my sausages and to the car thinking – two weeks… the baby was born two weeks ago, why has she not told us? What on earth have we done that is so awful as to warrant this exclusion? I got home and tearfully called Mr K, and told him of my exchange at the butcher shop, and he was likewise at a loss as to what would have caused this.
Mr K messaged her saying he understood congratulations were in order and asked if she might send us a photo of the little girl in order to share with his 90year old grandmother who could really use some cheering up after losing her only daughter (Mr K’s mother) so unexpectedly only weeks before. Our FriendAsWas supplied a photo, but scant little other information. I didn’t send her anything… I was in stunned disbelief, wondering exactly how long she was planning to wait before getting around to letting her oldest friend and the biological father of her baby know, that the child was born safely, and that they were both alive and well.
The entire situation had leapt from just stressful and concerning to completely distressing and in no large part because we still didn’t know what the ‘boundary issues’ were. Additionally, this entire situation was so personal given all the information relates to my friend’s personal life choices, that I felt that I was not really at liberty to discuss it with anyone else. Which of course created another problem – we had told our families (my mother, my sisters, their husbands, Mr K’s family and siblings etc) as well as a few close friends about the arrangement we had entered into because well, that is what we had all discussed and agreed upon given we expected to have significant contact with the baby upon her arrival, and now many of them were asking, ‘When is the baby due?’, and ‘Shouldn’t FriendAsWas have had her baby by now?’ and a multitude of other questions that we attempted to sidestep as deftly as possible.
Being uncertain of what was causing this mess, but being confident that one proper conversation would likely clear it all up, we hadn’t told the Not So Small Child about the tension that had developed. And I failed to anticipate his reaction to the news of his half-sister’s birth… Every single day, I pick him up from school in the afternoon. And every single day, we drive right past my FriendAsWas’ house. And once he knew she was born, every single day, he asked me if we could stop in and meet her. Every. Single. Day. And every single day for a month, until the end of term, I made excuses as to why we could not stop in for him to meet the baby. We had somewhere we needed to be. The baby was probably asleep at that time. Our FriendAsWas probably wasn’t home… and so on. This brings us well and truly into early December now, and I was handing out lame excuses left and right, until one afternoon, he flat out asked me if there was something wrong with the baby and was she sick, and is that why he wasn’t allowed to meet her?
Sigh… he’s a smart cookie. He can tell when something is wrong, so I sat him down and told him that our FriendAsWas was not talking to us and… to be perfectly honest, we didn’t know why. I tried to explain that we are trying to give her some space and that she is probably feeling overwhelmed… but his response was just that she was being mean and that it had nothing to do with him, so he should be allowed to go see the baby. By this stage – I was seriously inclined to agree with him. She was being very mean and extremely self-centred. Her actions strongly indicated that she has no regard for the impact her lack of communication was having on my family, and I had gone from being confused over the matter to getting very angry at her about the whole thing. Not telling us what she was even concerned about was driving me nuts, as I turned over and over in my mind, the possible infractions that could have caused this situation. My husband was disappointed and blaming himself for this mess, and my teenage son was confused and feeling hurt. It was about this time, I was getting really sick of losing sleep over this massive clusterfuck.
With nothing to go on, but a vague ‘I have issues and am not going to waste my time telling you what they are until I am ready?!?!’, Mr K decided we had better go back to the counsellor, Joel, and see if we could start unravelling this problem. We managed to get an appointment for December 23rd… which was approximately two months since the abrupt email, and also about two months since we believe the child was born (who knows?!) and about six months since my last decent conversation with my friend when everything seemed peachy. We invited her to join us at this appointment seeing she had indicated in her letter that she found the appointments with the counsellor to be useful. She declined to join us due to short notice… but it was short notice, or take an appointment six weeks away, so what could we do.
We went to see him anyway, even though I had no idea how anything productive could be achieved in her absence. He seemed genuinely surprised to see us and was surprised at the FriendAsWas’ actions and lack of communication. He sat there like a man at a mark, as I threw all the emotions I had been bottling up for the last few months, squarely in his lap instead of hers. The sadness, the disappointment, the confusion, the hurt, the anger – it all just came pouring out. I was in disbelief that she was capable of treating my family with so little respect, and so saddened and disappointed that she couldn’t be bothered making the time to tell us what was wrong.
After talking with him for an hour, a very sad realization dawned… I obviously held my FriendAsWas in much higher regard, than she held us. And when I started to look back on our now 37-year friendship I realized that it was a very one-sided friendship. I included her in everything – family birthdays, family BBQs, family holidays, family engagements, weddings, funerals, dinner parties – EVERYTHING… fuck, she even went on camping trips with my parents when I wasn’t even going!!! She was like another sister to me, to my whole family really. But now, I could remember only twice being invited to her place to share a meal… and I could remember only once being invited to share in her birthday celebrations with her family when we were about seven. I only ever met one of her boyfriends, and I didn’t know all the friends she regularly spoke about. I see now that I was not a part of her family the way she had been a part of mine. She had not included me in her life the way I had included her in ours. I had somehow been deceiving myself as to the level of intimacy that I thought I had with this person, who more and more was feeling like a complete stranger.
I feel that I made a gross error in judgment, and now we are all paying for it.
The counsellor set us up three appointments for late January, mid-February and mid-March in the hope that the three of us would get together and start discussing the problems (whatever these fuck these enormously important concerns were!), and he had informed us that he would try and see MyFriendAsWas before those appointments were to occur. All I could think was, ‘Great, another month to stress over issues that are completely beyond our knowledge and completely beyond our control.’ But what were we supposed to do? We couldn’t barge down her door and force her to talk to us, no matter how much we might wish to do so.
My FriendsAsWas apparently did manage to return to see the counsellor in early January, and he claims he encouraged her to write an email to us explaining her concerns so we all know what we are discussing when we hopefully come together to talk at these upcoming appointments. She did send us an email, but it kinda read, ‘I went to see Joel, and I am supposed to email you and tell you what the issues are but I don’t have time or inclination to email you about it now.’ (paraphrased). So when she hadn’t written to us by the week of the appointment set for the end of January, we called him, said we had had no letter, and she was not willing to attend and it was decided to cancel the appointment as the counsellor felt there was literally no point in us rehashing our hurt feelings with him, seeing she STILL had not told us the actual issues that are causing the estrangement. More time passed. The February appointment came up; same thing – still no letter, she was not willing to attend, no point going in, appointment cancelled. And just last week the March appointment came up – still no letter, still unwilling to attend (she cancelled it this time, not us) so no point going in, appointment cancelled.
Somewhere in this god-awful timeline, after the horrible realizations that resulted from our December discussions at the counsellor’s office, I’m afraid my concern for my FriendAsWas’ sensibilities and privacy went out the window. If someone asked about the baby or the FriendAsWas, I was no longer covering for her disrespectful and hurtful behaviour. I gave them the very briefest run down that went something like, “Well, after being conned into helping her conceive and achieve the family she was dreaming of, she has ceased all communications with us and cut us out of her life. We do not know the baby’s birthday, we do not know if the birth went well, we do not really know what the baby looks like or anything about it. I believe its name is Arienne or Adrienne or something like that, but the baby is now five or six months old, and we have not yet been given the opportunity to even meet her. My husband is very disappointed. My son is very confused and I am very angry that she has abused our trust and treated us in this manner”… or words to that effect. A massive unwanted ‘fuck you’ has entered my life.
So now it is roughly six months – or definitely that long since we last spoke, and damn near nine months since we spent any substantial time together. We have no idea how old the baby is, it was born around the end of October? A week or so after Mr K’s mother died, but the butcher didn’t give us a date (you know, that really shits me… right at a time when Mr K and his Gran were grieving and could really have seriously benefited from something positive, uplifting and joyful to think on – she chose to keep the child’s birth secret from us all). We have seen nothing but disdain and contempt for our concerns and our feelings. The FriendAsWas has caused us so much emotional distress and confusion and I honestly don’t think she cares about any of us at all – if she did, she would have taken ten minutes to call and tell us what the problem is, or find the half hour necessary to formulate her thoughts into an email or something – fucking anything – to communicate to us, what the hell these ‘important boundary issues’ of hers are. Because quite frankly, I am convinced that after all this time, it is going to turn out to be some nonsense molehill of a miscommunication that she has beaten into a mountain and she does not wish to own it. Whatever the hell was bugging her has now been so blown out of proportions that if it turns out to be something minor or unimportant, I don’t think her ego will allow her to look foolish or petty.
My position now is an unfortunate one. I find myself stuck between wanting to continue to make efforts to fix this situation for The Small Child and Mr K’s sake, and to continue to try and rescue any potential relationships they might forge in with their biological daughter/half-sister in the future … and my overwhelming desire to write this woman off, out of my life for good. I seriously feel we have reached a point where there is probably nothing she can say or do to repair the damage she has caused to our friendship. I do not feel I can trust anything she says. She has irreparably damaged my faith in her and her intentions. I feel completely deceived by her. I have, in the past, completely cut people out of my life for way less than this level of aggravated and extended bullshit. And even if she did somehow magically find the right words or gestures to rescue this situation – how do I ever forgive her for stealing early memories from Mr K and the Small Child – the contact they could have had with her baby when it was a tiny infant? Even a couple of hours meeting her would have meant so much, and she has taken that from them forever. Those unmade memories are lost, and now tarnished and forever tainted by lack of consideration for their feelings.
I just can’t believe she has been unable to talk to us so we can put all this aside and try to move forward in a positive and productive manner… after all these years of ‘friendship’. Though, at this point, I am readily able to believe that it’s not that she is unable to talk to us, it’s more likely that she just doesn’t want to. She has had six months to tell us what her concerns are, and several mediated opportunities on neutral territory to do so, but she hasn’t availed herself of any of them. It’s becoming really bloody obvious that she doesn’t want to resolve these issues – she simply must not care, because if she did, she would have made some even minor efforts towards sorting things out.
So here I am, finally writing this all down and trying to process it out of my head in a vague attempt to stop churning over and over it in my mind, as I have been doing almost constantly for the last six months. I need to be able to lay down to sleep at night and not think of all the things I wish I could say to her – some of them kind and concerned for her, some of them laden with more vitriol than I have ever directed at a singular individual in my entire life. I need to unclutter my thoughts of this poisonous situation. I need to clear all this shit out of my day-to-day thoughts. I need this mess to go away and be resolved one way or another – seeing that all attempts to fix it have been stymied.
I have not yet decided if I will end up publishing this post publicly… I can see no obligation on my part any more to respect her feelings or her privacy on the matter, when it has become blatantly obvious that she has no respect for us, or our feelings. In future, should anyone find themselves in need of help, please don’t hesitate to ask – someone else.!
I am…. done.
I am done with the whole thing. And it saddens me more than I can say.
UPDATE April 14th 2016:
So about a week or so after I posted this, I was on holiday in Tasmania and my sister drunkenly told me that she had seen my FriendAsWas up at the local primary school. It seems she has enrolled her daughter (mentioned above as Miss 3 now Miss 5) into the school there and they ran into each other, as is bound to happen in a small school community. My sister, who is much braver than my mother seems to have approached her about the elephant in the room and asked her ‘what on earth is going on?’ It seems things are much as I suspected. My FriendAsWas may or may not have had some genuine concerns, but it appears she has allowed things to blow all out of proportion through her refusal to communicate with us. I can only presume this is because she has decided that she just does not want us in her life or her children’s lives.
It feels very much like she is treating us like her Ex-partner (Miss 5’s father) and I am beginning to wonder if her protestations about him are veracious and if her subsequent treatment of him is at all warranted. Given how she has been prepared to treat us in this appalling manner – it would not surprise me if it turned out he is being persecuted and alienated due to her own inequitable agenda. Anyway, after talking to my sister about our perceived transgressions – I decided to try one more time to write to her in the hope of starting (provoking!) a dialogue… any dialogue!
———- Forwarded message ———-
Date: Tuesday, 5 April 2016
Subject: Long Overdue Letter
I know you probably won’t want to read this – but by this stage, I really need to get it all off my chest. We gave you space after you said you were trying to extricate yourself from unwanted social interactions. Now several months have passed in deafening silence. Several attempts, on our part, to try to arrange mediated discussions with Joel, have been met with nothing from you. I now have so much sadness, and frustration, and anger, dominating my thoughts, (every single day), that I simply have to get it out of my head somehow. I hope you understand that this letter is an expression of desperation and frustration. I wrote this down, and it is largely unedited because I need you to know how I feel, and how your refusal to take ten minutes to talk to us about it, is occupying way more of my headspace than it should… I am exhausted from worrying over this untenable situation. I am seriously at the end of my rope.
Well, yet another month has passed and if it was your intention to ram home just how completely insignificant our friendship is, and how utterly unimportant myself, Mr K and my son, are to you, all I can say is: mission accomplished. Before I launch into the rest of this email I would just like to remind you of how you ‘sold’ us on this arrangement in the beginning… from your email of February 2014:
“I would list some talking points as follows….
firstly whether you’re both interested in/ comfortable with the idea.
secondly what level of involvement you would want at a maximum and at a minimum. as i mentioned i would LOVE the occasional, preferably regular, weekend off (which i haven’t had with the muppet) even if it was just once a month, but that may not suit/ be enough for you guys. i’m not suggesting we need to set up any sort of formal regime, but it would be good to get an idea of how much time you’d see yourself wanting to spend with, whether you care about birth certificate/naming rights. so far as given names, i’d propose to float a list of preferences to you in advance and you guys veto any you really dont like. i’d probably want to find out the gender in advance, i dont have room for surprises. I’d prefer to be the only parent on the birth certificate only until i’m confident that there are no significant (esp financial) risks to putting another name on it”
This is what we thought we were getting into… emails like this, and many conversations in a similar vein, were exchanged between the three of us, where you appeared to care about what we wanted, and you appeared to want our support and involvement in your life and the lives of your children… Our initial consultation with Joel was also very much in this collaborative tone. Our current situation doesn’t even remotely resemble this ‘sales pitch’. I imagined you would remember all this, but it seems you have conveniently forgotten what you originally proposed when you approached us for our help. Oddly enough, we took most of these conversations and emails to mean that you would tell us when your baby was born, and that, you know, we would be offered an opportunity to meet her and get to know her… what on earth happened?
Instead, you apparently decided that we have some ‘boundary issues’ that you have not been prepared to explain…. Issues you were prepared to discuss repeatedly with Joel, but not with us. The only vague details we have on what seems to be bothering you, are gained SIX MONTHS later, and second hand, from my sister, who, by all accounts, seems to have ambushed you at the primary school.* (*Congratulations on getting Miss 5 into school there btw, I hope she is settling in well – and while I am on the topic of Miss 5, I hope she like the little Chinoiserie silk pajamas I bought her in China. You’re welcome.)
As my sister relays it, you had two main concerns that you outlined, 1) you felt I was pressuring you into having a c-section delivery and 2) you felt we were acting ‘proprietarily’ towards your child. So I am going to take an opportunity to address these concerns – as she outlined them – seeing I have no other information from you to go on, given your repeated unwillingness to communicate to us, either in person or in mediated appointments with Joel.
1). You apparently feel that I was pressuring you to have a c-section delivery.
I have thought back over this since my sister told me of your conversation a few weeks ago and I am seriously wondering where the hell has this has come from? Because it bloody well didn’t come from me. We spoke hypothetically about childbirth before you were pregnant, and yes, I echoed the IVF’s recommendation that yes, it is probably less risky for older women giving birth to consider a scheduled c-section. To the best of my recollection, this was voiced something like, “If it was me, I’d go for a scheduled c-section, because we are old, and all that matters is that you and the baby are healthy.” And that is ALL I had to say on the matter. I never told you ‘You should have a c-section.’, I never said, ‘You must have a c-section’, I never said, ‘You’re a f#$king idiot if you don’t have a c-section’, and the reason I know I didn’t say these things, is because I honestly don’t give a shit what you choose to put your body through, so long as you both come through it healthy. Furthermore, this horribly oppressive (alleged) opinion of mine would have been voiced well before early July 2015, because you haven’t bloody well spoken to me since I went overseas! So you had plenty of opportunity to discuss this so-called unwanted ‘pressure’ that I am supposed to have placed on you. Personally, I don’t believe any such thing existed and you have been looking for molehills to build into mountains to justify your indifferent behaviour towards us.
If you were feeling pressured to have a c-section delivery, perhaps that pressure was coming from the various health care professionals you were interacting with as your pregnancy progressed – just a thought. Last time we spoke, it sounded like you had found one midwife who told you that a natural birth was an achievable aim, and you decided to latch onto that one piece of advice – because it’s what you actually wanted to hear, and thus you decided to run with it. Personally, I couldn’t care less if you wanted to have a vaginal birth, an at-home water birth, hire a surrogate to do it for you, or damn well squeeze your kid out your bloody ear – it’s your baby, your delivery and you have made vast assumptions here based on me expressing my opinion on what I would do if I was in your shoes. Those were statements based on what I believe would be best for me, if it was my decision to make. If you took my one or two hypothetical statements on the topic, as ‘pressure’, and then chose not to discuss it with me in a mature and constructive manner, well that is 100% a stress of your own creation. (*NB: I have not to date, and do not now ask how your birth plan went – because, well… I just don’t care.)
2) Apparently, we were acting in a ‘proprietary manner’ over your child.
I am at a complete loss as to how this particular infringement was committed, given I was out of the damn country from the beginning of July to the end of September, by which time you had decided you were no longer talking to us. So what the actual f#$k, FriendAsWas? Again, what happened to make you think this?
All I can think of is that Mr K told me, that he asked you if you had your legal affairs in order… which given the circumstances with your Ex, seems a perfectly normal and valid question. Because, hells yes we were concerned… and continue to be so! Your legal affairs with Miss 5’s dad appear to be a complete clusterf#$k by each and every one of your own reports. And you have obviously allowed that custody case to completely take over your entire life – the evidence of which is on every flat surface of your house. If anything happens to you, we wanted assurance that your wishes for YourOlderSister to take custody of both your children was locked down in a rock solid Will. Is that an unreasonable piece of information to request, given you had expressed a keenness for us to be invested in this child’s wellbeing?
You have spent the better part of the last four years constantly complaining at every conversation, about what a complete arsehole Miss 5’s father is, and even insinuating that he is emotionally abusive to Miss 5 – we could only imagine how he would treat this new child (which he would likely perceive as some sort of bastard) if he ended up with custody of both of your children. This being a not an unreasonable assumption given the Family Court’s propensity for keeping siblings together where possible, and him being the only person with any legally recognised claim.
So yes, we were worried that if your wishes were not properly and legally expressed, that we’d find ourselves standing with YourOlderSister, trying like buggery to help her gain proper legal custody of your children to keep them safe from your Ex. Quite frankly, we remain concerned that you probably still do not have your ducks in a row, as you seem chronically disorganised in all affairs connected to Miss 5’s father. And by the way, you are going to have to explain to me, why it is such a bad thing that we would want to ensure that your affairs are in order, and that YourOlderSister had the legally documented support she needs to obtain guardianship of those children and keep them safe, should the worst come to pass? As a lawyer, I would have thought you would find questions of this nature to be perfectly routine, and the reasons for asking them, completely self-evident. Additionally, I would like to remind you of your own words at the beginning of this email – given your strong encouragement that you wanted us to be involved… why wouldn’t we be interested and concerned in the ongoing wellbeing of both your children?
In the absence of any communications from you whatsoever, I have had months and months to churn over and over in my head the things I want to say to you. They have gone from being concerned for your well being, confused at your unwillingness to communicate, to saddened and extremely hurt, to absolutely f$#king furious with your disrespectful treatment of me, and my family. Whether you realise it or not, you have irreparably damaged our friendship and all evidence, and your continued silence indicates you just don’t care. We feel completely conned by you. You have deceived us and betrayed the trust we placed in you. You wanted this child, and now that you have it, you have decided that you don’t want our involvement in the child’s life after all, no matter how minimal that might be – so you have trumped up these bogus allegations in order to justify alienating us from the child’s life. I feel as though you are lumped us in with your Ex… as some sort of malignant force in your children’s lives, that has to be stopped. This is hideously unfair.
So anyway, well done there. It has worked. You have edged us out. I am so over this shit. You have given me months to look back on our lives, and made me realise that you may never have been a real friend. You have literally laughed at me when I was at my lowest and most vulnerable, and you have scoffed whenever I expressed any pain or regret over my own infertility nightmare, and you have never been there when I needed a friend to lean on… these are not the actions and sentiments of a true and genuine friend. In hindsight, I can see that I included you every aspect of mine and my family’s life – family birthdays, engagements, weddings, funerals, camping holidays, you name it – the good and the bad. You were part of my extended family… But what I failed to realise was, that I have never been part of yours. You have kept me in the periphery of your life for over 35 years now, barely inviting me to your home more than a half dozen times. I failed to notice that I have held you in exponentially higher regard than you have held me… and now my family is left to pay for my poor judgment.
We would never in a million years have agreed to help you create a new little life had we known you would ignore us and alienate us like this, and flatly refuse to communicate about any issues, however large or small. You said you wanted our help, and we helped you. You could, at any point, have gone for an anonymous donor and none of this would now be occurring. But you seemed firm on your intention that your child had a right to know its biological heritage for its own well being, and you further expressed the desire for support in your endeavour to complete your little family…. Again I refer you to your own words in the email extract above that were echoed in so many conversations. I can not tell you how excited we were at the prospect of being able to babysit Miss 5 and this baby for the weekend on a regular basis – and now you have just pushed all that support away.
Honestly, I feel you have let this lack of communication drag on for much longer than anyone should have to tolerate – and in such an unnecessarily painful manner, that I starting to feel that there is potentially no possible way for you to adequately apologise for the damage your actions have caused. I hope I am wrong about this – but I’ve never been big on the forgiveness front and have cut people out of my life for way less, than a hurt this enormous. I am devastated at your wilful dismissiveness towards our friendship. I am distraught over what I have allowed you to do to Mr K and my son… and I am drained from thinking about this every single day for months on end. If you ever have any hope of ever repairing this mess, you need to reply to us now – because I am so close to writing you off forever.
And here we are today, now May 14th, 2016. The kid is about 7 months old and we have not yet had the opportunity to meet her. I no longer know if I even want to.
And the sad and deafening silence continues…
So, I’m back.
It is now October 25th, 2016… and from what I understand today could be the baby’s birthday. Though I guess at twelve months old and starting to walk, she’s no longer a baby and probably more of a toddler. We haven’t seen the friend or had a conversation with her in over a year now… and this being the person who I considered my best friend for nearly four decades. We haven’t met the child, haven’t had any contact with the friend; just nothing but deathly silence. My family obviously means nothing to her. I don’t understand how anyone could throw away so much history?
I am so saddened by how our trying to help her achieve the family she wanted, has given us nothing but pain, confusion and frustration in return. People are shit.
UPDATE: 25th September 2018
Well, obviously I gave up on updating this. It has become a stagnant stalemate of a situation, with the unfortunately daily reminder of how horribly awry all out good intentions went every single afternoon when we drive past her house on the way home from school… Yes, every single school day for nearly three years, we have driven past her house and felt a pang over this entire episode. It has never been far from our minds… my son, now 17 asks after my FriendAsWas rarely and always with sadness. Mr. K continued to extend the occasional greeting via text or email – birthday wishes and such – but never receives any reply.
Until two weeks ago when we had a 30-year high school reunion. My FriendAsWas had RSVP’d that she wasn’t going to attend – so when she walked in, I immediately felt as though I had been punched in the stomach. Hard. I had to fight the urge to flee. Hell, I had to fight the urge to throw up. I honestly couldn’t organise my thoughts into something useful to say to her.
I am not normally someone who avoids confrontation and a big part of me wanted to loudly proclaim something personal and inappropriate across the table so that the other ladies present would know what she had done to my family and be aware of what sort of person she is… instead, I tried to keep my shit together while she pointedly ignored my presence, not even meeting my eyes. I spent the next two hours conversing with KM, the friend I had travelled with back in 2015 while this whole mess was developing at home in my absence. KM was aware of the Great Endeavour we had undertaken to help the FriendAsWas to have a child, but she did not know that we had been cut out of her life and that we had not even so much as met the child or spoken with the FriendAsWas since 2015. I don’t know what I would have done without KM’s calm and dignified presence that evening… I quietly filled her in on the TL;DR version of everything that is written in this post. The pain, the confusion, the disappointment, the anger and the horrible churning feelings I was having at seeing her after all this time and I had just gotten myself into a headspace where I thought I could approach her without hurling loud and full-throated accusations at her relating to her appalling behaviour towards me and my family, when the FriendAsWas suddenly left without saying goodbye to hardly anyone.
After this, we finished our drinks and went to a nearby Thai place to have a meal. As the conversation progressed and the girls I went to school with were repeatedly me asking who we had kept in touch with, I eventually burst into tears and said the only person I had kept in touch with from school was my FriendAsWas. Through the tears, I briefly explained that myself and my husband had helped her have a child three years ago, and that we have not heard from her since. That tonight was the first time I had seen her, and that she had deliberately ignored my very presence. The whole thing was so distressing that I had to leave and had Mr K come and pick me up as soon as he could.
I spent quite a few hours crying on Mr K’s shoulder that night. We have all been bottling this up and trying hard to ignore the elephant on Old Cleveland Road every time we drive past it… and I for one was failing miserably. I needed some sort of resolution on this – needed to know what had gone wrong, needed to know what I had done wrong, needed to talk it out for better or for worse. So Mr K contacted her the next day saying telling her how upset I had been to see her without having the opportunity to talk. We expressed a desire to talk and of course, predictably, a week or so went by and we heard nothing.
Trying to attack the problem from another angle, I eventually called Joel the counsellor to see if he was able to contact her and try to ask her if she would come to an appointment with us, and let her know I had done so. Joel sounded extremely surprised to hear from me. Given the length of time that had passed he assumed we had worked things out. He had nothing kind to say about her behaviour in all this… and then, yet another week passed and still we heard nothing from her.
Eventually, out of desperation, Mr K and I decided we had to bite the bullet and just front up and knock on her door. This was the week before last. We went to her house and she gave us nothing – said it wasn’t a good time and that she was going to email Joel and would cc’ us in on that message. I was grasped at the straw and asking if that meant she was willing to meet with us and her reply was simply: I don’t know if I am willing to participate. Which she then reiterated repeatedly to any other question. So we left.
And now here we are nearing October again. Her kid (I still don’t know the little one’s name) must be rounding up on its third birthday and the situation is no further resolved than it was three years ago. The status quo is so dreadfully painful, not just to me but to Mr K and to our son. I feel I have inadvertently dragged them into this whole mess by misplacing my trust in my FriendAsWas and I feel so guilty about that. I have brought this seemingly never-ending misery on them. It’s all my fault.
One thing is for certain – my faith in people and my ability to trust people has been seriously damaged. If you can’t trust a dear friend who you knew and loved for nearly four decades, who can you trust?
I feel like I can’t trust anyone but myself anymore… and that horrible feeling is just not going away.