Friends are like walls; sometimes you lean on them, sometimes it’s good just knowing they’re there. This is particularly pertinent when life doesn’t go to plan and you need the support of those walls, lest risk crumbling under the weight of holding up the roof alone.
Growing up, I didn’t have many friends. I didn’t exhibit a whole lot of social skills, and I was an easy target to pick on; too school for cool and far more geek than chic. I became part of an outcast group who were friends by default, with the denominating factor being that we didn’t fit in anywhere else. Kids can be really cruel, and I’ve recently come to realise that sadly that this schoolground bullying mentality is something that some people continue to exert even in adulthood. Our outcast group was a safe space, as we were stronger as a whole than the sum of our parts. We remained friends throughout school but I lost touch with all bar one girl, Ruth, when we all dissipated for University.
University was a clean slate for me, and in direct contrast to school, I was extremely sociable…and by sociable I mean I liked to party. I was a member of several clubs, teams and groups, and regularly partied with different people each night of the week. I was Social Sec for the Softball Team, which pretty much meant my job was to get people drunk. I floated between friendship groups, happy with my benevolent yet non-committal attitude, as this was as close to popular as I had ever been. But over time I came to realise that there’s nothing special about making a hundred friends, it’s about making that one special friend who is there when the hundred are against you. I envied people on my course or in my Halls of Residence whom were sharing their University journey with friends they had grown up with since nursery. I never made those types of bonds until many years later, well into my career as a pole instructor; more specifically when I started teaching at a local leisure centre.
Almost a decade on and I now consider the group of ladies at that Leisure Centre class as my extended family. We have stuck together through thick and thin, I look forward to going to work each evening and we’ve even been on a long weekend away (always a good sign of a strong friendship group), on which nobody killed anyone (again, always a good sign). I would walk through fire for these ladies…well, not fire, that would be dangerous. But a super humid room…but not too humid because, you know, my hair. These fabulous ladies have taught me a lot about friendship, like not to ask someone to like you for who you really are, unless you’re 100% sure you’re not an idiot. And that if your friends can’t handle you at your worst, then stop being so much of an asshat. But above all they have taught me that there are big differences between true friends and those whom have 100% confidence in their identity as a ‘friend’…..with absolutely nothing to back it up. You know, like people on Facebook. Just curating their identity like a hat. The people on Facebook that retweet articles that they haven’t even read half way through because they think they’re the type of thing the people they’d like to be liked by would like. I think that everyone who writes articles for Facebook, on politics as suchlike, should put a sleeper sentence at the bottom to see who has actually read all the way to the end. (After I had been teaching University level students for a few years, the Uni that I was bought out to lecture at introduced a compulsory PCGHE scheme, which is basically another piece of paper that says that I’m qualified to teach. I was so convinced that the tutor didn’t read my “reflective entries” that I used to put a brownie recipe in the middle of my dissertations. Never got picked up. Shame – they’re damn fine brownies!) In sum, saying that someone is a good friend because you’re ‘friends’ on Facebook is like saying you’re a philanthropist because you gave money away the last time you played Monopoly.
Last week, after spending the day in London at a Flying Trapeze school with my friend Micky, I went to share a video on Facebook with the tag “flying high with my #bff” and realised three very important things. Firstly, as much as I will always be a Doctor, I am far too addicted to circus life to ever go back to academia full time. Secondly, I have a Best Friend! This sounds super sad for a 34 year old to say with such gusto and surprise, but it’s true! I can honestly say that I have someone who is always there when you need them and always says the right things at the right time. Someone you can talk sh*t to…and not just metaphorically, but actual sh*t. Because good friends talk about their sex life, but best friends are comfortable enough to talk about poop. Someone with your sense of humour and your level of crazy; who instead of saying “ooh, you’re so pretty”, will not hesitate to say “Shrek called, he wants his face back”. Someone who you can give an honest answer to the question “are you ok?”, and not just a socially acceptable one. Someone who’s sentence structure is made up of 85% expletives and who’s G&T composition is made up of 85% gin. Someone who can keep a secret. Actually, this one isn’t true, Micky and Laura are gossip queens between them, to the point where if you actually wanted a rumour spreading, you should definitely tell Laura, but follow it up with “but don’t tell anyone”. You can guarantee it’s on social media before the ad break of Bake Off. In this case, two people can keep a secret…if one of them is dead…and the other one is also dead…and neither of them have Twitter. And the third thing I learnt from posting my Trapeze video? Well thirdly I realised I am far too old to hashtag #bff.
Having a strong support network – family, friends, close friends, best friends – has been instrumental in getting me through our fertility journey this far. It has become apparent, though, that there is a difference between advice from acquaintances, colleagues, and even family, compared to that of your close friends. This month I was put on a series of hormone injections, alongside the cocktail of oral drugs the hospital are already pumping me with. The injections contain Human Chorionic Gonadotropin (HCG), which is the hormone secreted naturally during pregnancy. The cruel thing is that the side effects of the injections mimic signs of early pregnancy. I knew that I shouldn’t get my hopes up, and that the test could be a false-positive, but I could just feel it – this was it! So when the bleeding started, I hit the deck like a sack of sh*t….both metaphorically and physically, bucking at the knees due to the sheer pain. I’d put on a game face whilst teaching, and then as soon as I got into the van, the involuntary tears started streaming uncontrollably down my face. I told Dave, and then I told Micky. Their responses couldn’t have been more different:
Dave: This is a good thing, the drugs have got your body working, it’s taken a long time to get to this point, you should be happy that you ovulated.
Micky: Mate, that’s so shit. I’m sorry. Have a gin and eat aaaaaaaall of the chocolate. And if you’re not pregnant in November, we’re going to Amsterdam to….relax
It’s not to say that the other advice-giving people in your life are wrong or don’t care; actually quite the opposite – a lot of the time they care so much that they are trying to protect you. They try to provide a positive spin, a silver lining or a justification for what has happened. Phrases like “you should be happy the drugs are doing something”, “you’ve not been trying that long”, “at least you have Joshua, some people can’t have kids” or “it’s the Lord’s Plan”. Unfortunately, this can actually exacerbate things, as you now feel that you aren’t allowed to feel sad or down or disappointed, that you’re overreacting or unappreciative of the things you already have, and that you’re not permitted to grieve. I really do appreciate the sentiment behind people’s kind words and positive attitudes, but denying that something bad has happened denies us the chance to mourn. Just tell us that, yes, it’s a bit shit, but it’s OK not to be OK all of the time. I think that some of the best advice came from that old school friend I mentioned at the beginning, Ruth. I tried to paraphrase her words of wisdom, but in the end I felt that only she could do it justice. So I leave you with this, in all it’s unabridged awesomeness.
“Sending big fuck off lezza lady love in the only way we know how. From the mothers of one small boy to the mother of another. We see you. You’re fucking awesome. It’s not easy going through the whole “let’s make a baby” journey. Especially not when the whole world seems to be up the duff or newly hatched. Even worse is the “when I had my miscarriage..” or “you can try again though!” Kthnxbai. Nothing more to make you feel like a mouldy old arsehole than that is there. Absolutely bloody cracking. All I can say is embrace the C word and keep a firm hold on your bottle. Your gin one and your nerve. Scream the big word as loudly as you can, scream it at passers by as you sip your gin. I know it feels like you wanna hurt people who wrong you… like traffic wardens when they bang you out a ticket because you’re half a cm over the line. Because that’s what this is really. That’s how it feels. Being that close but being a million miles away at the same time. The rich tea biscuits of the selection box. No good for a cuppa and no cop as a cheesecake base either. What a load of old toss. Just remember that kitchen floor resets are nothing to be ashamed of. Being utterly devastated at the copper bottomed fuckwittage of it all is nothing to be ashamed of. Calling your much loved hubby a pussy clart behind his back when he gets on your last nerve is nothing to be ashamed of. You know what is to be ashamed of? Nothing? Wrong. The correct answer is BoJo, Brexit and Donald Trump. That man’s like a pussy grabbing stale pepperami with hair on. You ain’t no Trump, girl. So scream cunt, swig the gin, and do whatever you gotta do to make it right for you. Remember IVF is like fight club. Shitty hormonal hell licking fight club. Slay my babe. Slay. xxx”