I had a coffee with one of my oldest and best friends last week. One that opened up a chasm between us and I think will stand like an elephant in the room until we both approach it again. She’s going through IVF, something emotional and difficult, filled with raised hopes and a sense of hopelessness in equal measure.
We’ve talked about it loads, the outcomes, the emotional impacts and all the decisions she and her lovely husband have had to make – including egg donation. This is where it got tricky because it was clear we would both take a very different route.
She’s decided to donate her eggs and save herself thousands of pounds in the process. The rational me understands this completely. As she said: “They’re just eggs, a small piece of me and I’m looking at it like organ donation.” I get that and I was nodding along thinking it sounded like a ‘good’ decision. Until she mentioned the letter she’s had to write to any potential children born from the donated eggs -a letter which tells them about her, her family and a little of her journey.
It brought me up sharply. I absolutely understand her decision and there is no right or wrong answer, this, like so many decisions we have to make as women, is personal choice, profound enough to have no right answer yet divisive enough to invite a wave of opinion.
“Oh my god”, I said to her instinctively. “I just couldn’t do that.” As soon as I said it I knew it had shot an arrow through her heart. She didn’t want to do this but felt she had to do it to get where she needed to be and who the hell am I to judge her? Does she really think it’s like organ donation or is this a defence mechanism? There could be babies, toddlers, teenagers and young men or women walking around with her smile, her grandfather’s walk or her older son’s eyes. Then, when they are 18 and they decide to search for the woman who donated half their gene pool, what happens? It could be fine or it could blow a massive hole through her family life.
When we say “it’s not for me to judge”, that’s absolutely right most of the time but it doesn’t stop us doing so. Or maybe it’s more putting ourselves it that position and seeing what we’d do. I wanted to say so much to her but found myself mute and simply nodding as she talked about it. She knew what I thought and I knew she knew and it was painful.
Opinion is a dangerous road among friends because how ever hard you work to understand their view – it’s not yours and it stands like an interfering aunt in the midst of your friendship. Mostly we work through these, get on with it and accept and I hope that’s what we do with this one.
I love her and we’ll always be close but this was a moment when I realised the emotional power of personal thoughts and views. It’s never ‘just an opinion’. What does she think of me now? Does she see me as unsupportive?
I want to give her a big hug and tell her I think she’s brave and amazing and I hope everything works out brilliantly and I will, because she is.