I recovered, outwardly, quite quickly, and was one of the first to offer my congratulations. After all, I had been in this position with friends before. I was, however, quite stunned, and my brain was working on autopilot. I was pleased for her of course; she was a friend, and about to embark on the most fulfilling time of her life, at least that was how I saw it.
But my brain was completely blank, and the rest of that evening passed in a blur. I remember that the husband of ‘the other couple’, as I’ll refer to them here, rather than giving them their names, got up to buy more drinks while my line manager said to me that she had meant to tell me sooner but couldn’t find the right time, and I said no, not to worry, it wasn’t a problem, and I was fine, and happy for her, which of course I was. That happens a lot when people know that you are infertile. Some will talk constantly about babies non-stop in front of you and tell you how awful pregnancy is and how lucky I am not to have to go through it, and tell you how much hard work children are and how lucky I am to be ‘free’, and others will be wary of even mentioning the B word in case it upsets me.
We played the game in turn, I think; people did something with whatever they had on their pieces of paper, though I didn’t take in what they were doing. Did they act something out and did we have to guess what the words were, like charades? Were they cryptic clues to something? I can’t remember. It gradually petered out before everyone had finished. We had meant to join in, but now stared at these words on the paper and couldn’t think of what to do with them. I had forgotten what we were supposed to be doing.
I wondered just how the other couple were feeling, and marvelled at the fact that they were laughing and joking and joining in so well. I wondered how much of it was bravado, or perhaps they had known already and so it was not a surprise, but somehow I didn’t think so. It was their way of coping, and we tried but didn’t succeed very well.
The evening got quite noisy after a while and as people gradually stopped taking part in the game they tried to encourage everyone to participate who hadn’t already done so. I really wanted to, for their sakes, but somehow I just couldn’t. It sounds odd – and feeble, now – to say that I was in total shock, but I think that I must have been. Somewhere in the noise I heard them ask people nearby who had had a particular set of words because they were apparently the funniest, but they didn’t ask us directly and I couldn’t join in to answer, though felt awful for not doing so. I looked at the words and they registered nothing in my brain. What were we supposed to do with these? I just couldn’t remember. I just wanted to be out of there and go home. How pathetic of me!