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For many women, the stress of trying to conceive can be compounded by the feeling of getting left behind.

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When I was eight years old and ed up to run cross country, I was aware that I would be participating in a race and that there would be a lot of running. I did it anyway. Six years ago, I ed my friend Kelly — who, like me, was raised by television — to create the most powerful team ever to participate in a Friends -themed trivia night.

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Every participant was well aware that there would be Friend ly foes. When I was none-of-your-bees-wax, and captain of team Switzerland in the Beer Olympics, there was nothing neutral about it. I wanted gold.

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In all these instances I was in on the game. I ed up to throw my hat in the ring. I was a willing competitor. When I was 38 and beginning the journey of becoming a single mother by choice, I was surprised to once again find myself on the field of battle.

But this time, I didn't realize I was even registered to compete until one of my closest friends disqualified me from her life. For her, the competition was too close — and too personal — to maintain a friendship.

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When you are struggling to conceive, every day feels like a contest. You are prepping, training, testing, trying — competing with yourself, and however inadvertently, sometimes with others around you, or on social media. There are few things more painful than scrolling through your feed and seeing another celebrity birth announcement or the gender reveal for a friend who started "trying" around the same time you did.

When I was struggling to conceive, a day couldn't pass without a Kardashian or a Duggar being pregnant. Each post of each pregnancy was just another reminder of what I wasn't, and what I may never be. I always tried to be a good sport.

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Happy for them, sad for me, but sometimes that's hard to be when you are stuck by yourself on the bench. While I always knew I wanted to become a mom, I wasn't ever really sure that I wanted to become someone's wife. Single and 38, I realized the conventional path to motherhood, barring some kind of Match. I got busy scheduling my consultation with a fertility specialist, browsing through online sperm donor catalogs, and rolling up my sleeves and dropping my pants for a series of physical tests to gauge where I stood, reproductively speaking.

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I had all my ducks and ovulation sticks in a row. I was ready to do this. It was at this point I started to share the news that science and I were going to try and make a baby together. I started with my close family. They were excited for me — apprehensive, but excited.

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Then I started telling my friends. One of my first calls was to my close friend, Zoey. Zoey was the person in my life who could read my mind before I even knew there was something to read. She was amazingly witty, and as supportive a friend as I had ever had.

I was excited to share this news with her, to have her in my corner. Turns out, I was the only one that was excited. Zoey didn't seem psyched by my news at all. She seemed rocked. After some awkward silence following my big announcement, the conversation shifted to the weather, and witty banter about the commute home.

In the days that followed, our text conversations petered out, going from daily to rarely. For a year and a half, I didn't understand what had happened. Did Zoey not agree with my choice? Was she doubting my ability to be a parent? Then a ding hit my mailbox, and a hammer dropped on my head and my heart. It was a note from Zoey. An apology note which detailed her horrific and heartbreaking road to becoming a mother.

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She shared with me that my news made her jealous and frightened. So frightened by the idea that pregnancy would happen easily for me, which, it didn't and so scared that she would be left behind with only a trash can of negative pregnancy tests, that she had pushed me away. When you are struggling to conceive or are coping with infertility, it's difficult not to compare and compete.

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It's the race no one wants to be in, but here we are, feet in the stirrups and ready to go the distance in a marathon of hurt. Johana and her boyfriend Luca of Newark, N. Johana has suffered from ovarian cysts, and has had to have one of her fallopian tubes removed. It's been 10 months of trying to conceive, and still no baby.

It's been hard for Johana personally, and in some ways, professionally.

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Two of her coworkers are also trying to conceive, and struggling to do so too. Johana thought their shared issues would maybe bring them all closer together. Not the case, she says. It's the elephant in the room, and it's the animal no one wants to talk about.

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So they talk about every other animal on the planet literally. It's our common topic," she says. There are her friends from high school and college, who have had multiple children and are settled, and then there are her husband's friends, who started trying after Frances. It feels like they are all running ahead while she and her husband sprint in place, she says. You watch them cross the finish line, and you're still miles away. That's what infertility feels like. Even though fertility isn't a race — it's a marathon — losing still hurts.

If you have struggled to conceive, the great irony of the situation is that hurt and loss are oftentimes the great equalizer. But they can just as easily be the great divider.

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What is the right thing for me? It gets hard not to look over and see what someone else is doing," says Herndon. Looking over could be as easy as making comparisons to friends or family who are trying to conceive, or simply scrolling through your Instagram feed to see what your celebrity "friends" are up to. People aren't privy to the tears or the dirty side of it," she adds. When trying to understand the competitive drive surrounding fertility, it's often difficult to pinpoint whether this is truly a competition rooted in finishing first or a rivalry based in the fear and the insecurity of not finishing at all.

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Will Kiltz, Communications Director at CNY Fertilityagrees the air of competition is sometimes there, but more often than not, it's the fear that's truly the issue. The fear, anxiety, shame and insecurity that come with competing, on top of the everyday stresses of infertility, only help make a hellish situation even hotter. While research on the relationship between stress and pregnancy outcomes is mixed, it's clear that added stress can affect decision making and can also result in withdrawing from one's support system — a system a person really needs, especially when they are in the middle of the loneliest fight of their lives.

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Katie of Carmel, Ind. Prior to her fertility struggles, and during the early days of her trying, Katie traded constant texts with her best friend from college. They didn't see each other or speak on the phone all that much, but the relationship was still there. That was, until Katie's friend started having kids, while all Katie had were negative pregnancy tests.

In this case, the silence didn't start on Katie's side of the text message, it started on her friend's. It wasn't a malicious thing," adds Katie. While the pain of finishing last or never is real, there is also fear and guilt of finishing first. At the heart of everything, competition can only live where you let it.

If you feel like competition for you is becoming unhealthy, start by first assessing your boundaries. Also, look for ways and opportunities to relate and release. It starts to seep and bleed," says Herndon. Whether it is finding a community that's going through this experience, or a support system that you can say the dark scary things to that won't hold you in judgement," she adds.

Therapy and self-care, such as reading and listening to podcasts, can be quite helpful when you are stuck in a competitive and comparative rut. If you think you and the relationship can handle it, you can also explore the idea of talking about the competition within your friendships.

This might not be the solution for every social group, says Herndon, but when appropriate it can be therapeutic. I wish Zoey and I could have found a way to fight together, rather than fight against each other. What I learned during my two year-long marathon is that taking the contest out of fertility struggles isn't waving the white flag on the crusade, it's simply putting your armor down so that you can fight harder another day.

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