My friend and next door neighbor and I both gave birth to our first kids within a month of each other. We didn’t have a lot in common, but being new moms was enough. We spent a lot of time talking, worrying, and comparing notes over the next three years. I knew when I got pregnant again, that she had been trying for a second child as soon as she weaned her first. I agonized over how to tell her. Turns out I’m not alone.
A couple of weeks ago, the question of the day on the Creating a Family Facebook page and Twitter stream was “If you’re infertile, how do you want your friends to tell you about their pregnancy?” We got quite a response from both the infertile as well as their fertile friends.
Sensitive fertile friends of the infertile often feel caught between a rock and a hard place when they want/need to tell their infertile friends that they are pregnant. They know that their good news will be hard to hear. They might even understand that their friend will greet the news with mixed emotions. What they don’t know is the best way to share their good fortune.
There wasn’t universal agreement by the infertile on how they would prefer to be told.
- Friends who tell everyone else apart from you as they don’t want to hurt you. That’s the worst!
- I hate it when people take you aside into a quiet room to tell you, as they aren’t sure how you will take it.
- A call, or text, or email or private message via Facebook or Twitter would suffice.
- Phone still puts you on the spot, emotionally. Email gives you time and space to compose yourself.
I decided to tell my friend in person during a walk so that we wouldn’t be facing each other, so she wouldn’t have to fake a smile. An email, text, or even a phone call felt like the cowardly way out. She handled it with grace, but I wonder now if I could have done better.
Let’s face it some people are clueless or so self absorbed that they won’t care how their exciting news will be received. But for those who want to break their news in the kindest way possible, how do you want them to tell you that they are pregnant? Does it matter if they have suffered from infertility as well?
P.S. We would really appreciate your giving us a “like” on our Creating a Family Facebook page. Thanks.
Image credit: Florian SEROUSSI
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I try to remember that everyone sucks at saying the right things the right way to someone who’s hurting, even though they mean well, and that really helps me when I start feeling offended about the way someone talks to me about infertility. I also try to remember that humans are inherently selfish (I say that objectively, not with any negative connotation behind it) and it’s hard for people to keep others in mind when they’re happy (or sad!) and want to talk about it. I know people get tired of hearing about my infertility journey sometimes, but it’s hard for fertile people to translate that into “maybe I should talk less about my fertility then.”
Megan, so very very true. I also try to remember that there are some issues I’m hypersensitive to and that they is the very real possibility that I’m reacting because of my sensitivity more than because what the person actually said was all that bad. (I’m not, by the way, saying that I’m all together successful at this endeavor.)
A few friends have told me personally and gently and I’ve appreciated that. However, I don’t think it’s reasonable of me to expect everyone I know to think to put aside their joy in order to embrace my pain (few people have that degree of empathy), I try to put aside my pain and embrace their joy. I did not share the details or saga of our fertility struggles openly except with a few close friends, and not as they were happening, but people in my life knew about it in a general sense. I found this privacy allowed me to be free of the topic coming up except on my own terms, and allowed me to be happier when friends and colleagues became pregnant, because I wasn’t expecting any special treatment. Perhaps I isolated myself too much, but I needed to do it for my own sanity.
On another note, there was one friend who’s news really did sting. She had (very publicly) gone through several years of various infertility treatments and finally been successful. However, she became pregnant again when her son was less than a year old. When she told me about it, she went on and on, complaining that the timing was all wrong and it wasn’t planned. That’s a good example of what not to do–even if you are overwhelmed by an unplanned pregnancy, your friend struggling with fertility is NOT the person to complain about it to.
[I try to put aside my pain and embrace their joy]. I love love that. Not easy to do, but words to live by in many situations.
Wow, Justin. What a lovely friend. I think that is the most perfect email ever. God bless her indeed, and you and your wife as well!
Andrea, wasn’t that lovely!
Whatever you do, don’t send your ultrasound via text as your announcement. Yes, that’s happened. To someone like me who is infertile due to malignant pathology, that stung doubly–hearing the news and being reminded that to most of the world ultrasounds are happy things, big to me they only identify pathology.
Oh Shalisa, I’m so sorry that happened to you!
It is always hard for me finding out on Facebook. I have found that when people tell me in person through a personal call or text that I am able to handle it better. I feel like when they take the time to tell me, in some one on one form that they are being more careful about my feelings. I would rather feel like they took the time to think things through for my own sake than to feel like I wasn’t important enough to inform personally.
I am currently having a hard time because I have a best friend that only a few weeks into her pregnancy sent me a text of an ultra sound… No words and I wasn’t sure how to react other than to cry while responding with fake words of encouragement through texts. I never had the heart to tell her how it hurt, and I truly am excited for her but the announcement was hard to take.
My very own sister is also expecting her second child. I had been feeling like she wasn’t telling me that Christmas time but by valentines day she and her husband sent out valentines day cards. The cards were beautiful pictures and they were very subtle about my niece wearing a big sister shirt. Then when you turn the card over it showed an ultra sound. I know that my sister doesn’t know how insensitive I felt the card was- but everyone in the family had found out the exact same way, so it was easier to take and I didn’t have to be the angry person.
I am assuming those people who told you that you can always adopt either never adopted themselves nor were they adopted. Some people are clueless.
I’m glad though that you have at least one friend who was sensitive. Luckily outside of two friends with their second and third kids we haven’t had anyone close to us get pregnant in the last year and a half.
I remember how difficult it was for my wife and I during our long infertility struggle to hear about pregnancies, or even receive baby-shower invitations. Some of our so-called-friends have been extremely insensitive, demanding that we will immediately jump with joy, insisting on informing us of every tiny detail of their pregnancy, or giving us “you can always adopt” line. Needless to say, we have cut all contact with those people.
However, one friend announced it to us in a short email that touched my heart with its sensitivity and gentleness. I am still grateful for the way she informed us and invited us to her baby shower. I deleted any part of it that identifies her, but here is what to me is the perfect announcement\invitation email:
Hi [my name],
It’s been a while; hope all is well!
I wanted to give you an update on some stuff that’s going on with me. I apologize in advance if this seems insensitive.
The short version is: [here came a short paragraph telling me of her decision to enter treatments, the treatment success, and the fact that she is about to have twin healthy babies in a few months.]
I’m planning a party on Saturday, [date] — it would be great to see you and your wife and catch up! I also understand if this feels too hard — I know that during the fertility process it can be too difficult to be around baby stuff, so feel free to respond however you like, including not at all!
Invitation to follow soon.
She now has two healthy children, which she deserves. God bless her!
Justin, that email was done with such grace. And received with grace as well.
Your advice is spot-on. Although a text would be difficult. I would say email is best. In-person is definitely the hardest since it means that you don’t have time to process and have to act really excited even though it’s still hard to hear. Maybe others are different, but after 3.5 years of trying and most people we know getting pregnant TWICE in the amount of time we tried for one, hearing more and more announcements can be quite torturous.
Elizabeth, I’ve heard some infertile people complain that an email is too impersonal, but perhaps acknowledging the impersonal nature and explaining that you are doing using email because you know this may be hard to hear in person.