Congratulations on being pregnant! You are excited about fulfilling your dream of creating a family. But then your mind turns to that friend who has been struggling to conceive. How will you tell your friend with infertility that you are pregnant?
There’s No Perfect Way to Tell This News
Let’s start by acknowledging that this is a complicated conversation – for you and her. There is no perfect way to share your pregnancy news with someone struggling with infertility or pregnancy loss. However, there are better ways to do it. It will help to set reasonable expectations for yourself by remembering there is no way to tell them that will avoid pain for your friend.
Forging Friendship in the Struggle
Recently, a reader sent us this question. Many of us can relate to the challenge she is facing.
My partner and I have been trying to get pregnant for more than three years. We experienced several failed IUIs and a failed IVF cycle. We are excited to finally be pregnant with twins from this last cycle! But, I have a friend at work struggling with her infertility. In these last three years, we commiserated about our painful journeys. We formed a bond forged in those common challenges. Last week, I finally shared my news at work. And she hasn’t spoken to me since. How should I have told her? Was there a better way I could have done it? I can’t help feeling like I’ve lost a good friend.
We get it. Your happy news is everything you dreamed about when you started this journey through infertility care. The friendships forged among infertility patients on similar paths often sustain you beyond what other friendships have been in your life. However, the truth is that no matter what you do, your friend will feel this hurt. She can try to be happy for you, as other friends are doing now. But your joy also shines a spotlight on her losses. She’s likely feeling devastated and hopeless right now. Your ability to understand that will go a long way to lessen the blow for her.
How to Tell an Infertile Friend You Are Pregnant
How do you tell a friend you are pregnant when they still feel mired in the grief and pain of infertility or miscarriage? We have a few “Do This” suggestions for you to try.
1. Tell them soon.
Your friend should hear this bittersweet (for her) news from you first. Hearing from someone else will only add to her pain.
2. Tell them privately.
Nothing is worse than controlling your sadness and grief in a room full of happy people. Faking it until you can escape to someplace private to fall apart is unbearable.
When we spoke to members of our online community, they reported a preference for an email or letter. They felt this delivery would give them ample time and space to cope with the news at their own pace. However, some prefer to hear the news in person, especially if the friendship is deep and intimate.
3. Give them space.
Your friend needs time to process your news. Be prepared to wait for their signal that they are ready to re-engage the conversation. Some friends may get over their need for distance quickly. Others might want space throughout the pregnancy and beyond. They also should feel safe to have time and space for self-protection.
How NOT to Tell Your Friend You Are Pregnant
It might be hard to hear this amid your happiness, but there are a few things you should NOT do when telling an infertile friend that you are pregnant. If you have also struggled with infertility or pregnancy loss, you might already be familiar with these suggestions for what not to do. Your experiences can help you approach the conversation with sensitivity and compassion.
Don’t Do This:
1. Don’t take their reaction personally.
It’s easy to feel hyper-sensitive to a hurting friend’s less-than-enthusiastic response or angry reaction. Even though you want to, remember that this hurtful response is probably not about you at all. And it’s not about your baby, either.
2. Don’t say you understand how they feel.
Unless you have suffered a miscarriage or infertility on the way to this happy news, don’t try to identify with your friend’s feelings. They already know your story – especially if they are a long-time friend – and your attempts to empathize might feel false and hollow.
3. Don’t put a happy spin on it.
“I just know that you’ll be next” doesn’t usually help. Trite words will feel like false hope and shallow comfort. Your friend deserves more respect from you.
4. Don’t apologize for your pregnancy.
It’s okay to confidently own your pregnancy and your story. Be empathetic that your friend’s story hasn’t had a happy ending yet. Still, no apology for your joyful news is necessary. You deserve that respect from yourself.
5. Don’t set a time limit.
Only your friend can know how long she needs time and space to process your news. Acknowledge that they need time and let them know you will be waiting. Not only should you not limit how long they take, but don’t check in too often while they wrestle with it.
Try a Script Like This:
It’s normal to feel nervous about this complicated conversation. You are not alone in that experience. Depending upon the depth or intimacy of this friendship, you can try this script. Tweak it to fit the needs of your relationship. You might even consider practicing a script like this with your partner or another friend before approaching or writing to this friend:
I wish there were the perfect way to tell you this without hurting you, but there isn’t. I’m XX weeks pregnant. I’m telling you privately (or by email or letter) because I want you to have the time and space you might need to process this. I felt telling you in a different way or with a group of other friends would be rude, as I know your struggles to have a baby, too. Please know that I care about you (or love you) and am sorry to add to your pain.
You Cannot Control Their Response.
No matter how you choose to tell your friend that you are pregnant, you must set your expectations reasonably. Because the truth is, you could all do all this, and they might still respond poorly. The grief of infertility or miscarriage might be too raw right now. Their ability to cope with hard conversations might be too low at this particular moment. They might also feel like they’ve just lost one more thing – a friend on the shared path. Once again, they feel on the outside and looking in. That stinks, and your empathy and grace for all of that will go a long way.
However, you must remember that you cannot control any of that for them. You can cope with how what their response feels like for you. You can manage your hurt or dashed expectations. But that is all you can do. That also stinks. It might take some time and space for you to process. Be gentle and patient with yourself as you navigate forward. And do your best to rejoice in your happy news with those who can handle it right now.
How have you told your infertile friends that you are pregnant? What worked, and what backfired?
Image Credits: Ivan Samkov; Karolina Grabowska; Liza Summer