Are you pregnant? Ready to shout it to the world from the rooftops (or facebook... whatever)?
If you have friends who struggle with infertility, then this is for you.
You will need to ask yourself a few questions to start.
1. Do you have friends that have confided in you that they are struggling with infertility?
Did you answer yes to the first one? (By the way, if someone sent you this... then you should be answering yes. This may have been their way of telling you.)
2. Do you wish to remain friends?
(Yes, I do mean to tell you that the manner by which you announce your pregnancy has the power to either make or break your friendship for life.)
If you have answered yes to these questions, here's what you need to know:
Infertility is hard. Faith questioning, life changing, marriage shattering, friendship ruining, isolating, horrifyingly, miserably hard. With infertility you are poked and prodded from all angles... From your friends and family asking you when you're going to have babies, to your doctors spending more time looking at your genitalia than your spouse. It's expensive to the point that sometimes, some people with infertility are forced to make decisions like, "Do we put a down payment on a house... or pursue IVF?" Infertility changes your life.
Since every person is different, every person's struggle with infertility will be different. Some lean on their faith, some lean on their doctors, some lean on their family and friends, and some have absolutely no where to lean. Every struggle is different too because not only is every person different, every person has a different diagnosis or allergies to certain medicines or drugs, or they have different personal convictions. No two infertility journeys are exactly alike, so the struggle with infertility cannot successfully be generalized.
How to announce your pregnancy and destroy your friendship at the same time:
Here's a few ways that you can almost surely guarantee that you might forever change, if not completely destroy your friendship by the way you choose to announce your pregnancy to the world.
- A public facebook announcement. This includes but is not limited to: People congratulating you on your wall, without you having made any type of announcement; You posting a sonogram as your profile picture, or just the favorite, "I'm pregnant!" (You know your friend is struggling, and you are close enough that they have confided personally in you. This announcement shows your friend that he/she/they are no more special than all the 100's of people in facebook land. Your old co-workers, or friends from elementary school that moved away in 5th grade, or your exboyfriend's new girlfriend. Yup, by letting your friend find out on facebook, you are telling them loud and clear... "You are no more important to me than all of these people who found out at the same time as you." )
- Through the grape vine. (You know your friend is struggling, and you are close enough that they have confided personally in you. This announcement is usually done when you don't know what to say to him/her/them. You don't want to deal with whatever uncomfortable moments are sure to follow, and you would rather just not be around when they find out. So you tell your parents, who tell all of their friends, who tell all of their kids and eventually it gets back to your friend. This also tells your friend that they are not important to you. )
- At a large gathering in front of a lot of other people. (Generally this is done at a large event where a lot of close friends or family gathers. Generally, nearly all if not all of the people present also know abut your friend(s) infertility struggles. When this type of announcement is made, as soon as everyone is done cheering for you, almost immediately all eyes turn on to the infertile person/couple. How are THEY going to react, the group wonders. Instantly, by telling your friends lumped in with a group, you have given them no time to privately react. You have given them no warning and in no way are they able to prepare. If they run off crying, the entire group gets angry at them or forms opinions of them. And let me tell you, they are not unhappy for you, they are hurting for themselves. By telling your friends in this sort of a situation, you allow them to become like a zoo exhibit, their pain on display for everyone to see. Their reaction on display for everyone to see. If you value your friendship at all, don't hurt your friends by announcing this way.
Like I said, every person is different, so their reaction will be different, and different things will feel different to different people. (How many times can I say different? Do you get the point?) I can't generalize reactions, but these are just a few sure ways to forever change your friendship or relationship.
What are positive ways to announce your pregnancy to friends or family who are struggling with infertility?
If you call this person your friend, and you are thinking of them while reading this... then why wouldn't you want to preserve this friendship? Why wouldn't they deserve the very best from you? As happy as you are to be embarking on this family growing experience, they are that sad that it can't or won't happen for them. Think of your friendships, think of your relationships... These are some very simple ways to make an effort to show your friends or family that you care about them and you want to continue to show them love and support and allow them to support you however they are able.
1. Write an email. I know, it doesn't seem like this would be the right way to go. Emails are impersonal, right? This approach allows you to tell your friend privately, so they do not have to find out with the rest of the world. This approach shows your friend that you appreciate their struggle and are not taking it lightly and that you understand their need to react however they need to react, and that you value your friendship. Writing an email is not the same as a text message, just to be clear.
Here is a good example:
I know you are struggling with your quest to become parents, and I can't tell you how heart broken I am for you. I am here for you and I am hoping for the best for you. I value our friendship a lot, and I know that while you will be happy for me when I tell you this, I understand that you will be sad for you too.
Husband and I are expecting our first, Due XXXXX. We understand that you will need some time, take however much time you need.
This tells your friend that you care about them enough to not allow them to find out one of the three ways that I described above. This approach allows your friend to grieve with their spouse in whatever way they may need. They may call you immediately and be ready to jump for joy for you, or they may need to take a few days to digest the information because they might have just ended their 50th failed cycle. You really won't know where they are in their journey or grieving process of infertility, so this approach allows them the space that they may need to accept and process your announcement. They will in time be able to celebrate with you, but remember they will need to mourn for themselves before they can come to terms with that. This approach also allows them to freely express their feelings in private and not worry about other people reacting poorly to their reaction. This allows them to fully compose themselves before further communicating. (If you are my friend and reading this ... please take note! This would be my preference!)
Generally people who are struggling with infertility develop a 6th sense. Somehow we are able to sense when a pregnancy announcement is going to occur. Because we are actively trying to get pregnant, most people come to us to ask questions about trying to conceive. Then the person suddenly stops asking questions or just stops talking about it. Inevitably a few weeks later, the announcement comes. Or some people will talk to us about contraception, or lack there of, and while we try to tell them that pull and pray does NOT equal contraception... inevitably they become pregnant and they stop talking about trying not to get pregnant... they just stop talking about it in general. It's pretty easy to spot a pregnancy announcement when you're struggling with infertility because you already went through all of those stages. We have already been married for a few months and thought oh what the hey... let's just drop the pills and see what happens. If we were a normal couple, we would have 2 children by now. We would have gotten pregnant in a few months time and we watch other people go through those stages. Those stages are very obvious to people who have been there, and people who are watching for that... because they are just terrified of how this pregnancy announcement and subsequent pregnancy and child that comes after is going to change our relationship with that person forever.
2. Talk to them one on one in a private setting.
By this, I do not mean 5 minutes before your big announcement to the group... I mean take the time before you tell everyone else so that if they decide not to come to the event at all, they have that choice.
You do not need to apologize for getting pregnant, that is not what this means either. What it means is that you call up your friend and ask to bring them lunch or meet in a coffee shop or some place where you can have a quiet conversation. Don't sugar coat it, and absolutely do not lie. If you are pregnant, just tell them. Let them know that you know that it is painful what they are going through, and that you wanted them to find out from you and not through the grape vine.
By taking this approach, you are telling your friend that you care about them. That you care about what they are going through and that you are being thoughtful and sensitive to how difficult it is for someone who struggles with infertility to hear a pregnancy announcement. Their heart is breaking for themselves and sometimes the grief one faces in their own struggles is too much to overcome to get your happiness out for the people who don't struggle. So if your friend can't tell you how happy they are for you right away, try to understand. Try to imagine if all of the happiness that you feel and are experiencing, even just in that little moment of getting to say the words, "I'm pregnant" all got stripped away from you... it's hard to even imagine grief like that, let alone go through it.
I am sure there are a lot of other ways to announce your pregnancy to your friends who are struggling, but if you want to remain friends you will take the time to care for their feelings and emotions through their struggle. How they deal with their infertility is different with every couple, so it's hard to generalize exactly what reactions there might be.
Real Life Scenarios and examples of the good, the bad and the ugly.
I can give you a few of my real life examples though to explain exactly how I felt in situations where my friends have announced to me.
#1 - An acquaintance. Let's call her C. C and I were in a bible study together. It was a small group, just 3 of us reading through the Bible and talking about our faith and trying to grow in our faith together. We were also three women so we had a tendency to chat about our own lives as well. M & C and myself met once a week, if I remember correctly. M had an infant son and C & I didn't have kids of our own yet. All 3 of us were married.
At the time, I had begun to have bleeding problems and was struggling to get pregnant and to have doctors pay my 30 days of bleeding any mind. I was struggling physically and mentally and emotionally over it and struggling with not being able to conceive. At this point, we had only been trying a little less than a year.
C was also having some bleeding problems, I think that she ended up having polyps and had to have them removed. She was worried after seeing how my bleeding problems affected my fertility if it was going to affect her fertility. She began to borrow my troubles and treat them as her own, suddenly she was the one who couldn't get pregnant.
I tried to handle this with as much grace as a 22 year old who was struggling to get pregnant could muster, and I mostly just smiled knowing that imagining you *might* have infertility problems and actually living them are two INFINITELY different things. (At 15 years old, I was told that I might not ever be able to have kids. So from 15 years old to when we actually did start having real problems, I did live in that backwards fear of what if... so I am speaking from experience. It is infinitely different than actually living the problems.)
Thankfully, C was able to conceive no problem. In the first weeks of her pregnancy, she came over to my apartment to visit one day. Instead of a normal conversation, she spent almost an hour complaining to me about how horrible it was to be pregnant. She was constipated and miserable and hated every single thing about it. I smiled and listened, but inside my heart was breaking, how could she be so cavalier about something that I wanted so desperately.
I took some time to think and pray about it and then a few days later, I wrote her an email about how I am very happy for her that she didn't have to struggle to get pregnant and hoping for a very healthy pregnancy for her... but that I am not the best person for her to complain to. While I do understand that pregnancy can be very difficult and very uncomfortable and very painful.... I would cut off my left leg if I could experience that. I would stay constipated for the rest of my life, if it meant that I could have that.
C was not supportive or receptive of what I had to say and stopped speaking to me. I lost a friend because she could not understand that I was not the appropriate audience to complain to about her pregnancy. I have no idea what she was thinking or what her reactions were to what I had to say, she just never replied to my email, deleted me as a friend and we didn't continue the bible study any more. I have literally never heard from her again.
What to learn about this situation: People who struggle with infertility really will and most do give anything and everything that they can to be pregnant and for a chance to be a parent. Someone who has spent $100,000 on infertility treatments and drugs does not want to hear a pregnant women sound ungrateful in any way. I don't know if this sounds bitter, but to me it's just logical... You don't go to an amputee who has lost both of his legs and start complaining about how annoying it is to walk everywhere and how nice it would be to just have a motorized vehicle to push them around do you? Of course not, it's callous and ignorant. That is the same as complaining to someone with infertility about your pregnancy.
#2 - My best and closest friend in the world. Ashley. (Ash - I know I have never told you all this - forgive me for sharing it so publicly. I love you d/n/q) Ash & I have been best friends since we were in 3rd grade. She and I have been through hell and high water and we are still best friends. I love her like a sister and would NEVER want to see anything bad happen to her.
As soon as her and her husband started planning their wedding, Jack and I were going through infertility treatments. If we had conceived, I would have been full term right around the time of their wedding. I was worried about standing up in their wedding as the M.O.H. in all my pregnant glory. Well, that obviously didn't happen. Their first anniversary was 3 weeks ago.
Once they got married, I started to panic. What is going to happen when they get pregnant? Is she going to stop talking to me and drop me like another close friend that I had did? Am I going to lose my life long friend over something as stupid as infertility?? She knew what we were going through, and as much as I wanted to talk to her about what was going to happen when she got pregnant, I just couldn't.
I LOVE her and her husband, Eric. They are wonderful wonderful people, and I am sure that as long as I have known that I wanted to be a mom, so has Ashley. She and I grew up babysitting her little siblings who were born when we were 10-13 years old. I have known my whole life that she will be a wonderful mom and as soon as I got to know Eric, I knew without a shadow of a doubt, he is going to be an amazing dad.
I knew that some time, they would try. They were together 5 years before they were married, it wasn't like they still needed to get to know each other. One day, she asks me about her cycles and how long they are, and a different sort of panic rises in me. What if Ashley & Eric start to struggle like Jack and I have?! What if they have to go through what we are going through? I felt sick and cried and told Jack I didn't know what to do or how to handle it. I started asking my friends online if they had ever dealt with their best friend also struggling.
One day we go out to lunch (to go over some foster parenting stuff for Jack and I, she is one of our references), and I am fully prepared to give her a list of questions to ask her doctor when she goes and a list of tests that they should be running as an initial check. We go through the whole lunch and she hasn't mentioned it once. Near the end, I ask her, hey when are you going to the doctor? I can't even describe the look she gave me, but she tells me the end of the month.
I don't know if it is because she's my best friend and I have known her almost my whole life... but I KNEW. She's pregnant! I think she was only 6 or 7 weeks pregnant. She hadn't told ANYONE. But she told me the truth. She didn't lie to me, and she didn't let me find out through the grape vine... and I didn't find out on facebook like the rest of the world. (At 21 weeks, she still hasn't made the facebook announcement) I had no idea how I was going to find out whenever they did get pregnant, but the fact that she told me to my face... I don't even know how to put into words how special that is to me.
She told me how far along she was and then I got to share in her secret for WEEKS until she told her mom and I saw her mom 2 times a week at church!! It KILLED me to keep that kind of a secret. I had time to go home and grieve with my husband over what we thought would happen, I was so terrified I was going to lose my best friend... instead I love her even more.
While I am sad that I do not get to understand the things that she tells me about her pregnancy, I do still get to go through that with her. She does share things with me like how weird it feels to have the baby move from one side to another. And, we are both preparing to be new parents at the same time and she did NOT turn into a smug pregnant woman (which, I knew deep in my heart Ashley doesn't have a smug bone in her body) but she talks to me like I'm a person still. I am not excluded when she talks to me about pregnancy, she doesn't talk to me in a way like, "oh I am so above you you couldn't POSSIBLY begin to understand this." She talks to me like a mom to be super happy about being a mom to be. Our friendship has not fallen apart, and I am so so thankful for that. I adore my friend with all my heart and she and her husband are going to be fabulous parents.
So I guess here is another infertility myth for you - That all infertiles are just bitter and incapable of being happy for someone who is pregnant. Well there is nothing more true than my pure happiness and joy for Ashley & Eric and that they never had to know our struggles and that they are having a healthy baby and I can't wait for 20 more weeks to meet this little sir or ma'am and love him or her to bits and pieces.
#3 - The other end of the spectrum. Jack had a good friend who never wanted to be a dad. We really never expected any type of pregnancy announcement from him, as his whole life all he has ever said was how he did not want kids. Nothing against him, he just didn't want kids. He was sort of like our safe haven... someone we wouldn't ever have to worry about that with.
One day, out of the blue, my future sister-in-law sends me a text message. "So S is going to be a dad??" Um what now? First impression was that was a rumor. Second, holy CRAP I had better be the one to tell Jack, he is NOT going to want to feel what I just felt.
Turns out S told his parents. His parents told Jack's parents. Jack's parents told Jack's brother and his fiance and his fiance texted me and asked me because that would have been the kind of thing that I probably would have told her.
Through the grape vine is the WORST way for us to find that out. This guy stood up in our wedding. This guy knew what we are going through.
Months went by and we barely heard from him.
Then one day, out of the blue he comes over. It has gotten to the point where I no longer even want to see this guy. This guy is no friend of ours if he can be that callous and hurtful by just letting us find out that way. What kind of friend is that?
He pulls Jack aside and tells him. Turns out, his dad didn't know not to tell anyone. And he had just found out that his dad started telling people immediately and S wanted to come over and tell us to make sure we didn't find out through the grapevine.
After finding that out, it was easy to forgive him, and he's back in my good graces.... But still, that was one of the worst ways to find out for sure. I felt like I got punched in the gut and I don't think I have ever been more angry. I expected a lot more from someone who was supposed to be a much closer friend than that.
Obviously that wasn't his intention and he never meant for us to find out that way, but if people do do this and don't care if their friends find out that way... that is a recipe for the end of your friendship.
#4. Facebook... Oh lovely lovely facebook. Recently, I deleted close to 400 people off of my facebook friends list. It was obnoxious to continually block people from my newsfeed each time a pregnancy announcement came, as it was also inevitable that most would complain about the ups and downs of their pregnancy through their status updates.... which like I said before, not something that I'm too keen on seeing.
I have had friends who have known that we are struggling, and have talked to us about trying to get pregnant and then out of the blue the announcement goes up on facebook. It's painful. It feels like nothing I can even describe. It takes 3 minutes to write out a short little message to your friend to let them know, that way they aren't shocked by your announcement, or feel betrayed that they bared their soul to you and you gave them no courtesy in response.
I'm not trying to say that your infertile friends should get this special treatment... I know what it's like to want to plan a big special announcement, trust me I have sat and watched surprise pregnancy announcements on youtube for hours some days and just cried about not ever getting to do something like that. I have my own fantasies about what it would be like to announce a pregnancy to family and friends. I understand wanting to keep your pregnancy a secret until you are in your 2nd trimester, I am not saying that you HAVE to tell your friend before you tell your parents...
What I am saying is that the way you tell your friend, or allow your friend to find out is going to affect your friendship forever. If you take 5 minutes the day before the big gathering at your family's house and let them know what is going on, that is sufficient. Trust me, they will NOT steal your thunder and tell other people, they understand more than anyone how precious it is to be able to give that news yourself. If you want to show your friends you care about them, give them the respect and consideration of not letting them be blindsided by your announcement. Let them have time to process it, and don't leave them feeling betrayed by putting them on display for all to see how painful it is for them to hear a pregnancy announcement. Try not to take it personally, their struggles are not about you.
#5. The assumed. This one is the pits to deal with. There are friends and family members who automatically assume that we are going to react in a way that they don't like to their announcement, so they are angry with us without ever giving us a chance. Without ever having been in that situation at all, they assume what our reaction will be. "So, are you just not going to be happy for us when we get pregnant?!?"
How can I possibly begin to predict how I will feel whenever that may occur? From one day to the next, I can go through a plethora of emotions. I would have to say that it depends on how you act towards us or compose yourself and what YOU do with how I will feel. Are you going to tell us with the assumption that we are going to be angry? If so, you will probably not be considering our feelings or trying to preserve the relationship. If you already assume that someone will react poorly, you probably aren't going to put in as much effort as if you gave them the benefit of the doubt. Which means, our poor reaction is probably because of your actions and your assumptions. How can we ever recover from your assumptions? This also will doom a friendship or relationship.
So if you are one of our friends or family members that has thought these thoughts about us... Give us the benefit of the doubt. We aren't bitter hateful people. (This goes for those of you assuming this about your friends as well.) This is a real, and huge struggle in our life. This is something that we will remember our whole life the kind of pain that we have experienced. We understand that this is something that no one can understand, unless they too have experienced it. We understand that there are a lot of assumptions.
If we need space, don't assume that we are just selfish and jealous and bitter. We are broken hearted and self preserving. It doesn't feel good for other people to think these terrible things of you, on TOP of the infertility itself. Don't think negatively of us, or your friends if they or we need space. Try to think of your lowest moments, when you found out the worst news of your life and you sat down on the floor and cried inconsolably... Sometimes that's what pregnancy announcements feel like... and judging someone for their grief doesn't make sense. A lot of people make the mistake of taking our grief personally, but our grief has nothing to do with you or your pregnancy.
Stop thinking the worst. This kind of raw pain and emotion does not go away. This kind of grief gets worse as each month and year passes by. Give your friend the benefit of the doubt. You do not understand this pain, so you don't have any idea how you would react to it. Stop thinking the worst of them. Stop letting how you feel they should be dealing with their grief be what ends your friendship.
Another thing that goes into this category: NEVER say, "We would NEVER let this consume our life" or something similar. NEVER predict how you would react. By saying things like this, you are saying to your friends that you disapprove of the way they manage their grief. You are telling them that you are judging them for how they go through their day to day life, or that you don't approve of how they are going through infertility. Even if you think things like this, it is a terrible thing to say out loud to your friend who is struggling. They will lose their trust in you.
It's understandable that knowing people with infertility brings up questions at home that you and your husband discuss about how you would deal with things like that. Jack and I had never discussed or formed opinions about what we would do, because it was something that we had no exposure to. But we definitely talk about other things between the two of us. If you do need to have a conversation about what you will or won't do while struggling with infertility, should you ever have to cross that bridge... Do NOT say these things to your friends who struggle currently with infertility. It sounds like condemnation and judgment and it is not a helpful thing to say at all.
Plus - How can anyone already know what they would do? I can stand here all day long and say things like, "If I got cancer, I would fight it until the day I died." But of course, I can never know how I will feel... I might rather want to spend my life living if I felt like there was no chance left.
So if you are saying to yourself, "We are going to just let whatever happens happen and not care either way..." You don't know what you're saying. You aren't in the situation and your comments like that are dripping with judgment. It sounds like you are saying that what your friend (or we) are doing isn't right and you don't agree with it. Or it's amusing to hear the people say, "I would never let our sex life be taken over by infertility." Every single person who struggles with infertility reaches a certain point where there is no choice. If you spend $3,000 or even $300 on drugs to try to get you pregnant that month and that time comes, whether you like it or not, you have sex. And until you are there, after more than 12 months of trying without medical help, or maybe on your 35th cycle... and someone is telling you they would never... you won't understand how ridiculous those words sound. So my point is, you don't know what you would never do, especially in a situation like infertility.
After you've announced your pregnancy, then what?
If you have successfully preserved or even grown your friendship through announcing your pregnancy... then you need to ask your friends what they need. I understand that during pregnancy, you kind of assumed that everyone would constantly be trying to figure out what you need, but if you want to maintain a friendship, ask them honestly to tell you what they can and can't do. And listen to them and respect their wishes. This is the hardest part... As a person who is pregnant you have all these dreams and expectations... You had all these pictures of what life was going to be like when you got pregnant and friends or family members with infertility can put a bump in that idyllic dream. Your best friend might not make it to your baby shower... do not take it personally. Either she doesn't come to your baby shower and you understand, or you get angry and she is no longer a part of your life for the rest of your life.
Personally, I do not think I can handle baby showers. I have been to one in my infertility journey, and I was an infertility newbie at the time and I came home and cried. It was way too hard. So if your friend tells you, don't expect much... don't expect much. Your expectations are what might destroy this friendship now, if you allow them to tell you what they need or do what they need to do without you having any expectations of them, you have a recipe for a friendship for life. Once you start putting expectations on them that they can't fulfill and they let you down, then you start to be angry at them.
I'm worried that my friends and family will be angry with me when I do not show up to baby showers. I don't know how to describe it, and I don't have any explanation of it. I already feel people in my life starting to get angry at me because they have expectations that I am not fulfilling. (Even future ones and assumed ones.) They expect me to be at their baby shower. They expect me to do those things that I can't bare to do.
Don't expect things from your friends, and trust them and respect their wishes when they tell you what they can and cannot do. Still invite them to the baby shower, still send them your birth announcements, still invite them to the birthday parties. Still give them opportunities to be involved and do not take it personally when they can't do it. Because when they can, they might end up loving your child as much as they would if they had birthed them themselves. You and your children might end up being the only kids they get to have, and if you let your expectations of them ruin your friendship, you might never be able to recover from that. Let your friends set their limits and respect them, they will come around eventually and be able to do normal things as they heal.
**It only took me 4 days to write this whole post out. Thank you to my friends, especially Ashley who has shown me that I can struggle with infertility and still want to be a part of a pregnant woman's life. Thank you Ashley for showing me a wonderful example of how to be someone's friend through thick and thin.**