How to Tell Your Infertile Friend That You’re Pregnant

I don’t know if there will ever be a day where a pregnancy announcement isn’t like sucker punch right in the gut. I’m not sure when the time will come that I don’t cry big, fat, snotty and unattractive tears in response to someone else’s joy. At the end of the day, there is no good way for someone who is infertile to hear the news that you are procreating. But there are a bunch of things that you can do to ensure you make it the best experience it can be, to let your friend know that you’ve considered her pain and to make her feel loved and supported as your life moves on in a way that hers cannot. So here are my top tips for announcing your pregnancy news to your infertile friends.

1. Just do it. If you’re reading this, you obviously know it’s a delicate issue and it’s human nature to shy away from difficult things. But remember that it will be much harder for them that for you. You will have a short period of awkwardness or guilt to contend with. But you have your pregnancy to focus on. Your friend will continue to be reminded forever of the joy that she cannot share in. It won’t get easier for either of you if you put it off, so just do it.

2. Consider telling early. By which I mean before you tell the rest of the world, and maybe even before the first scan if you’re intending to wait that long to make a general announcement. This gives them space to get their head around the issue sooner and means they may be ready to share in genuine joy once the wider announcement is out. Being one of the first to know is a small thing, but also may mean a lot to your friend and make them feel valued and considered. And if the worst should happen in your pregnancy, you may well also find your infertile friend is an excellent source of support. Infertile people are experts in the heartache associated with trying to create new life and can be counted upon not to say “Oh well. it wasn’t meant to be” or “You can just try again.”

I would especially urge you to consider telling early if your friend is going through or about to start an assisted reproduction cycle (IUI/IVF/ICSI etc). They will likely find it much easier to cope if they find out whilst they still have their own hope that the cycle is going to be a success for them than if you show them a scan picture just a few weeks after the failure of treatment. Trust me, I’ve been in that exact position, and I really wish I’d known before the negative result, rather than a couple of weeks later.

3. How you tell will depend a bit on your friend. Personally I think a phone call is the best. It’s more personal and caring than a text or email (which suggests you are hiding from something you find hard). But a phone call is easier for your friend to end than a meeting in person should they wish to cry, shout, scream or react in any other way. We don’t really want to cry in front of you, because we don’t want you to think we’re sad about your news. We’re just incredibly sad for ourselves. Understand too that we may not want you to be the one to comfort us.

Do remember that telling one half of a couple does not constitute telling the whole couple. It’s not the same as for your normally fertile friends, where it does not matter if one finds out on Facebook. If you tell one half of the couple – particularly if you tell the male half – be respectful enough to give them time to break it to the other half before putting on social media. I did not appreciate fining out about a close pregnancy via Facebook because Ian had had the news broken to him whilst we were both at work and, rightly, wanted to tell me when we were both home so he could give me a hug. Two hours was all that we needed.

4. Try to stick to facts. Be honest and hold off the platitudes. It’s fine to say “I appreciate that this might be difficult for you, but I really wanted you to know that I’m pregnant. Please take all the time you need to deal with my news.” Don’t tell us that you’re sorry. Of course you’re not – you wanted a baby. So do we. I’d be more upset if I thought you were sorry it had happened. Don’t say that you wish we could be pregnant too so that we could share it. We wish that with all of our hearts and don’t need a reminder that it isn’t happening. A text about something completely unrelated to babies a few days later could also be a good idea, to help your friend realise that you’re not going to go completely baby mad on her and help her find a way back in to her previous relationship with you.

5. Don’t, whatever you do, discuss the details of the conception. Don’t tell them how quickly it happened. Absolutely do not offer advice on how to conceive – infertiles are experts on the theory and will doubtless know much more than you can imagine. Do not tell them that you struggled if this really isn’t the case. For the record “struggling” would mean taking over a year, or needing some kind of medical intervention to get pregnant. Feeling as though “it will never happen” after three cycles is not struggling. If you were actively trying for less than a year, and didn’t have outside help, please just don’t talk about it.

Especially don’t tell us that it was an accident. Or that you’re not sure if you even want a child. Don’t make jokes about super-sperm, your husband only having to look at you to get you pregnant, or that you can be a surrogate/sperm donor once your pregnancy is completed. Those things are really not funny, nor helpful.

6. Understand that your friend is not angry at you. They are simply deeply, overwhelmingly sad for themselves. We do feel joy at other people’s pregnancies, but it takes time. Try to let your friend know that you understand and give them space or time. Allow them to raise the pregnancy as a topic of discussion, if they want to, rather than raising it yourself. You need to accept that they may not want to talk about it. I’m sure you have plenty of other friends to get excited with so it will not hurt you to focus on things which are not baby related with your infertile friend.

When the baby arrives, ask if they would like to come for cuddles (sometimes it’s what we thrive on) but don’t be offended of the answer is no. It’s not personal. Take our lead on how much we want to be involved. For some people it might mean the world to be allowed to change a nappy, but it might just be too hard for others. Automatically being pushed out because we’re infertile is just as bad as being expected to coo over every picture, however, and our reactions will be very individual, so please take our lead.

7. If you are more of an acquaintance through social media, then please don’t be offended if we don’t rush to join the congratulatory tweets and Facebook comments. I don’t tend to congratulate many (any) pregnancy announcements in these circumstances these days, because I simply find it too hard. Sorry, but again, it’s not personal. You don’t need one extra “Like” or comment to make your news any better than it already is, so please just enjoy it without worrying how many are also enjoying it wit you.

In regards to social media – and even in person announcements with groups of people you don’t know intimately, such as work colleagues – be aware that you don’t necessarily know who amongst your friends is struggling with fertility issues. Never comment on the fact that someone doesn’t seem happy about your pregnancy news, or didn’t bother to comment on it. Again, just bloody enjoy your fantastic good fortune. And be sensitive in what you say. Comments about your “struggle” to conceive – as above – could offend more people than you realise. Just think about whether it’s really necessary before you say it.

I’m not suggesting that you need to smother you joy, censor your happiness or make every picture private. I’m just suggesting that the expectation that everyone else will feel only joy for you is unrealistic. Friends will always feel joy for you, but it may be mixed up in a heap of other emotions you can only guess at.

And always remember that the tables could easily be turned. Just because you are pregnant now doesn’t me that you won’t – like us – experience secondary infertility in future. A little bit of compassion, sensitivity and understanding goes a long way. You’re having a baby. You are so, so blessed. That’s all that really matters.

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3 Replies to “How to Tell Your Infertile Friend That You’re Pregnant”

  1. This is a very good list. I am not a jealous person by nature and one of the things that took me by surprise in the last several months is just how upset the pregnancy announcments have made me lately. I wish I could explain to people that it really has nothing to do with them at all…its just the unfairness of it all that stabs like a knife. For example at work several months ago a friend that didn’t know we were actively trying to conceive (and having a world of trouble) emailed that they were expecting their third (and how it was quite the surprise) and I had to leave my desk and cried and cried. I’m very happy for them of course and now I can talk to them about it and share in their joy but at that exact moment it just felt like the whole world was able to get pregnant without so much as even trying and it hurt me! Anyway, I’m very glad I found your blog. Not a lot out there about secondary infertility and I struggle to find a lot on male infertility. A couple weeks ago we found out our first IUI failed and it was absolutely crushing. I wanted to lay around and cry but we have a very wonderful daughter to take care of (which I am beyond thankful for every day) so on we go to the next one and then possibly IVF and a whole new world of costs and medicine and emotional roller coasters.

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