By Kate Weldon LeBlanc
Last year Sadie* reached out to me, knowing that I have experienced infertility and work at RESOLVE New England. She asked, “My best friend is going through IVF, but now I am pregnant and eventually will post about it on Facebook. How should I break the news to her?”. Most importantly, I praised Sadie for even thinking about this! She had the awareness to know that the news of her pregnancy was likely to bittersweet for her friend. It is tough for those who have not gone through infertility to understand how such happy news about someone you adore can also be very painful. Often this can be challenging to navigate for both the pregnant friend and the person trying to conceive (TTC).
I certainly recognize that there is no way to move through life without pain, physical or emotional, and that maybe some people get offended about “little things”. But I reject the criticism that people are too sensitive these days and that they need to toughen up. Maybe this rhetoric hits too close to home because I have always been a sensitive person and often wish this was not so. But I think it is more because I believe that if you can prevent making someone’s pain worse or even ideally can make someone feel better, you should. And infertility is not a little thing. So, in this spirit, I have been thinking a lot lately about how a best friend (or any loved one) can make it easier when she is expecting and you are not.
I have read lots of articles about things to say and not to say to women because they might be going through infertility, and your well-meaning questions or comments might actually, unintentionally, be heartbreaking. Such as “When are you going to have a baby?” or “Your son needs a sibling!”, etc. Just don’t. But that’s not what I am discussing here. Believe it or not, even when people KNOW that you are struggling to conceive or have experienced a loss, and even when they are your close friend (or family member), they can do a bad job at handling this situation. Occasionally it is actually shocking to me what some (supposed) BFFs say or do! Since I don’t think they are cruel, I assume they are just ignorant. So I feel impelled to speak up.
You are expecting. Your best friend is TTC. This can be awkward to say the least, but I am here to help you. Suggestions of what to do or say – or NOT – are indeed tricky. There’s no one right answer, and everyone is different. So here is my personal advice.
- When you find out you are expecting, email or message your BFF privately before word gets out widely and before posting on social media. It might seem odd or impersonal rather than calling or talking in person. However, this way your friend can react privately and then be better able to truly celebrate when you get together.
- Please try to understand that your friend IS genuinely happy for you, but your pregnancy can magnify the sadness that BFF is feeling about the own challenges to build a family. Your friend wishes not to feel this way and is guilty about it, but can’t help it.
- I believe it is healthy for women to vent about the physical and emotional challenges of pregnancy or parenting. But try to complain to other loved ones more than to your infertile friend. Believe it or not, she is envious of your heartburn and sleepless nights! And please do NOT tell her how easy it was to get pregnant or how sad you will be if you have “another girl”. Just don’t.
- There seem to be more celebrations of pregnancy than ever now, like creative announcements or gender reveal parties, and of course baby showers. These can be lovely. Your best friend may have no problem with being involved in any or all of these. But I feel that BFF will appreciate if you say something like, “I would love to have you with me, but if you are not up for it, maybe the two of us can go out to lunch instead?” You’re not reminding her that she is infertile when you do this. She knows this all too well. But you are showing that you acknowledge what she is going through and that is the best gift of all.
Basically, you can never go wrong with saying something like, “I don’t know what to say or do in this situation. But I love you and want to make this time better for you. What would be helpful?”.