How to Tell Your Infertile Friend That You Are Pregnant

Yesterday, one of my best friends told me she is pregnant. It wasn’t entirely unexpected, but it hit me like a ton of bricks. This is the woman I wrote about before: the one person I have been completely open about my IF journey with. Lillian took longer than average to get pregnant…about 8 months…but she did not have infertility and did not need ART or any interventions. Since we are so close and since she knows so much about how I have been struggling, she really took the care to tell me in the right way. I cried, I was sad for myself, but I was also so happy for her.

Lil did SUCH a fantastic job of sharing her news with me, letting me have space for my pain and grief, and allowing me to be genuinely happy for her. I really feel this has brought us closer than we ever were before, and I have the utmost respect and love for the way she told me. I was an emotional mess yesterday despite my joy for her, but I wanted to use this as an opportunity to focus on the positive in all of this. So, I wrote a little how-to that is based on absolutely nothing but my own personal experience. Keep in mind that we infertiles are not a monolithic, homogeneous group and your own infertile friend may feel differently than me. But, for what it’s worth:

How To Tell Your Infertile Friend That You Are Pregnant

  1. Do it in private: This means not in a public setting and not around other friends who aren’t infertile. Make sure you both have space to sit with your feelings together.
  2. Don’t ask her to throw you a baby shower: I’m sure you are just over the moon about your own pregnancy, as you should be. Many people will be giddy for you, but your infertile friend may be dealing with her own pain in such a way that interferes with her ability to have this immediate reaction with you. As much as I love Lil and her unborn child, I am currently incapable of being the outward facing head cheerleader of any and all things baby. Lil 100% understands, and she told me this, which immediately put me at ease.
  3. Don’t tiptoe around it: Be straight with your infertile bff. Get to the point. She will appreciate knowing up front, without finding herself in the middle of a confusing rambling conversation about nothing. This may take some guts from you, but we appreciate it. And for goodness sake, do not let her find out from others or from a social media post!
  4. Allow her space with her feelings: That does NOT mean she has carte blanche to say rude or insensitive things to you about your good news. But, it does mean to give her some space to let the sadness about her own situation wash over her in tandem with the joy I know she will feel about your good fortune.
  5. Tell her how much you care about her: This will be evident if you approach the conversation the right way, but it never hurts to hear it directly, either. Lillian explained to me how much she loves me, how much she hurts for me, and how much she still wants to be there for me– if its something I still want. And, it certainly is.
  6. Ask her if she wants to hear about the details: I already feel isolated enough in my infertility, so the last thing I wanted was to be cut off from Lillian’s own journey, and I made that clear to her: please share with me. However, others may not want to hear every detail of your growing belly, so just ask it up front. But don’t assume she doesn’t want to talk to you about it. She may truly love sharing this special bond with you during your pregnancy.
  7. Make it about the two of you: This isn’t just about babies. It’s about your friendship. It’s not a contest over feelings; it’s not a competition over joy versus grief. It’s also not a zero sum game: your happiness does not equate to her sadness. The reason you are in each other’s lives is because of a deep, loving, personal connection that predated and supersedes family planning. Find the compassion inside to imagine yourself in your friend’s shoes, and hope that she can imagine being in yours. You aren’t telling your friend just to get a congratulatory statement from her; you are doing it to honor your friendship and the love between you. Elevate that to the center of the conversation. Be clear that you still want to talk to her about everything in her life and want to be there for her. Lillian told me she loves me and is cheering for me and wants to continue being the IF support system she was prior to her own pregnancy. Of course I wanted that. ❤

Coming Out: Who To Tell About Your Infertility

Two days ago, I came out of the infertility closet to my parents. It hadn’t ever been a goal of mine to announce to anyone, including my parents that we were trying to have a baby. A year ago, I had imagined all the ways, when we got out of the 1st trimester, that we would announce to my parents, his parents, our friends– but as you probably know, IF destroys your daydreams, your best laid plans. And so, here we are.

Infertility can be a full-time job. I have a packet of about 50 forms I need to read, appointments I have to set up, prescriptions I have to pick up, phone numbers I have to call, insurance processes to figure out– not to mention all the doctor’s appointments I have to go to just to get me to my first IUI procedure. And all of this needs to be done in between my real full-time job. The sadness and constant stress builds up and becomes the sort of thing I feel I need to talk about.

But infertility isn’t like a broken arm, or a breakup. It’s not a new job or a new baby– its not the sort of crisis you chat about over coffee with your girlfriends or chat with to your boss. That isn’t to say it’s worse or better than other life crises, but only that its different. By its very nature, it feels more private. And as we all learn, people who haven’t experienced IF have a difficult time relating, and often don’t know what to say. So they may say something hurtful or insensitive, dismissive or jarring– even when they really truly don’t mean to. And, when you do tell people, you may have to listen to questions and have to put up with earnest, well-meaning check-ins during really emotionally difficult times. The last thing you want to deal with during a failed cycle is 30 acquaintances asking how everything went.

So basically, telling people about this issue, which is by nature private and sensitive, can be hard. I hadn’t told ANYONE except Mr Upside and my close friend, up until last week.  When my mother-in-law found out. Then, after my clinic appt with my new RE, Dr Unicorn, I realized I had to tell my parents. Now that I have a plan for our first IUI in April, I felt I needed the support of the people who always know how to help. Telling them went well. I had to drink a few beers before I could get the words out, but when they finally came, my mom and dad were as supportive as ever.

After the few experiences I’ve had opening up, and the endless thoughts in my brain, I’ve made a little, completely inexpert list on what to think about when you’re telling people.

My Personal, Unscientific Tips on Telling Others About IF:

  1. Choose carefully. Just because I told my parents, or because someone else has told their grandma, doesn’t mean that you should have to. People’s relationships are different, and if your parents bring out more stress or pressure, or aren’t the type you typically lean on for support, you may want to reconsider spilling the IF beans.
  2. Talk to your partner. If you have a partner, make sure you sit down with them to get on the same page about who you want to tell, and what details you each feel comfortable disclosing. It can be jarring to be blindsided by having someone approach you about your struggle when you thought no one else knew– all because your partner disclosed without telling you. And you wouldn’t want to start giving the nitty gritty details of your husband’s semen analysis to someone if it’s not something he is comfortable with. Some details are more painful for you than for your partner and vice versa. Make sure you have a plan ahead of time, get on the same page, and respect each other’s boundaries with disclosure. At the end of the day, through all the IF stress, you are each other’s companions and allies, and equal caretakers of your relationship.
  3. Think about timing. Some people are pretty even-keeled throughout the infertility journey. But if you’re like me, you have ups and downs, days when you feel like you can’t look someone in the eyes without crying, and days when the sun is shining and you go about your usual business with a feeling of hope. Think about what state of mind you’re in when you open up to someone about infertility. If you’re having a really rough day, you may want to wait until the pain passes before starting a conversation that you ultimately can’t control.
  4. Decide how to say it– ahead of time. I had to write down some thoughts before I told my parents, because I knew that when I get nervous, I am unfocused and unhelpful. Think of a phrase you want to say like “Bob and I are interested in starting a family, and we are in the process of trying to make that happen. Unfortunately, we are part of the 7 million people for whom this journey will be longer and more difficult. We will be happy to share good news with you, but ask that until then you respect our privacy.” Or, you could say “Mom, Dad– I’ve been diagnosed with infertility.”
  5. Be prepared for questions and decide how to respond.  People are curious by nature. It doesn’t mean they are all trying to dig too deep or gossip, but that sometimes, they just don’t understand. If you are comfortable talking about your egg reserve, your cervical mucus, or motility of sperm, then go ahead! But if not, make sure you anticipate you may get tough questions and kindly let the person  know you’d rather not go into it at this time.
  6. Don’t get guilted into disclosure. Let’s say you want to tell one person in a friend group, but not the other 2, 3, or 4. Maybe you have a specific and legitimate reason for doing so. Make sure your confidante understands the private nature of your details, but don’t feel obligated to tell Abby just because you told Joan– especially if Abby isn’t someone who is typically empathetic or supportive. Who you tell and what you tell is your choice. You do not “owe” anyone the knowledge of your private, intimate struggle.
  7. Decide how many.  Do you tell only your close family? Do you tell just your sister? How about your maid of honor? Her husband? Your high school best friend? Decide if you feel like you need to have a very small amount of people know, or if you want to write a Facebook announcement and share it with the world. Some women regret telling too many people when when cycles fail– that too many people knowing and checking in can be overwhelming and painful and can lead to more disappointment. However, others regretted not telling more people sooner so that they would have a bigger support network and not feel like they were “hiding in shame.”
  8. Do whatever feels right to you! This is the most important point. You do not HAVE to tell anyone or everyone. You can choose to tell everyone you know during your 6th month trying, or you can choose to tell no one during your 2nd round of IVF. This is a personal choice, and only you know what will be best and healthiest for you. Take care of yourself, and your partner, first, above all things.