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[Infertility, Miscarriage, & Adoption 7] "I'm Pregnant": How to Break the News to Infertile Friends

Tears burned in Kathy’s eyes. It was painful enough to cuddle with her nieces and nephews when she and Kevin longed for a baby. Then, as the family circled the holiday dinner table, her sister exclaimed, "Kathy, I haven’t had a chance to tell you—I’m pregnant again!" All of the relatives stared at their plates. Kathy said later, "I was the only one who didn’t know. I’m sure she was excited about her good news, but my sister did an awful job of telling me she was expecting."

Tears burned in Kathy’s eyes. It was painful enough to cuddle with her nieces and nephews when she and Kevin longed for a baby. Then, as the family circled the holiday dinner table, her sister exclaimed, "Kathy, I haven’t had a chance to tell you—I’m pregnant again!" All of the relatives stared at their plates. Kathy said later, "I was the only one who didn’t know. I’m sure she was excited about her good news, but my sister did an awful job of telling me she was expecting."

To the infertile couple, a pregnancy announcement can feel like losing a game or missing a promotion—despite their good wishes, depression and disappointment linger. A sensitive friend may wonder, "How should I tell my infertile friend that I’m pregnant?"

1. Break the news yourself.
Betsy said, "Kate hurt me by concealing her pregnancy." She explained that she didn’t want to upset me, so she waited until word got around. Her news was easier for me to handle than the fact that I heard it from someone else. When the woman who told me said, ‘Didn’t you know? I thought everybody knew,’ I felt left out and humiliated. Yet mostly I felt insulted—did Kate think I would commit suicide over it?"

2. Tell them in private as soon as possible.
Including an infertile friend among the "first to know" makes her feel important as the member of an elite group. It also gives her time to adjust to the idea before she must smile though the public announcement. Louise said, "When I hear a baby announcement in a crowd, I feel the social pressure to be as gracious as Queen Elizabeth while everyone searches my face to assess what feelings I’m hiding behind the facade. I appreciate being forewarned."

Sharon told her friend, "I know this will be hard for you to hear, but I wanted to tell you before we announce that I’m pregnant. I’ll be telling everyone late next Wednesday, so if you want to slip out early, I’ll understand."

3. Have the attitude that pregnancy is special.
Sometimes by trying to keep from "rubbing it in," happy couples minimize their joy and communicate begrudgingly, "Don’t be jealous of us because this pregnancy is an inconvenience." Yet the idea of an "unwanted pregnancy" seems especially unfair to those with deep yearnings for child.

Lori confided, "Our friends announced they were expecting at a time when I was especially discouraged about our infertility. They emphasized that it was a ‘mistake,’ making it sound like they were taking their child for granted. That attitude upset me."

4. Expect the news to hurt.
Dee said, "I deliver the opposite of what people expect. If they expect me to take it hard, I appreciate their sensitivity so much that I can be happy for them. When they expect me to jump up and down, I’m not as positive because I feel like they’re expecting too much."

Two of Joy’s friends announced their pregnancies within 24 hours of each other. When Gina was the third, she hugged Joy and cried, "I wanted so much for you to be first." Her sensitivity made it easier for Joy to be happy for her.

5. Consider making the announcement in a letter.
Sometimes the most thoughtful way to announce your news is by sparing your friend the face-to-face confrontation. Dropping her a note lets her recover from the painful feelings before she must say anything.

Ruth’s best friend had been trying to conceive for five years. When Ruth discovered she was pregnant with her third child, she wrote, "We are expecting again. I wish I were there to hug you—I don’t know if that would even do any good. I know you’ll be happy for us, but I know it’s painful, too, and that’s okay. Please continue to be honest with me—I want us to be able to keep sharing like we always have. We know our friendship is strong enough to handle it."

When Susan finally conceived after sharing the mutual bond of infertility with a co-worker, she knew her friend would feel isolated. Finally she sent a note that said, "I’ve written this to you three times. I keep tearing it up because it’s too hard to say. The fact is, infertility is just plain hard. I want you to know I had a positive pregnancy test this week. Call me when you feel like it. Believe me, I’ll understand." Her friend ran for the phone.

Rabbi Michael Gold, author of And Hannah Wept says, "A couple having a baby must share their good news with infertile friends in as sensitive a way as possible. I will always remember a beautiful phone call from a woman in my synagogue who had just given birth to a healthy baby boy. She told me that although she and her husband were overjoyed, they kept thinking of us. They knew that calls like theirs had to be hard for us, but they were praying that we would be blessed with a child soon. Her words brought tears to my eyes.

© Sandra Glahn. This article first appeared in Dallas Child.

Check out books by Sandra Glahn and Dr. William Cutrer, which also explore pregnancy loss:

Infertility Companion

When Empty Arms Become a Heavy Burden: Encouragement for Couples Facing Infertility

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