Telling an Infertile Person You're Pregnant

Mel at Stirrup Queens posted about Carolyn Hax's column and the response to someone asking how to tell an infertile friend that they are (unexpectedly) pregnant. 

It got me thinking about how I've been told when in the grips of things. It's not so much an issue anymore because most of my friends are no longer having babies, and I'm farther from the rawness now, so it's rarely something that bothers me even a little.

But, it wasn't always that way. 

The Best Way Someone Told Me: 
My best friend called me to tell me that she was pregnant with her third child, at a time where I had just had my last miscarriage and was feeling particularly discouraged. She called me, said she had to tell me something and then she was going to hang up and I could call back when I was ready. I could tell she was really trying not to cry when she said "I'm pregnant, okaycallmewhenyou'reready" and then hung up. 

I so appreciated that it wasn't all tears. It felt terrible when people sharing their joyous news was presented in a funereal way. I also appreciated the time and space given so that I could shed my tears, and then come back and truly be able to celebrate with her. The advice given was to send a text or letter, but I think that honestly would have caught me off guard more than a phone call with an immediate out in this particular situation.

The Worst Way Someone Told Me: 
Another friend called me to tell me that she was pregnant with her second child. I congratulated her, and then asked when she was due. She was silent for a moment, and then snapped at me, "You don't have to pretend to be happy for me. I know how you really feel, your diary is online." 

I felt smacked in the face. First off, that was basically telling me that I was lying. Second, I was offended by the reducing of my blog to my "online diary." It was such a weird way to respond. I said, "It is actually possible to be happy for you AND sad for me," but the poisonous mushroom had already been eaten. 

I think I can look back on this moment and see that maybe she felt badly about her news and was caught off guard by my happy/celebratory response, and felt kind of guilty and so snapped at me. I wonder if she was all prepared for tears and sadness and her consoling me, and when that wasn't the reaction it left her feeling unsettled. The experience left me very unsettled, and it still makes me cringe a little when I think about it. 

Telling Someone You've Adopted:
One time that I really struggled with hearing baby news was when we had left the adoption process and were beginning our journey as childless not by choice. We were on our "honeymoon" in California, and a friend of mine texted me and let me know that she had, in a whirlwind situation, been chosen to parent and were about to announce on Facebook. In that case, I appreciated the text. It started simply and then said "Scroll down for more info when you're ready" so it didn't hit me all at once. I was invited to "hide" or "unfollow," but I felt that would be rude so I didn't. Unfortunately that was the wrong call. 

When I saw the social media post, which I could not stop myself from finding, it hit me really hard. Mostly because we'd just stepped off the adoption rollercoaster, and had done it without finishing out our home study period. So, this was a situation that could have been an opportunity for us (we were with the same agency). I reminded myself that it was between my friend and another couple, and the likelihood of us being the other couple left behind were pretty high given our track record, and I would not have been able to handle that heartbreak at this point in our journey. I was able to be happy for my friend, and be so glad that it worked out for her the way she'd hoped. Her post didn't bother me as much as other peoples' comments. And, of course, the framework of "worth the wait." I had to do a lot of reminding myself that for us, the wait was slowly destroying me, and it was okay and necessary that we step away. Still, it hurt. 

But, to get a text that was readable in stages? Brilliant. And, this friend continually sends me holiday cards and announcements involving her adorable son with specially decorated envelopes to look like caution tape that say "CAUTION and LOVE!" It's awesome.

So, I guess it depends on the situation. I would say the Carolyn Hax column has it right that to say "I wish it were you" or bring your own guilt into the situation feels terrible. To be told in a way that makes it seem like someone has died rather than something new and exciting feels terrible. To be told that you don't mean your well wishes is just awful. I appreciated a call with an immediate out, a text with space to breathe, and definitely forewarning for social media. All of those were very much appreciated by me. 

Everyone is different though -- what works/worked for me may not be the best for someone else. If you are really close friends or family, it probably isn't a terrible idea to have a hypothetical conversation -- "how would you want me to tell you my news?" -- ahead of time. 


  1. Ha! You beat me to it! lol (Yes, I have half a post written for Monday on this.)

    I love this - what a thoughtful friend you have. Your other friend sounded ... well ... childish! Good grief. I hope she had redeeming characteristics in other parts of your relationship. I like your suggestion at the end.

  2. Oh wow, I am very surprised by the "friend" that snapped at you when you asked when her due date was. I've had people I thought were friends say the meanest things to me. Even though I assume they didn't intend to be mean, I can't ever forget how people make me feel. (I'm curious... Is this person still in your life?)

    When I was TTC, I had a very close friend that was childless. So I just asked her. "How would you like me to share my news if I ever get pregnant?" And she said, "Just tell me! I'll celebrate with you." So that was my strategy--to ask in advance how a person would want to find out. But, my friend and I never needed to have that conversation. I never got pregnant.

    I left fb when I left my marriage. And on the only social media that I do have, I mute or unfollow anyone that announces their pregnancy and/or posts often about their kids. It used to hurt seeing other people's lives, but now it doesn't hurt like it used to. It all just runs together. It's all the same.

    That's another good thing about aging. Not only am I more comfortable in my own skin, but there are less pregnancy announcements (and less questions about when I'm going to have kids).

  3. Cringing about how that one person jumped the gun on YOUR emotions. Because she wasn't owning hers.

    My worst being-told was about the time we'd stopped treatments and entered the land of adoption. My friend and her husband were friends of ours, and while the woman had a sensitivity-based plan ready to go, her husband couldn't contain himself and spilled the beans at the beginning of a dinner. It was a tough dinner to get through, as I was gobsmacked and she was mortified.