My friend just had an abortion — how do I tell her I’m pregnant without re-opening fresh wounds?

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Last month, one of my best friends shared with our group of friends that she had an abortion. While she wants to have children with her boyfriend someday, now is not that time. This was a courageous step for her, as many of the girls in our group of friends come from very conservative backgrounds. I was one of the few who supported her choice outright and stood up for her.

During this same time, my husband and I started trying to conceive. We’ve just found out that we are already pregnant! I am excited to share my news when I’m ready, but am afraid of opening fresh wounds with my best friend.
How do I tell my best friend I’m pregnant, while still affirming that I support her and her decision to end her pregnancy? — Ann

Comments on My friend just had an abortion — how do I tell her I’m pregnant without re-opening fresh wounds?

  1. I couldn’t tell from the article, but are you sure its a ‘wound’ in the first place? Yes, some women have abortions and have a lot of emotional fall out to deal with, but, as hard as it might be for some to believe, some women have an abortion and it really isn’t that big of a deal. I guess it depends on her personal view of the procedure – if you have an idea of how traumatic (or not) it was for her, it might give you a better idea of how to proceed.

    • I agree- if you do feel that she will be upset by your pregnancy, it might be nice to tell her your news privately, rather than her having to deal with it amongst a group of your friends. Even if she is experiencing difficulties, hopefully she will see your pregnancy and her abortion as two unrelated events, and be able to support your choice as you supported hers.

      • If you think it might be really hard for her, you might consider telling her by email (Either individual email to her addressing your specific concerns about her or as part of a mass email to people you want to announce the news to, so as not to single her out). On the one hand, that does seem like a rather cold and impersonal way to announce big news, but on the other hand, if the news opens wounds for your friend, email would give her space to deal with her own reaction and not feel like she had to put on a happy face and squee about your pregnancy when she is reeling or hurting or just trying to decide how she feels about the news.

        Of course, I don’t know enough about your friend’s situation to know if that would make it better or worse or whether it even is that big of a deal, but a thread like this is all about giving you suggestions to consider, so there’s mine.

        • Thanks Sarkat,

          Our group of friends tends to communicate most through electronic means. While I was worried that this approach would be “cold,” I think you may be right. This would leave her to deal with her reaction and private, and then I can take cues from her as we progress.

        • I support this idea if you think she’s going to need some time to emotionally process the news. I know some people go the opposite route–crying “Whatever you do, do it in person!!!”–but it all depends on how you and your friend interact/process things. Personally, I take a long time to formulate my thoughts and prefer to have my emotional reactions in private, so communicating about hard things via email (at least at first) is often preferred. I feel like I get the time I need to process how I feel, and I can respond in a thoughtful, measured way instead of awkwardly stammering out something that might not actually be reflective of how I feel.

          Just noticed you responded below that this sort of communication is pretty standard for you guys, so it might be the best way to go. Good luck!

    • Hi Haymaker,

      Thanks for asking me if it’s a “wound” in the first place. I suppose I made a big assumption there. I am still reading my friend’s feelings on her abortion… she has expressed one set of emotions through online chats, and another when she’s with a group of people (including her boyfriend).

      • There’s so many high emotions and judgment regarding abortion. Some women will feel one way about their abortion, but express different feelings. Maybe feelings they think they’re expected to have?

        I would reach out to her with a face to face conversation, just the two of you. That way its safe for you both to really express what you’re feeling. It’s entirely possible that she feels positive about her choice. And regardless of her feelings about her own situation, she could just be happy for you guys 🙂

      • It is really common to have a lot of complicated feelings when you have an abortion. She probably feels both ways sincerely, but feels comfortable expressing each in different spaces. It’s good to leave space for all of the complicated feelings.

  2. I would say be honest with her. Be joyful about your pregnancy because it’s an honest emotion for you and your husband. Be honest that your choice is not a comment on her own and that you still support her choices and love her. I would also maybe tell her in a more private setting so that if it is difficult for her to hear at the beginning she doesn’t feel like she has to put on a show or defend her choices to people who were not supportive of her in the past.

    If it is painful for her I’d try to be aware of how you’re sharing and maybe let her lead as to how much information she wants and her comfort level with your pregnancy as it progresses.

  3. It sounds like she has a really healthy outlook – my mom was always open with us about the fact that she and my dad had an abortion before they were married, and that if she’d had that baby she wouldn’t have had us. Just treat her normally – she’ll be grateful that you’re not stigmatizing her choices by thinking she’s not a “baby person”. Then take your cues from her as far as how much more to share as your pregnancy progresses.

  4. Ten years ago having an abortion when I was young was not a hard decision. My boyfriend (now hubby) were not ready. We both acknowledged that we probably would of ended up resenting each other and that would of been a terrible environment for a child. That doesn’t stop me from wondering what my life might of been like. But I’m a different person now then I was then. Today my hubby and I are on the brink of starting to try to conceive. I dont greve over my abortion. I understand that now I’m am ready and then I wasn’t. I have had plenty of friends tell me they were pregnant and I couldn’t be more then happy for them. Its their life and their choice. Being ‘ready’ isn’t an age or list of accomplishments its a state of mind. Granted everyone deals differently. If she is brave enough to divulge that information to a group of friends then she is probably strong enough to see how you feel about your pregnancy. So in my opinion, she’s going to find out sooner then later, so tell her sooner! maybe even before you tell the whole group.

  5. I have had quite a struggle with unfinished pregnancies, and for a while, didn’t understand what would set me off about others’ announcements. A friend finally pinpointed it for me. Like most people, I resent other people’s unconscious assumptions of privilege. As it turns out, having a healthy pregnancy at a good time in your life is a privilege. One that people don’t think of until their own pregnancies run into trouble or until they are queer and have to make arrangement to create families or they don’t conceive easily.

    So, I didn’t mind when people told me of their pregnancies paired with an admission of privilege. (‘I know that not all pregnancies go right, but we’ve been lucky enough to conceive.’ ‘I know that it doesn’t always come at the right time for everyone, but now that we’ve gotten ready, we feel so fortunate that this pregnancy came now.’) But I get mad and unresponsive when people tell me about their pregnancies without any recognition of their privilege. (‘We weren’t even trying, but we are going to have a baby in August!!!’) Mostly, given the odds, they are right and their privilege in this respect will never be challenged.

    But since you were thoughtful enough to ask, I’ll identify that as a factor that bugs me from the other side. It is also fairly easy to deal with. Just say that you are fortunate, that not everyone is, that you are excited and wish that everyone who wants the same thing could get it.

    • I like this very much. My parents tried to conceive for 10 years before they were able to have me, no exaggeration. I have a couple of friends who have been going through fertility treatments for the last 3 years to try and conceive, with some really rough patches. Given my mom’s history (and other women in my family), I always thought I’d be in the same situation. My husband and I were going to start trying for a baby next year, but lo and behold, my due date for our son is tomorrow. I cannot describe in words how lucky and privileged (and sometimes guilty) I feel. I think that has really affected how I’ve gone through this pregnancy, because although it’s not been the easiest, I wouldn’t trade it for the world. Not everyone gets to be this lucky, and while we would love to have another child after this one, I know that we might not be as lucky a second time around. So I’m going to be grateful for the one we do have, and doubly grateful that this pregnancy happened when we could be ready for it. It bugs me when people act as though they don’t realize the privilege in having a relatively easily-conceived child. I hope that I have not come off that way to my friends, and it makes me cringe when other women act that way in front of someone who’s fertility story they aren’t super familiar with.

    • Are you recommending such careful wording in all cases or only where the couple knows there is a potential problem?

      Personally, I would never share the “not trying” bit anyway, but if it’s the truth and they don’t mind telling people they had unprotected sex without planning on babies…I don’t think a disclaimer in front of every announcement is practical. But when a friend has a known issue would be a time to be more careful of the presentation.

      • Thanks Andi.

        I’m so glad the “not trying” wording came up. Even though my husband and I were trying, I’m been tempted to tell people we weren’t because (a) we got pregnant so fast and (b) I’m worried of judgments people will make about us trying with our age/economic situation, etc. etc.

        I’m glad now I have the words to say “It was the right time for us” and leave it at that. Also, I’ve very quickly that people will also get all sorts of judge-y with the decisions you make about you body, so I might as well not waste any time with these people. (When I say “people” I mean strangers, acquaintances, co-workers… not the friend in questions.)

      • Another thing to keep in mind is simply that not every woman feels comfortable sharing with the world that they were/are trying to concieve. In our family we joke that whenever a couple announces that they’re “trying” it’s impossible to not picture that couple constantly f#*ing 🙂 I think by framing it as more of a happy surprise you take the focus off of the already very private issue of your bedroom habits… maybe that’s just me. I mean, basically everyone has sex, right? Birth control methods aren’t all 100% effective, right? Pregnancies can happen without planning for them, even for responsible adults.

    • Thanks Megan!

      You found the perfect word for the emotion I’ve been feeling- privilege. Thanks for helping me frame my discussion. I think this is a perfect starting point for me to announce my pregnancy to everyone, not just this friend in particular.

    • I have to disagree with this. It’s not privilege that some people make sperm and some people don’t. It’s biology. Privilege is when society is constructed in some artificial way to favor some people over others. Biology is just biology. Biology can suck, when it means you can’t carry a pregnancy, or you develop cancer, or you’ll never have the upper body strength to be a navy SEAL. But just because it sucks doesn’t mean its because of privilege.

      • While I see where you are coming from, I would respectfully disagree with you. Privilege is an unearned benefit or advantage. For example, no one asks to be born white, but white people are born with white privilege. (I use this example because I consider it one of the most basic, accessible ways to understand privilege, not to be contentious.) It *is* an unearned advantage to be healthy – whether you don’t get cancer, or you don’t have trouble conceiving.

        When it comes to making families, these types of privilege are institutionalized. Many health insurance plans cover fertility treatments for straight people but not gay people, for example, or they may have a lot of hoops for gay people to jump through that straight people do not. A job might provide better paid leave, insurance, job protection or physical accommodation that makes it possible for one person to have a baby while someone else can’t afford it — and often, those types of jobs are related to some kind of social or economic privilege. Those are all unearned advantages or benefits, AKA privilege.

    • With as much as I was socially mistreated when I was pregnant I just can’t see it as a privilege. Strangers asking me about my sex life and publicly shaming me for drinking a coffee does not indicate that any sort of pregnancy is privileged in this misogynistic society. Though I get your to point, I don’t really agree. And I don’t think you realize lots of women say their pregnancies aren’t planned because of social pressure. It was really hard for me to admit it is something I wanted because of other people’s judgement. I am a relatively privileged person (white, hetero, cis, college degree, etc) and in my upper 20s and still my pregnancy was not met with happy responses right away by most of my family.

      • There’s also different definitions of “planned.”

        I considered my pregnancy unplanned because we hadn’t been scheduling sex to align with my ovulation. But we were in the process of charting my fertility, not using protection and had talked about “trying” (aka, scheduling sex for that peak time) in the next few months.

        Nobody can convince me that he was “planned.” It was a happy accident. But it certainly wasn’t prevented, if that makes sense, too.

    • Thank you. I’ve been struggling with all this kind of phrasing during my current pregnancy. I nearly threw up when my husband told the inlaws “you’re going to have a grandchild” when at that stage we’d already had two serious scares and there was no guarantee of anything. I hate being asked “what are you going to have?” as if everything is automatically going to go swimmingly, when most of my friends have had multiple unfinished pregnancies and it just seems like an awful lot to assume considering everything that could go wrong. Obviously most people aren’t comfy being that pessimistic, but I feel uncomfortable with boundless optimism.

  6. I don’t think that announcing your pregnancy will automatically make her feel as if you’ve rescinded your support of her choice to terminate hers. I understand the impulse, of course, but I think it’s a sneaky myth that has leaked into our society … that no pregnant woman or woman with kids supports abortion, that the only people who are pro-choice are the ones who plan to never have kids. I hope your friend would recognize that your decision to have a baby does not at all reflect negatively on her own decision to NOT have one at this exact time in her life. Yet, I think it’s very sweet and thoughtful of you to be extra-sure that she knows you still support her. Maybe just phrase the announcement like, “This was the right time for us, personally,” or something like that? Something that lets her know that you still understand and acknowledge that the right time comes at different moments for different people.

    • This! How do we fight this myth, because it is so pervasive.
      I would have loved a big ol’ stock photo of a pregnant woman at Pro-Choice rally… but I’m guessing there’s not that many of those floating around the internet. Shenanigans.

      • I designed a pro-choice maternity shirt that says “proud mommy by choice” and the “o” in choice is a heart. I gave it to my sister, who had an abortion years ago and just recently had her first baby with her husband <3 She teared up when she opened it, and wore it all the time. There's something really powerful about a visibly pregnant woman declaring her support for choice.

        Maybe we pro-choice moms just need to be more vocal to dispell that myth.

      • You have given me a mission in life. When/if I become pregnant I will make it a point to find a pro-choice rally and show up signs and all. Oh and then not give a shit about the judgement from parts of my very must suffer the consequnces extended family might be.

      • In college, I volunteered for pro-choice events for Planned Parenthood. I swear to you, all of the PP employees were pregnant, or had *just* had children. You’re right, it’s a myth that pro-choice folks are anti-children!

  7. Definitely agree with the idea of a preface like “It turned out to be the right time for us….” or something in that family. As much as you can affirm the challenge she chose to face, it’s a chance for her to support the challege you’re taking on! Sounds like a good time for bonding.

  8. I would tell her privately before you make a public announcement. When I told my best friend that I was pregnant and thought I would likely have an abortion a week later she made a announcement at a family party that I was at that she was pregnant, and I was devastated that she didn’t tell me privately.

  9. As someone who had one, I definitely recommend telling her privately and before your other friends. Frame as you understand she had a difficult choice to make, but for you, you are ready to have a baby and are in fact expecting. Also just ask her how she handling it before you tell her your news just so she knows she is being thought of and you still support her. Then go into how much you and hubby discussed and planned and decided it was a good time for you guys to try.

    And yes it is such common propaganda that all women who have abortions regret it which is entirely untrue. I am so thankful to have a chance to build my marriage stronger and get in a slightly better place financially before bringing another human into the world. I did it because all babies deserve to be wanted.

  10. I have a very similar situation, so can tell you how this went for me (or didn’t go, as it is kind of non-eventful).

    My best friend had an abortion one month before I found out I was pregnant, although we were not trying to conceive. The whole situation was really difficult for her and she went back and forth on it, but decided it was not time and she did not want a child with the father. Anyway, while my pregnancy wasn’t completly joyful as it came as a shock to us – I had the same fear that she would be upset by it and not want to talk to me about it at all.

    So what I did was just outright ask her if it was difficult for her to talk about, or if it brought up negative feelings for her. Since we are such good friends, she was the first person I told after my husband – but I didn’t want to go on and on about it if it was hurtful to her. She told me that she didn’t really link the two situations together in her head, so didn’t associate my baby with her abortion.

    If I didn’t ask her, I wouldn’t know and would have continued to wonder if I should include my friend in talk about my baby.

    So anyway, my advice would be to have an honest discussion – especially if she is your best friend. Alternately, my sister in law was actively trying to conceive and experiencing infertility – so as an above commenter stated, my “we weren’t even trying” pregnancy was very upsetting to her. So people can have different reactions.

  11. I am still struggling after my abortion 6 years ago and my best friend is due to have her first baby any day now. It hurts and I’m jealous but I’m also delighted for them. Things that helped- being told privately and being told that I can be ss involved or not as I need to be. We’ve had tough spots especially regarding ultrasound photos, but ee have talked them through. I feel a lot closer to my friend now 🙂

    • Thanks Vicky,

      I’m glad so many people have been willing to share their experiences with abortion. It’s important to realize that all women take different amounts of time to process and morn the end of a pregnancy… and this doesn’t mean they regret their decision.

      Also, I’m glad you and others have brought up the ultrasound photo thing. I have always felt weird about ultra sound photos on facebook and the like; this has cemented my decision not to share any ultrasounds unless people ask to see them.

  12. Don’t overthink it. You being pregnant does not make her choice any less valid, and you both know it. Share your joy and don’t tiptoe around her, this will only make things more awkward.

  13. I would tell her privately like a few have suggested. I would also wait until the second trimester to tell her and definitely avoid the ultra sound photo sharing. Its really hard to see those when you have had an abortion. You are a good friend for considering her feelings but you also have to enjoy the happy moment in your life.

  14. I think a good step is to try not to think of it as a ‘wound’ or her as ‘wounded’. I had an abortion and the only thing I felt was relief. Maybe that’s just me but I don’t think that terminating a pregnancy willingly by choice needs to be considered a traumatic or difficult experience for the woman. It wasn’t for me. Being unexpectedly pregnant at 18 when I didn’t want to be was more terrifying than the procedure of the aftermath. I’m sure it would be different for a woman who was pressured or coerced or manipulated into terminatin a pregnancy than for a woman who knowingly and willingly made an informed decision to terminate a pregnancy.

  15. I had an abortion 6 years ago. While it was the right decision, it also caused me to question a lot of things I’d always felt about myself, as well as a lot of my plans for the future. I think if I were in your friend’s position, I would definitely want to be told privately. As others have suggested, begin by asking her how she feels about her decision and pointing out how strong she is for sharing it with you and your friends. Then tell her you have something you’d like to share. Consider letting her know that you won’t take it personally if she finds her feelings change throughout the course of your pregnancy – maybe she’ll be happy to talk about it sometimes, but other days, it’ll feel too raw. I think seeing that you still see her as your normal old best friend, while also giving her an out, will help her feel more secure. And congratulations! If you’re this empathetic and thoughtful of a friend, you’ll be a great mom.

  16. Important request: could this site please refrain from posting articles about abortion with images of huge pregnant bellies? Late-term abortions are extremely rare, and are never elective (it’s simply impossible to find a provider who will perform the procedure unless the mother’s health is in danger or the fetus has health issues); the vast majority of abortions are performed in the first trimester, when the mother is barely showing, if at all. Putting up articles like this with pictures like this presents a false picture that has a seriously negative effect on how abortion is perceived in the US.

    With that said: I felt only relief after I had an abortion, and 12 years later, I still have no regrets. It’s quite possible that your friend feels the same, but good on you for being concerned about being sensitive.

    • I really appreciate your flagging this sensitive issue. The image Stephanie chose was intended illustrate Ann’s pregnancy — not her friend’s terminated pregnancy. There are two pregnancies involved in this post, and only one of them was terminated… so from an editorial perspective, I just didn’t see the illustrating image as being about the friend’s pregnancy at all.

      That said, your request is definitely something we’ll keep in mind for future posts.

  17. I agree with others in telling her in private and being sensitive to her feelings, but I don’t agree that you should clause it with “it was the right time for us” “we’re priveleged” etc. Simply put, this was your decision, and she made a decision that was right for her. I would feel patronised if someone felt the need to “excuse” their pregnancy to me when I had made a decision that was right for me. Give her permission to feel as she does, support her with those feelings, but in no way feel bad or excuse the fact that a wonderful thing has happened for you and your husband.

    And also, a massive congratulations 🙂

  18. Congratulations on your pregnancy!
    Your friend WILL be sad, no matter how right the decision was for her at the time. I ended a pregnancy, a decision I regret every minute of the day even though I know I could never have coped with it, the same time as my sister was pregnant. I was so happy for them but I was devastated for my baby as they had everything right so they could keep theirs. This will reappear when the baby comes, dont not include her in things because you are scared of hurting her, just wait for her to ask to hold the baby etc. I think although it will be harder you should do it in person, let her be sad, but if she is a good friend she will be able to be happy for you and support you.

    • Ok. I know what you’re trying to say, but this is something I take umbrage with. Not everybody has an abortion they “regret every minute of the day”, and, I feel, assuming that her friend would feel that way is rather presumptuous. I know some women are eternally haunted by the choice (even if they know it is the right one), but some women are NOT, and that’s ok too.

      Personally, I wish this myth that every woman is forever traumatized by an abortion would just stop. I’m not saying your feelings are wrong and invalid (please know that this is NOT what I’m trying to say here), but this serotype is not helpful on a variety of levels. If somebody has an abortion, and doesn’t think of it as the ‘baby they lost’ and isn’t deeply bothered by it, it can make them think that there’s something wrong with them, not that they just processed it in a different way.

      If this comes across as too strong, or too off topic, feel free to delete this post, mods. 🙂

  19. I found out I was pregnant just 2 weeks after one of my best friends had told me about her pregnancy. I chose to terminate mine, she had a gorgeous baby boy, now 2 years old, who I am godmother to. My friend’s partner was (very thoughtfully) concerned about how I would feel re: her pregnancy, having just had an abortion. But neither she nor I found it to be a problem. I guess our situations were different enough so that there was no confusion or mixed feelings. She didn’t change the way she acted around me, and she kept me up to date with all her pregnancy details, which I was keen to hear about. In the beginning she asked me if it bothered me, and I could honestly answer that it didn’t – I was excited for her. Not saying this would be the case for everyone, but sometimes there really is no problem! Good luck!
    PS I’m now very happily 7 months pregnant and a pro-choice soon-to-be mom 🙂

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