Struggling with telling infertile friends that you’re pregnant… again

Guest post by Willow
“Guess what?” pregnancy announcement body suit

I recently found out I’m expecting my FOURTH baby — and my third baby is not even five months old. To say this has come as a shock is an understatement. We’re happy about the pregnancy now, but it has taken a bit of work to get there. We’re getting ready to tell our family and friends… but there are two people I’ve been avoiding telling so far: my brother and my very good friend.

My brother is gay, and he and his partner keep hitting roadblocks on their journey to having a baby. My friend is struggling to conceive and has been for some time — she’s up to her ears in IVF, egg donation, adoption, you name it.

I’m struggling because I feel like telling them about our fourth very easily conceived baby might really hurt them.

I know they’ll both be happy for us, but I also wouldn’t be surprised if the news came as a kind of “why is it so easy for them when they have so many kids and so hard for us when we just want one” way. I don’t presume they will be sad, envious, or resentful just because I think I would be, and for all I know it’s insulting to presume they would be anything other than thrilled for us.

Does anyone have advice for telling infertile friends that you’re pregnant?

Comments on Struggling with telling infertile friends that you’re pregnant… again

  1. I struggled with trying for conceive for a year before it worked for us. During that time, whenever I heard of another friend easily getting pregnant, it definitely stung, no matter how much love I had for that person. My advice is to break the news in an email so that they can have whatever feelings they have to themselves initially. You could even add a note about how you struggled with how to tell them because you know how hard it’s been for them. Saying it in person will force them to react positively, whether they feel like it or not. I’m sure they will eventually be happy for you but give them time to get over that little kick in the gut first.

    • I agree with this. Depending on the sensitivity of the individual you’re communicating to, and what struggles they have had, this gives them a buffer in how to react – it lets them be sad, or jealous, or whatever feelings….so they can then show their joy for you when you see them in person.

      Two things I would add;
      1. Don’t use the word “infertile”, in any iteration.

      2. Do NOT specify that it was an accident, or discuss with them the process you needed to go through to accept this pregnancy. It’s not fair to put them in the position of needing to support you on that. (Unless of course they bring it up themselves! And, as always, everyone is different in their feelings and at different points in their journey)

    • I also recommend the email approach. When we were pregnant with our fourth (and then fifth), we sent an email to the two sets of friends who we knew were struggling with having a child. We sent this email several weeks ahead of announcing it to friends or on Facebook but after family knew. All the email said was that we wanted to share the news with them via email (so they could deal however they needed), that we were pregnant and here is the due date (no other details), and we supported however they felt, and that we loved them. We didn’t want to force them to have to say congratulations or act happy for us if they simply weren’t at that place.

    • We’re entering Year 4 of trying to have a baby, and email has definitely been the easiest way for me to absorb news of a friend’s pregnancy. When a friend called to tell me she was pregnant, as soon as I saw her name pop up on my phone (she never calls), I *knew*. Her heart was 100% in the right place, as she wanted to tell me before I saw it on Facebook, but it’s tough to sound happy for someone when you start crying on the phone. Email all the way, but make it personal and make it clear that you care about your friend’s feelings and are sensitive to her experience. And congratulations on your pregnancy–I’m delighted for all my pregnant and parenting friends, even though it’s bittersweet.

      • Umm, you and me should get coffee sometime. I am also entering Year Four of The Bold and The Barren. My partner and I are pursuing adoption but it’s mega-tough and complicated and heart-breaking at times.

        I love babies. I love my friends. I love most of all when my friends can have babies easily and when they are ready. And I am lucky to have friends that love me back and try really, really hard to be sensitive. But it is so goddamn hard to keep it together on the phone or in person when I find out a friend or family member is expecting. An email is easier, particularly if it’s a general “We’re telling our close friends and family all together first” email and not a “You’re infertile so I feel weird” email that allows some personal processing time. I usually need a good ugly car cry and I am able to cope and express my happiness and deal with the fact that it’s okay to be a little sad too. But getting the news directly is way more challenging for me. Either way, you seem like a great sister and friend who cares enough to be sensitive and will likely handle sharing this news with much grace. Congratulations on your newest addition!

        • Srsly, Snarktopus, are you me? We are at the beginning of the adoption process too (plowing through home study paperwork)! It’s still tough to accept that we won’t ever meet our bio-kid, but we are relieved to be done with the crazy-making fertility treatments. Also, I might have to appropriate “The Bold and the Barren,” because it is genius.

          Coffee’s on me if you’re ever in the DC/MD/VA area.

          • I live in NoVA!!! Seriously, I would love to get coffee (or hell, a cocktail) and chat! We’re the only couple within my social circle pursuing adoption and it would be awesome to have someone to talk about this with who gets it!

          • All right then, let’s do this! shannon at yinyangyogini dot com 🙂 We’re just up the road near BWI, so we could meet in the middle.

  2. I have struggled with secondary infertility for years and have watched several friends and family members conceive (sometimes easily, sometimes not) throughout this time.

    For the most part, I was able to separate my struggles from their happiness. I tried to remind myself that just because I wanted something it shouldn’t mean that everyone else couldn’t have it until I did.

    But I will admit, there were times when it really stung. A lot.

    My advice would be to tell them one-on-one. No fancy announcements or fluffy words. Just be straightforward and say you’re pregnant and that you recognize that they’ve been experiencing their own struggles and that your heart/thoughts/prayers are with them. I think sometimes the best thing for me has just been having someone acknowledge the challenges I’ve faced and that my emotions are real and valid.

    Moving forward, don’t exclude them from the pregnancy. I’ve felt shut out by friends and that sucks. But at the same time, don’t be insensitive either. Share the important stuff, but don’t complain about your aching back or text your friend pictures of your positive pregnancy tests (yes, that happens) or ask them to help you paint the nursery.

    • Oh yes, this. I had three friends get pregnant right around the same time I did for my first child, and when I lost that child to premature labor I called them all and begged them not to shut me out in the name of sensitivity. I attended showers, got to stay part of my friends’ lives, and it helped me feel normal. Give them the opportunity to deal with their situations in their own ways.

      Yes, watching other people’s successes can sting, but it’s less painful (at least in my experience) to watch it happen to people you love and care about.

  3. As someone who is on the other side of this, I have to say that (although my husband & I have been trying for a while with some upsetting things along the way- like a miscarriage, etc), I am still happy for good friends who get pregnant. What kind of friend wouldn’t be happy for you?
    Recently, a fried who has 3 kids (on born last winter) told me that she was expecting again, and would understand if I wanted to “unfriend” her. I told her that was nonsense! I can’t blame someone else for my journey’s disruptions!
    It should be said, however, that when this same friend gives me unsolicited advice about how she & her hubby “tried” (less than two months each time), I want her to stop ASAP. She can’t really let me know her “tricks” if they are #1 deciding to have another baby & #2 getting pregnant within 8 weeks. That is very frustrating advice to receive- as if I just didn’t know that sex was the way to get pregnant. (But it also bugs me when my skinny friends suggest that I should just “eat less & exercise more” as a sure fire way to get down to a size 4, so I guess that’s how I am)
    If you were in a stable relationship first, did they resent you for it? If you were financially stable first, did they get jealous? This shouldn’t be any different.
    No, you should be happy & they can be happy for you & still bummed about their own struggles.

  4. Everyone is different but from my own experience, here is what I would have appreciated:
    — Don’t tell them in person. I’d send an email so they can take some time to gather themselves before talking to you.
    — Keep the details brief. No need to say that you weren’t even trying, etc. Just a simple, “I wanted to let you know that we are expecting again. I’m due in . . . ”
    — Acknowledge that this might be hard news without making assumptions. I’d say something along the lines of, “I know you’ve been through so much and, while I don’t know how you feel, I know it must be very hard. I wish I knew the right thing to do to make this easier, but I don’t. I want you to know that I love you and want to do what I can to support you.”
    — Tell them that you will listen to and respect their needs. “I want you to do what you need to do, and tell me how I can help. I’ll take my lead from you — if you don’t want to talk about it, I get that.” They might not want to come to a baby shower or see ultrasound photos, etc. Don’t take offense. It’s not that they don’t wish happiness for you, it’s just that they are in a hard place.
    And know that, even if they can’t tell you right now, you are a wonderful friend. The fact that you are thinking about how this might be for them and soliciting opinions on how to share this news gently says so much about who you are. They are lucky to have you. And CONGRATS on your pregnancy!

  5. Congratulations! I know the way you cater your approach will depend on the personalities of those involved, but as an infertile introvert, I would prefer to hear the news privately and preferably not face-to-face. An e-mail, text, or instant message would give more time for the person to process instead of having to feel like they have to put on a happy face(or run into the bathroom and have a crying jag.) It would be especially nice if you could find a way to tell them you understand that they might struggle with the news Maybe tell them you want them to be as involved as they feel comfortable and don’t want to presume you should leave them out, but let them know you won’t be offended if they don’t feel like they can be your bff pregnancy cheerleader and throw a shower, etc? My husband and I have been struggling with infertility for the past year or so and my sister-in-law just had her third. We’re not super close, but my mother-in-law (who lived with us at the time) really shoved sil’s pregnancy down my throat, telling me the details of every appointment, speculating on the sex, and forcing me to sit still for pictures when my niece was born. I definitely don’t think the “force it down their throats” is the best method. Just the fact that you thought to ask this question shows that you care deeply about their feelings. Keep in mind that they are happy for you, they just might not quite know how to show it.

  6. I have no advice for you, but I just want to say that you’re a great person for considering your brother and friend. Many people forget about another person’s struggles and are insensitive. I’m glad you’re not.

    Congratulations and I hope you’ll have a healthy pregnancy.

  7. First of all, it’s awesome that you are so consuderate. You would be amazed by how many people don’t even consider that their fecundity could be hard for other people to deal with.

    I think that a lot of great advice has been given. I can only say that my own jealousy/sadness isn’t across the board or super logical. Easy first and second pregnancies are hard for me. But third, forth, fifth pregnancies? Honestly they don’t bother me much. I have no problems with people wanting big families, but I personally don’t want four kids, so it just doesn’t seem like the same kick in the gut that a first pregnancy announcement does.

  8. I struggle with infertility. And it meant so much to me when a friend told me she was pregnant before making the Facebook announcement.

    For others, (since you’re already pregnant OP) it is easier for me to handle pregnancy announcements when I know they are trying.

  9. I’m just echoing more of the same here. First off, congratulations!

    I was “successful” first try (quote for that pregnancy ending in miscarriage) and struggling for the 4 months since that miscarriage (which I know to some women is not a very long time, but since we started this process it’s been more than half a year and it’s getting old).

    I find that I’m able to separate the emotions pretty well, which is good considering that I’m in a workplace with easily 14 pregnancies at the moment and most of my circle of friends are also pregnant.

    My biggest issue and something I’ve seen commented above that I just want to hammer home, please please please do not offer unsolicited advice. People will ask your opinion if they want it, no matter how close of friends you are, telling someone “oh you just have to do it this way, it worked for me,” is neither polite, friendly or comforting to someone who truly is doing everything they can. Most of the time the issue is out of their hands completely OR they are struggling with a ridiculous health care system that will not diagnose any potential “fixable” issues until after you’ve tried for a year or after you’ve had recurrent miscarriages (position I’m in).

    I don’t mind shared pictures of nurseries, sonograms, general pregnancy complaints (I mean everyone has at least one). I do mind non-stop complaining as after a while it feels like you’re resenting your pregnancy to someone who is trying so hard to have one herself.

    Congratulations and goodluck with your friends a lot of the other commenters have really hit the nail on the head.

  10. I think you have to recognize that being hurt isn’t the same as you hurting them. I totally agree with the breaking the news in email or in a note (to give them the time they need to react as they will without hurting you), don’t saying “infertile” ,and letting them have their emotions. They may feel as though the universe is against them, but they will also recognize that it isn’t really.

    I have been on both sides of this – struggling with miscarriages and loss while my friends and family had babies unexpectedly, and getting pregnant while other people I loved still struggled. Be gracious, but don’t give up your own joy. People who love you will be able to manage themselves, and still be happy for you in their own time, if you can give them that time. Congratulations!

  11. I know that each person is different, so your approach to each of them will have to be different. BUT as someone who had been on the receiving end of baby news while struggling with infertility, I don’t recommend the email.

    I struggled with infertility for years, and was told by the doctors that getting pregnant would be next to impossible. My sister and sister in law both got pregnant before me. Both within WEEKS of trying. They called me (because we live in different states), excited and told me the news. I was SO EXCITED for them! If my sister or brother sent me an email about their pregnancies, I would have been crushed! To me, an email would have made me feel that they didn’t think I could handle my emotions or be happy enough.

    Don’t assume how they will react and leave them out of the celebration. It’s insulting and isolating. Call them, talk to them one on one and if they want to (or don’t want to) be apart of any sort of ‘announcement’, let that be up to them.

    I love my sister and sister in law. I wanted updates, I wanted to know they were doing well, I wanted to be apart of my niece’s and nephew’s lives.

    Yes, I hurt. Yes, I had the twinge of jealousy and resentment. BUT it was not toward my sister or sister in law. It was towards my situation, something they had no control over.

    I do agree not to brag about how easy it was.

    They will be happy for you. They will be sad for themselves. The feelings are mutually exclusive.

    Congrats btw!

    • I’m on the other side of that thought. When we got pregnant through our first round of IVF, we told our best friends in person, and it was an awkward evening, knowing they had been trying for over 10 years to have a baby, and were facing delays upon delays in their international adoption. She put on a strong face, but I know it was like a kick in the teeth, and it made for a tense, uncomfortable evening.

      When we lost that pregnancy and had a failed second attempt, we asked our friends to let us know in advance that they’d be announcing a pregnancy, and to contact my husband over me. They were respectful and did so in a private way so both of us could react the way we needed to – ecstatic for our friends, but shattered and “Why me???” and “I must be broken” and all that stuff. Like Crystal, it wasn’t at the people who were expecting, but toward the situation.

      And then add to us having a surprise natural pregnancy last year. The same best friends, we told him and let him decide when to tell his partner, as they were getting closer to having their adoption come through. And I know they both appreciated that.

      To Willow: You know your brother and close friend better than we do, and hopefully will choose the best way to share the news with them that you can. I agree with others who have said to keep it brief, no details, no “It was an oops!” comments, that kind of thing. And then give them time to process it. Maybe they’ll react the same way Crystal does. Maybe, like me, they need time to themselves and a less direct announcement would work better.

      I’m glad you’re being sensitive to their feelings. And congratulations. 🙂

  12. I think that it really depends on the person that you are telling, and you know your family and friends best.

    That being said, I was in the reverse situation, where I was struggling with infertility, and one of my best friends (whom I had discussed my struggles with a good bit) had an unintended-but-not-unwelcome pregnancy. When she called me up to tell me, she said something to the effect of ‘I didn’t want to be insensitive, but we’re really excited and wanted to tell you’. Being genuine is almost always best, and most appreciated by those you love. Dealing with infertility, you already feel somewhat ‘broken’ or ‘different’, and creating a distance with that person by tiptoeing around or communicating such big news via email might just make them feel even more excluded. Let them know you see them first as an important person in your life, not as someone who is infertile.

    • “Let them know you see them first as an important person in your life, not as someone who is infertile. ”

      Beautifully said! I completely agree.

  13. When I announced my pregnancy to my friend struggling with fertility, I sent a card acknowledging how this news might be greeted with a mix of sadness and joy and that that was okay. I told her it was okay to talk to me when she was ready. She sent an email congratulating me and also thanking me for giving her the space to process the news. So, as many have said, you share your news because you love these people and be sure to share it with some distance between you to give them the privacy to have an authentic reaction.

  14. Congrats on your pregnancy! Based on my experience with infertility, the number 1 thing is don’t lie about a pregnancy! I had a friend do this and then I found out months later on Facebook that she was pregnant and had been when she had visited me. She thought it was easier for me to not talk about it, but instead I just felt awful and that I couldn’t trust her anymore.

    My best friend also got pregnant with her second child when I was going through infertility and she struggled for weeks trying to figure out how to tell me. She eventually called my husband to find out what he thought would be best and he told her to call me. In her case, it needed to be a phone call. An email would have been weird. But also in her case, I had permission with her being my best friend to cry both in happiness and sadness on the phone with her and she understood. She didn’t talk about her pregnancy unless I asked and we didn’t hang out as much in her final months, but we still remained close. That night she told me was probably one of the worst though. After I cried with her on the phone, I cried a lot longer with my husband. But I was glad she told me and touched that she cared so much about how she broke the news.

    Good luck!

  15. Congratulations on your happy news! You are obviously a caring and compassionate person to ask this question and prepare to tell your brother and your friend. As someone who suffers from infertility, I must say that it brings a tear to my eye that you are thinking of them in such a way. Everyone has already given such good advice. I would just like to offer how I would like to hear the news. I would like to hear the news directly from you. An email would be easiest in order to ensure privacy of my reaction. Alternatively, a face to face talk would be nice if it was kept short and sweet. You could say something like how you want to share the news because you love them, but you understand how it may not be easy for them to hear and you respect that they may need time and space and you will let them take the lead with how much they want to hear/be involved, etc. and that could change several times over the course of your pregnancy. I wouldn’t want to be lied to or left out because a friend did that to me and it made me feel worse. The friend said she was not pregnant when I asked (she was showing) and then a few days later she was gushing all over facebook. I was furious! Not because she was pregnant, but because she lied. You don’t seem to be that type of person at all so I think that your brother and your friend will receive the news with love because you are giving it with love.

  16. As someone who just got very similar news in a very similar sitution, please do not email. A call – when they are at home – gives both of you a chance to say things and process and possibly cry together. Or maybe just afterwards.

    I was SO thrilled for my friends, it actually hurt that she was scared to tell me. Her telling me she was scared and that it took an “extra month” of trying in the same call was actually the hurtful part. I was happy for them and said so, but then I needed processing time but instead she went into details and it got hard.

    I also cried for us, again, after I got off the phone – because I wouldn’t be sharing any news like that with our families and friends this month.

    But these were two separate reactions.

  17. As half of a trying-nearly-4-years infertile couple, previous commenters have already covered most of my advice. So I will keep it short. My preference is for a pregnancy announcement, particularly from a good friend or family member, to be personal, private, and tactful. Personal, meaning contact me/my husband directly (either via phone or email; I usually prefer email but you know your family and friend best). Private, meaning don’t let me find out via posted ultrasound photos or ridiculously twee facebook announcements or, og forbid, in front of a big group of people at a holiday gathering. Tactful, meaning don’t try to hide your discomfort with the situation with crassness or inappropriate humor. Just be honest and succinct; if I want details, I’ll ask for them. (The worst announcement thus far came from friends who told us in an email that they were expecting “another screaming, pants-shitting attention whore” and then got angry when we said we didn’t find the joke funny. Ugh.)

  18. I would definitely advise a personal phone call (or email if that better suits your family / friends; for me, I prefer conversation to written correspondence, but to each their own! I know others prefer written!).

    Though I don’t think anyone will begrudge you your pregnancy (though it’s always difficult to avoid jealousy and such — I know I struggle with feelings of jealousy toward my pregnant pals sometimes), I would advise you to avoid complaining about anything related to your pregnancy to those struggling to conceive. Save the complaints for those with children — it’s terribly difficult to hear someone complain, even if it’s about something as simple as a backache or crazy cravings — when you so desperately wish for a child. [You seem like a really considerate sister and friend, so I doubt you’d do that anyway!]

  19. I totally agree with all of the private message responses. My husband and I haven’t been trying terribly long but last month when I saw that our couple friends who got engaged the same day as us were expecting (via facebook announcement) I definitely felt some jealousy and sadness. I was able to work through those feelings on my own in the privacy of my own home with only my husband as a witness. When I saw them a week later I was able to be genuinely excited for them because I was prepared

  20. As someone who struggled with infertility and disappointment for 2 years before falling pregnant with our little miracle baby I absolutely agree with the suggestions of a private message/email. Or even a phone call which is easy enough to end. So many of our good friends fell pregnant during the 2 years we were trying and every single one was devestating for me initially. Especially when I found out via Facebook. I cried every time and hated myself for my inability to fall pregnant and the enormous strain fertility treatment was putting on my marriage. I also hated myself for being so sad when I should have been feeling joy for my friends. But I’d let myself be devestated for a day or 2 and then once I’d processed my own feelings I was able to then share their excitement and feel truly happy for them.
    I really appreciated the people who took the time and made the effort to tell us before making it public, it felt less like being kicked in the stomach than when I saw Facebook posts. Your friends and brother might not experience the negative feelings and might truly be happy for you from the first instant but giving them privacy to experience anything other than inital joy might be kind for them.

  21. As someone who has struggled for years with infertility, I appreciate that you want to deliever the news in the best way possible. I had friends just sit down and tell me in a one on one setting and we cried together, then I had friends/family who just told everyone at once. The first is better. Truly, someone who is infertile is so happy for you when you conceive, but we are so sad for ourselves. If you both give each other grace and understanding, this can be something that brings you together. It’s all in the delivery and the understanding. Just don’t announce in a group setting. That is difficult!

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