A job I do not covet from my freakishly fertile friends is having to break the news to me or other TTC warriors that they themselves are pregnant.
Telling a fertility-challenged friend you’re expecting is NOT an easy task, and there is no “safe" or “foolproof” way to do it. Unfortunately, it’s just one of those things that’ll be tough for your friend to hear, no matter which way you slice it.
But there are a few subtle things you can do to give your friend emotional space to process the news in her own way. So if you’re looking for more graceful, empathetic ways to break the news to your friend, you’ve come to the right place.
Gentle Ways to Tell a Friend with Infertility You Are Pregnant
1. Accept that this is going to be hard and things very well might get messy (and teary).
Perhaps the worst thing you can do is expect your friend to be happy for you. While she’ll most likely at least act happy for you, try not to expect this from her. Don’t hold it against her if she doesn’t respond with warmth, grace, or tact, especially if you’ve been trying for a short amount of time (if at all), just got married, or didn’t tell her you were starting to try. I can tell you from experience that it’s harder to hear this kind of news when you don’t see it coming at all. Most importantly, just let her feel the way she feels. Don’t guilt-trip her or make her feel bad for not reacting with 100% joy. Infertility is messy, and she could really use some slack in these truly vulnerable moments.
2. Tell her one-on-one.
If you can help it, try to avoid telling your friend in a group setting with other people, like at a gathering or big family meal. It’s better for your friend to hear this news one-on-one where she can process her emotions at least semi-privately, rather than feeling like she HAS to react to the news in a specific way. Even if you still want to make a big announcement, try to give her a heads-up that it’s coming so she doesn’t feel caught off-guard.
3. Acknowledge that this is hard for her.
By telling your friend that you understand how hard this must be for her to hear, you’re letting her know that you care about her feelings and that there is room for emotions beyond just joy or happiness.
4. Don’t share details about your pregnancy unless she explicitly asks.
When you share pregnancy news with someone who LOVES babies or has been pregnant themselves, chances are you get a lot of giddy follow-up questions: When are you due? Is it a boy or a girl? How are you feeling? But you might not get these from your infertile friend. Sometimes knowing the details can sting extra hard, so try not to share too many deets unless your friend explicitly asks.
5. Try not to complain around her.
A pet peeve for anyone navigating infertility is hearing pregnant women complain about their symptoms. It sucks to hear someone bitch about morning sickness when you’d literally chop off your left hand in exchange for spending a whole morning puking into a toilet. So if your friend asks you, “How are you feeling?” or “How’s it going?” try to keep your answer light and positive, even if it’s a bit of a fib…
6. If you feel comfortable, give them a heads-up that you plan to start trying soon.
Obviously, this one depends on how close you are to your friend and how open you are about your life. This certainly wouldn’t be appropriate for everyone in all cases (and of course sometimes you AREN’T “trying,” so there’s that). My point is that it’s easier to swallow this kind of news if your friend at least has a hint that this might be happening soon. It gives you time to emotionally prepare in advance, rather than just getting this kind of sensitive news out of the blue.
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7. Don’t wait too long.
While you don’t want to share your news too early, you definitely should beware of sharing your news too late or even not at all. The best way to hurt your friend in this whole mess is to not tell her at all…because she’ll eventually see a photo of you, learn about it on social media or hear about it through another friend. And that totally sucks. If you feel comfortable, try to tell your friend before you start showing; that gives her more time to process her feelings. It also makes her feel less paranoid that you simply avoided telling her for so long because you felt sorry for her…because that’s a really crappy feeling.
8. Give her a pass.
Most importantly, give your friend a pass when it comes to being there for YOU. Chances are, you have many friends whom you can talk to about your pregnancy fears and anxieties. Let this friend off the hook with that stuff. Let her come to you and ask questions…don’t be mad at her if she backs out of your baby shower. Don’t get pissed if she’s distant or not texting as much. She’s hurting. A lot. And she’s scared of your changing friendship. And while she’s probably happy for you, she’s sad for herself – and she can be both of those things at one time.
As I mentioned earlier, there’s no shortcut for this. There’s no hack or cheat sheet. Telling your infertile friend you’re pregnant is hard. Complicated. Messy. Unpredictable. She might be completely fine and start baby name brainstorming with you, or she might excuse herself to ugly-cry in the bathroom. Whatever her reaction is, let her know it’s ok and you understand it’s hard for her. She will not forget the way you treated her with grace, patience, dignity, and love—which is the best way to be a great friend to anyone.
Any other thoughts or tips about how best to break this news? It’s certainly not an easy nut to crack…
Elyse Ash and her husband Brad went through three years of infertility, two rounds of IVF, and one frozen embryo transfer before seeing their first positive pregnancy test, which brought them their daughter, born in March 2018. Elyse lives in Minneapolis and loves poetry, hockey, social justice, Beyonce, and pretending she’s into yoga.