If you have a loved one who is currently dealing with infertility, telling them you are pregnant can be a dreaded conversation. As one who has been on the receiving end of that dreadful conversation too many times to count, I have come up with a list of tips for navigating friendship when one party is dealing with infertility and the other is pregnant or has children.
To make things easier as we navigate this list of tips, I am going to refer to the person who is struggling/has struggled with infertility as the TTC (short for: Trying To Conceive). If you are the TTC, you may want to share this list of tips with your friends. I would also welcome any feedback or revisions if I have missed something.
1. Don’t make the TTC the last to know. Inevitably, there is trepidation about telling them, so it tends to be put off until you can wait for the “right time.” Fact: There is no “right” time to tell the TTC that you are pregnant. No matter how much they love you and may be happy for you, they will struggle. Don’t add insult to injury by making them the last to know.
2. Do let them know that you know how hard it is for them. Give the TTC the space to struggle. Reassure them that you know they are excited for you and their struggle has nothing to do with wanting your happiness. Acknowledge that you know that their struggle has everything to do with their own deep longing. Basically, let them struggle but let them know that you trust their heart toward you is good.
3. Don’t avoid them for the next 9 months. Infertility is a lonely, isolating journey. The TTC needs their friends’ support. Yes, being around you may be tough for them because your growing belly is a reminder to them of their unmet desire. However, having you not around is even worse than the struggle they may have in your remindful presence.
4. Do continue to ask questions and ask how you can support the TTC. The TTC may want to talk about it and they may not. Give them the space to choose. By asking, you give them the opportunity to talk if they want to take it. If they do not want that space, let it lie, and ask again another day. Your inquiries let them know that you have not forgotten their struggle.
5. Don’t try to minimize your excitement and joy over your new little life. The last thing the TTC wants is to steal your joy. 9 times out of 10, they would prefer to die to themselves so they can genuinely enjoy your journey. Some days will be harder than others to be selfless, but do not deny them the opportunity to put another’s needs before their own.
6. Do be sensitive as you you talk about baby/pregnancy related things. Do not blaze forward in your excitement without regard for the company you keep. At the same time, do not downplay your excitement in an effort to be sensitive. Seeing a less-than-excited pregnant person is just as much a struggle for the TTC. On that note…
7. Try not to complain too much to your TTC loved one about your pregnancy and/or related struggles. You do not have to be fake with the TTC. If you are struggling, it is okay to talk about it. Morning sickness is rough. Constipation, sore boobs, and feeling fat instead of cute are all difficult to deal with. You are allowed to struggle, and you need support, too. Just remember to be sensitive and acknowledge that the TTC would gladly take your place if they could. If anything, their presence in your life should be a gentle reminder of all that you have to be thankful for and how unhelpful complaining really is.
8. Do open up the table for honest conversation. Ask the TTC, “Is there anything I do/say that makes this easier/harder for you?” Ask how you can support them well during this time.
9. Don’t make flippant, hope-filled statements. Things like, “Your time is coming,” “Don’t worry, it will happen,” or “It’s just not God’s timing,” may sound nice and reassuring to you. I guarantee, there is little reassurance in those statements for the TTC. Instead of making statements, ask more questions.
10. Assume you have no idea how they are feeling. If you have never struggled with infertility, you just do not fully get it. That is okay. Infertility shares some similarities with other unmet desires in life, but each struggle is unique. Great relationships are not about experiencing life in the exact same way. Great relationships are about entering into another person’s journey and experiencing their highs and lows with them even if you are not on the same roller-coaster. You can laugh and giggle when one of you is at the top and scream and cry as one of you careens down toward the valley.
No two of us are on the exact same journey. Even if we ride the same ride for a while, we may experience it very differently from one another. Therefore, by sharing life with one another, our measure is fuller and richer than a life lived and experienced alone.
“Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn” (Romans 12:15).