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How NOT to Tell the Infertile in Your Life You're Pregnant
a blog by CGD, April 21, 2011
Around six months into this process came the first pregnancy announcement, and it hit me like a ton of bricks. Boom! That boom was followed quickly by shock and surprise — as I was truly not expecting to feel the pangs of jealousy that came after this news.
Fast forward a few years, and I am no longer surprised by these reactions — I just kind of accept this as part of this process.
Mistakes Are Made
My mother recently told me that she thinks there is no good way or time for someone to tell me that she is pregnant. Personally, I am not sure if I believe that. While I do agree that there might be no actual good time to tell an infertile woman that you are having a baby, there may be some times that are just worse than others.
For me, that time came when my brother told me a few weeks ago that my sister in law is 15 weeks pregnant. It was a time that fell five days after my beta from my last IVF failure and two days before we were about to mark the anniversary of the loss of our baby (my only pregnancy that ended in the second trimester one year ago). So, I would say that this announcement’s timing was less than ideal — at least from my perspective.
My brother is well meaning, but as he is part of a lucky fertile couple, he is clueless when it comes to sensitivity about infertility. Consequently, he made what I consider to be two critical mistakes.
Mistake No. 1: Do not ask about how someone’s fertility treatments are going in the same conversation as you announce news of your own pregnancy. Those need to be separate conversations. My brother started the conversation by asking me how my “procedures” went. About 45 min later, the “we have some news…” line came out of his mouth. My husband says that this is like telling your unemployed friend about your new job and six-figure salary in the same conversation that you then inquire about your friend’s unemployment checks. It’s something that you just shouldn’t do.
Mistake No. 2: Do not give all the gory details about your pregnancy to your infertile friend or family member. Save that information for the other fertile people in your life. My brother, to add insult to injury, proceeded to tell me about all of the extra testing that my sister in law will need as she will be over 35 at the time of the birth. This is interesting information to give to a woman who is actually older than her sister-in-law and has already been through countless tests due to a very complex and troubled pregnancy. Additionally, he let me know that this might be their last baby, but that maybe they will try for their third at some point. It is hard to hear about how others decide on how many children they want to have when you struggle to get just one of your own. I know my brother meant no harm, but really was it a wise idea to tell your almost 36-year-old, childless sister all of this information? Perhaps this goes for life in general, but certainly is relevant here — please think just a little before you speak and be aware of who you are actually speaking to.
Email Gives You Time to Process
Having been on this fertility journey for a while, I have a stumbled upon a preferred way of hearing this kind of news — email. Impersonal, yes, but it allows me the time to process the news alone in front of my computer so that, by the time I need to see or speak to the parents to be, I can muster up some happiness (both real and faked) and gush lots of good wishes upon them.
That happiness and gushing is harder to come by immediately. Typically after hearing such news, I start out much more self-centered and filled with thoughts like “why not me?” I am going to safely assume that these are things nobody else really wants to hear and things I wish to not say out loud.
Luckily, I am surrounded my many intelligent and intuitive friends who, without any direction from me, have used this preferred email method and acknowledged some understanding that this news, while happy, may be hard for me to hear. I am a lucky girl in this way. Perhaps I should have them go and share this information with my brother.
Ultimately, I am happy for my brother and sister-in-law. I did manage to squeak out excitement and congratulations to them that were at least in part genuine. At the same time, I will not pretend that this is easy for me or that I do not have mixed feelings. Pregnancies are hard stuff for infertile women, whether my brother realizes it or not ...