I’m hoping for some advice on how to kindly and sensitively share news of a pregnancy with a friend who has spent roughly the last five years trying to conceive through a variety of methods with no success. She’s an absolutely wonderful, unselfish person, but I know that the last year especially has worn her down and that each successive pregnancy announcement makes her situation even harder.
I have been telling my close friends for weeks now. My friend should have been one of the first phone calls I made, but I am so worried about how it will make her feel that I find myself unable to pick up the phone. She was not even aware that my husband and I were trying to get pregnant — because we weren’t, though this was a very welcome surprise — so on top of it all, she will see another friend her age (we are both 36) getting pregnant effortlessly, making it even harder to share the news.
Any advice from Motherlode readers who have been on either side of this equation would be very much appreciated.
A lot of the comments are some variation of, “If she’s really a good friend she will be nothing but happy for you!” or, alternately, “You other commenters clearly do not understand infertility, she is going to be devastated and you should tell her over email so she can cry and don’t be upset if she doesn’t want to talk to you for a while!” But this doesn’t seem that complicated to me. Sometimes, you’re going to experience something that you know will cause a good friend to feel envious; sometimes you’ll feel envious of a friend’s good fortune. So just, you know, be nice. Be thoughtful. A few rules:
1. Tell your friends about the good things that happen to you in life. They are your friends! They will be happy for you!
2. But don’t be a jerk about it, you know? Think it through a little bit. If you know your friend is having trouble in a particular area of their own life, be sensitive to that. If they just ended a relationship, of course tell them if you get engaged, but don’t use them as your sounding board for all of your wedding-related complaints. If they’re unemployed, of course tell them if you get promoted, but don’t constantly vent about how much you hate your new responsibilities. If they’re having fertility issues, of course tell them if you get pregnant, but don’t make them your go-to for conversations about how much it sucks to be pregnant.
3. If you’re the friend experiencing the tough time, be happy for your friend to the best of your abilities. Their happiness is not the cause of, or even really related to, your unhappiness. Happiness and good things are not zero-sum games; there is enough to go around. So focus on the happy feelings. And even if you aren’t actually 100% happy, let your friend have their happy moment, and don’t make it All About You.
4. But also take responsibility and take care of yourself. You can’t control all of your emotions, even if you know they’re irrational or unfair. If it absolutely breaks your heart to see a friend with a baby / a job / a partner / whatever, you are allowed those feelings, and they don’t make you bad or selfish. What does make you selfish is if you expect your friend to temper their happiness for you, or if you act negatively toward them because they are happy in a way you are not, or if you cut off the friendship or otherwise damage or compromise it out of jealousy. It’s ok to take a temporary step back from a friendship if you’re aware that the friendship is hurting you and you are going to act unkindly toward your friend. But if a friend’s happiness is going to torpedo the friendship — when they aren’t being a gloating jerk about it but are only, you know, happy to be having a baby / getting married / getting promoted / whatever — that’s something you maybe need to talk through with a therapist. If you find that you’re experiencing feelings of bitterness or anger toward your friend instead of just toward the unfairness of life generally, you need someone who can help you to work through your feelings productively. Because this is life, you know? Sometimes shit goes really wrong, and other people have things that you wish you had. Sometimes those things are huge fucking things, like a child. Jealousy is natural and ok. Being a dick to your friends is not.
5. That is why it’s good to have a wide circle of friends, and not depend on one person for all of your emotional needs. We’re not all going to be capable of being 100% emotionally supportive of each other at all times, and knowing when to step up and when to step back is part of being a good friend. Understanding that sometimes a person just can’t be there for you is also part of being a good friend. Understanding who to call and when is part of being a good friend. If you’re dealing with awful backaches and nausea from pregnancy, you deserve a friend who will listen to you talk about that! But maybe don’t call the friend who is having fertility problems. If your job is frustrating and your boss is being an ass, you deserve time to vent! But maybe don’t vent to the friend who just got laid off. If wedding planning is a nightmare, you deserve to complain about that! But maybe not to the friend whose boyfriend just moved out.