Finding out you are pregnant can unlock a wide range of emotions and reactions, from pure, unbridled happiness to crippling fear that you will somehow screw your kid up for life.
If you’ve been trying for a long time to fall pregnant, you might feel a huge sense of relief that it is finally happening and if you’ve fallen fairly quickly, you could feel plagued with guilt that you’ve not struggled the way many others have.
Regardless of which emotions are elicited (and, believe me, the ones I’ve mentioned barely scratch the surface) it’s also very natural to feel excited to start telling your friends and family.
However, if you have loved ones who have been struggling to conceive for any amount of time — and chances are, you know someone as about one in nine Aussie couples face fertility issues — you may be apprehensive about telling them your good news and want some guidance on how and when to do it.
We spoke to Fertility Coach and author Jennifer Robertson, who herself experienced seven years of infertility, to find out how best to navigate these conversations sensitively and how to care for yourself if you are on the receiving end of one.
The Latch: What is the best way to tell your loved one, who has been struggling to conceive, that you are pregnant? Is there a right time or place?
Jennifer Robertson: Preferably via text. I know this sounds quite impersonal, however, when you call them or tell them in person, it can be quite confronting and take them by surprise. Sending them a message and letting them know allows them the time they need to process their emotions and respond.
Tell them that you understand if they don’t respond and that you understand this may be difficult for them. And that you love them.
- Telling them at a party or function with lots of people around — it may catch them off guard.
- Anything in public.
- Allowing them to hear it from someone else. As much as it will be an uncomfortable conversation, it needs to come from you.
- Hiding the news from them while everyone else around them knows. This hurts and feels like the ultimate betrayal. It’s a sure way to end a friendship.
TL: What are words and sentences that should be avoided and what are some words or sentences that you can and should use instead?
JR: Please avoid saying that you’re sorry you’re pregnant. I had a girlfriend say this to me after announcing her pregnancy to me and I still remember it to this day. She told me that she was pregnant and apologised. Firstly, she wasn’t sorry for being pregnant and, secondly, it made me feel weak and it was dripping in pity.
If it was an accident, or if you fell pregnant easily, please omit those details.
If you’re struggling with morning sickness or early pregnancy symptoms, please don’t complain about them. While pregnancy is hard, please choose your audience wisely. Your friend will not want to hear about how hard it is when that’s the one thing she craves the most.
TL: What is the best way to handle it if your friend needs to take some time away from you or does not take the news of your pregnancy well? How can you best support them through these understandable feelings?
JR: Please understand — it’s not that your friend isn’t happy for you, but this is tough for them. Your pregnancy news is a common trigger for someone who is suffering from infertility or loss. It reminds them of everything they have been through: their pain, their losses and their trauma. And at that moment, it’s hard to separate their feelings of happiness for you, from their own sadness.
Infertility is a form of grief — we grieve the picture we had in our head of how this was supposed to turn out, lost babies, lost time. So your news actually triggers their grief. The best thing for you to do is to tell them that you understand if they need to take a break.
There is an immense amount of guilt involved for them, so giving them permission to take a step back from your friendship temporarily to protect themselves from further hurt, is the most generous thing you can do for them right now.
TL: Conversely, if you are on the receiving end of pregnancy news when you have struggled to conceive, what are some ways you can care for yourself? How can you tell your friend if you need some time and pace while still being happy for them?
JR: Firstly, please understand that you are not a bad person if you can’t be happy for your friend. Your reaction is completely normal. A pregnancy announcement is a reminder of what you don’t have, and it’s a trigger for your grief. And it’s hard to separate your feelings of happiness for your friend, from your own grief. Please don’t punish yourself.
If you’ve been told via text, or you see a post on social media, you don’t have to respond straight away (or even at all). Take some time. When you do respond, a quick “CONGRATULATIONS” will suffice. You don’t have to say how happy you are if you’re not.
Find a safe space to download — a friend, your partner, a fertility coach (like myself) or your journal. It’s important that you process the hurt, anger and jealousy in a healthy way. Numbing, like food or alcohol, is only a temporary bandaid and will only make you feel worse.
Keep reminding yourself that you’re not angry with your friend, you’re angry that you’re struggling to have a baby — you’re angry at YOUR path, not theirs.
Protect yourself. If you need to step away from the friendship, explain this to your friend. Please don’t just ignore her forever — remember, it’s not her fault. Explain that it isn’t something they have done, this is just tough for you. Let them know that you still love them, but you need to take a step back for a moment.
And remember that a good friend will understand and respect your boundaries. If she doesn’t understand, it may be time to move on from the friendship anyway.