I have a friend who is devastated because she can’t get pregnant. I’m afraid to tell her I’m pregnant. How should I handle this?

Excerpt from Asking for a Pregnant Friend: 101 Answers to Questions Women Are Too Embarrassed to Ask about Pregnancy, Childbirth, and Motherhood

A friendship can get tricky when one friend’s pain intersects with another’s joy. The emotions experienced by someone facing infertility, miscarriage, or stillbirth can be truly understood only by those who have navigated the same sorrow — it cuts deep and can feel like a cruel joke. I speak from experience, as I’ve had a miscarriage.

While every woman who experiences this painful journey will do so in her own way, a common thread is feeling frustration, desolation, and even resentment when they see babies and pregnant bellies, or hear about the healthy pregnancies of their loved ones. Being around pregnancy can be so triggering. Because of this, it’s fair to feel nervous about sharing your amazing news with someone who will understandably see it as a reminder of what they don’t have. It’s not a fun conversation. But it has to happen.

While it’s normal to want to hide this information because you don’t want to cause pain, you’ll actually cause more by hiding it. I have a close friend (we’ll call her Megan) who experienced a late-term stillbirth that rocked her world. I was devastated when I heard about her loss — so I can’t even begin to piece together how she felt — and still feels. Then one of Megan’s friends (we’ll call her Anna) became pregnant, and had a get-together where she shared the news with all their mutual friends. Anna did not invite Megan. Sharing the news with Megan was left to her husband, who heard about the pregnancy secondhand, and this made Megan feel that a secret was being kept, like Anna would rather hide than face Megan’s pain. She felt betrayed. If Anna could have pushed past her discomfort, they would have had a potent opportunity to connect, as one of the main things Megan wanted was for people to be willing to talk to her about her child who had passed. To be willing to hear about her pain. She wanted people to not be scared of her story and her grief.

So in some ways, the situation you’re in with your friend is a gift. It’s an opening, an opportunity to let her know you’re there for her no matter how uncomfortable her emotions and life circumstances make you feel. While initially uncomfortable, this conversation could be one of the most unifying and transformational encounters you’ll ever have. It will force you to summon your strength and compassion, and connect with another human in a raw, deeply authentic way.

What to do

To start, don’t post anything on social media or have a big pregnancy announcement party until you’ve spoken to your friend. News travels fast in the age of instant information, so hold it close. Then consider the following:

  • Make a plan for when and where you’ll tell her. First, think of a day and time that will give both of you plenty of time to talk and allow room for decompression before either of you step into another activity. Next, figure out a private, safe space for her to freely express whatever emotions might arise. (Her house might be a good choice.)
  • Figure out how you’ll tell her. To get started, write down some ideas about how to deliver the news. For example, you can preface the news by telling her you’re fine with any reaction she has, as this can make her feel safe to express sadness or frustration if that comes up. In addition, knowing that you didn’t come into the conversation with expectations about how she should respond will likely make her feel emotionally held.

You can also write a reminder to remain neutral when you tell her you’re pregnant. While it’s natural to want to gush about how happy you are and share all the details, know that such a reaction might exaggerate her pain.

Below is an opener I helped a client write. You obviously don’t have to say this verbatim, but it can provide a starting-off point. You also don’t have to walk into the convo with the script, but it’s helpful to review it beforehand to ensure you don’t forget the most important points.

If you feel your friend would rather receive the news via email, compose a letter along the lines of what’s written below, and end with an invitation to talk whenever she feels ready.

Sample Script for Informing a Sensitive Friend

“I want to start by saying how much I love you and appreciate our friendship. Before I jump into my news I also want you to know I have no expectations about your reaction — you should feel safe to express whatever comes up. With that said, I want you to be one of the first people to know that I’m pregnant. [Pause for reaction.] I can’t even begin to understand what you must be going through, but I want you to know I’m always here for you. I promise we absolutely do not have to talk about my pregnancy when we hang out. You are an amazing woman, and it’s an honor to know you.”

Determine how to manage your emotions. An important aspect of preparing for this talk is recording ideas (see energetic shield exercise in the following pages) about how you’ll man- age your own emotions or triggers if she doesn’t seem happy for you. She’s moving through a challenging experience, and it’s natural for her to not be excited about your news. Her reaction is not personal — it does not mean she doesn’t love you or thinks you don’t deserve to become a mother.

  • Actively listen. After you’ve said your piece, allow her to lead the conversation, and practice active listening. Avoid going into details about your pregnancy, like due date and birth plans, unless she asks, and for the love of uteruses, do not offer any advice on conceiving or drop fertility platitudes. “Everything happens for a reason,” “It will happen for you when the time is right,” and other such sayings are not helpful.
  • Protect yourself. Something else to consider as you plan for this conversation is that your fears could be triggered. For ex- ample, if your friend experienced a miscarriage or stillbirth and wants to talk about it, you could begin wondering if the same will happen to you.

To protect yourself, create an invisible shield before you meet by closing your eyes and envisioning a golden light around you. Allow this light to represent energetic protection from whatever your friend says. Remind yourself that this conversation is for her, and that all you need to do is be there for her — you don’t need to absorb her pain or fear. When I went through this exercise with a client she asked if it was selfish, saying, “Shouldn’t I be willing to feel her pain and really go there with her?” The thing is, “going there” with her sucks energy away from your ability to support her. If you spiral into the what-ifs of your own journey, you’ll have little concentration, or even willingness, left for nurturing her. In addition, gifting yourself this energetic protection can pre- vent you from becoming defensive or angry if her response is hurtful.

  • Keep reaching out. After you have the talk, avoid the temptation to ghost her. It’s normal to want to hang only with people who lift your mood and are cool talking about baby stuff 24/7, but continuing to give friendship-TLC to her can be good for both of you — she feels supported, and you’re reminded of what a solid friend you are. (Just don’t talk baby unless she’s the one bringing it up.) With that said, she might request space from you. She might find it’s just too hard being around you during your pregnancy and that she needs to take a step back. While you want to honor her choice, it doesn’t hurt to continue checking in on her occasionally, letting her know you’re thinking of her and are there if she ever needs anything.

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