All I ask is that you promise you will read past the first couple sentences, no matter what emotions they trigger. You won’t regret it.
Let me tell you what it’s like to deal with infertility. It’s heart wrenching and debilitating, exhausting and financially draining. Now imagine while dealing with that, everyone around you gets pregnant and has a child. Then some get pregnant again and have a second child. You go through hundreds of home pregnancy tests, you feel disappointment time and again after every month fails, and every (very expensive) treatment fails. Everyone has an opinion. You aren’t doing it right (really?), the universe has a plan and you aren’t meant to be a parent (and drug addicts are?), stop being selfish and adopt one of the unfortunate kids who need a home (why did you have your own kids if you feel so strongly for adopting the unfortunately ones?) You get the picture. This post isn’t about the bad and the ugly of infertility. It’s about how two people were kind and sensitive when telling us they were pregnant. It’s about how it made us feel respected, and allowed us to have our own emotions separate from our happiness for the people involved.
First, one of my good friends at work. Her and I started trying to get pregnant around the same time. She had some trouble too, experiencing a couple of miscarriages before eventually becoming pregnant with her first child, a daughter. By the time her second pregnancy came around, I had been trying for multiple years with no success. She wanted to tell me early, which made me feel special. It’s nice knowing someone cares about you enough to want to share such exciting news. But she also knew I had the ability to break down in tears sometimes. Depended on the day. So what she did was send me an email. The most caring and sincere email I’ve probably ever gotten from anyone. Here’s an excerpt:
I have some good news that I want to share with you. I’m choosing to email you instead of telling you in person because I want to be sensitive to your need to have whatever first reaction that comes natural without worrying what I might think.
That email allowed me to react however I needed without judgment. And once my initial reaction had ended, I could be happy for her and her family. The sign of a true friend is when they know what you need, even if you don’t realize it yourself.
Second, my sister-in-law and her husband. Currently we have one niece. When I started dating my husband, his sister and her husband were about 4 months pregnant with their first child. We started trying soon after we started dating, obviously with no success. The first months after my niece was born were very hard on me. And I know they were hard on my sister-in-law. My emotions were unpredictable, and my reactions to my niece weren’t necessarily always the most positive. Not something I’m proud of, but I was going through a lot. Now, I spend 20 hours making her elaborate birthday cakes and proudly display her artwork in my office at work. It took a while to get to this point. I’m not sure if it’s because she was no longer a newborn baby, or that I got my emotions in check. Either way, it’s working out well now.
Recently, my SIL told us they were having another baby. I knew eventually this day would come, and I really hoped it would be after we finally had success. This time was tough because my husband and I had suffered a miscarriage that we hadn’t really told anyone but family about. We should have had a baby by now. But my SIL was very sensitive to our feelings. I wanted to try her Dyson, so we went to pick it up at her house. We went in and sat down and started chatting. She said something to us along the lines of “we will need your help taking care of a baby in November”. My husband and I were a little puzzled at first. We weren’t quite sure what was going on. Was she…? Is that what she meant…? I think I mumbled something like “new baby?”. Really smooth. She told us they were expecting a baby in the winter. We actually found out before grandma and papa! The fact that she told us in private like that made it a lot more comfortable. We didn’t react great – we were caught a little off guard – but like with my friend, the way she told us gave us space to have our reaction AND be happy for them.
So I guess the moral of my story is that it’s possible to be sad about infertility, and be happy for your friends/family with just a little planning when you make your announcement. And for that, I want to truly say thank you. It means a lot to be part of something like a new born baby’s first days or weeks. Whether it’s Auntie Fun or Auntie-T, I’m happy to play that role. And even more grateful for my friends and family who understand me. I have unlimited love for friends and family like that.