You Fell Pregnant (Whoopsie): How to Tell Your Friends Going Through Infertility
Yesterday I texted a friend who is starting her transfer protocol the day after my egg retrieval baseline. My first egg retrieval and her first egg transfer were within a month of one another, and so we're getting ready to repeat those cycles together again but hoping for better outcomes.
I laughed yesterday while we were jokingly lamenting, both of us excited to finally be back in action after several months of healing. It's funny, though, because that excitement is good and healthy and - hell - some would say necessary, but it will escape us once appointments start and things go unexpected ways. We'll worry, then wish, and wait...
That's what life feels like in this world of infertility; it's a lot of waiting and wishing and worrying.
Between my last cycle and this one a lot of life has happened:
My sister married her childhood sweetheart.
Their secret crushes on one another stayed secret until WAY later, and they finally tied the knot in Vegas in October. I was still hurting quite a bit from the blood clots in my abdomen, so I didn't get too crazy (not like last time JF and I went to Vegas and there's video footage of me dancing in the shower), but we had a good time.
I took some big steps toward taking better care of myself. I also took steps backward, away from unhealthy situations.
I worked too much in some moments. I cried hard. I loved deeply.
And then just when I thought I was figuring out how to hold my shit together in this new reality of waiting, wishing and worrying, 4 people...FOUR...found out they are unexpectedly pregnant and either:
1) Avoided me like the plague
2) Called me and didn't know how to hide their guilt
Now, I want to say something:
There isn't really a great way to tell someone who is going through infertility treatments you're pregnant. As hard as it is for you to have that conversation, I promise our grief is bigger and harder. And before you get ahead of yourself and say, "Well, yeah, but it isn't our fault you're suffering," there isn't a single person I know who is at IUI or IVF levels of infertility who believes it's your fault.
I'm not mad at any one of the four women in my life who happened to fall pregnant, but their reactions have caused me extra grief on top of the grief I already feel.
When I say we're suffering more, I mean sometimes everyone has to do hard things like make phone calls they don't want to make, and if you can keep it in perspective we are the ones who are constantly feeling alienated or defective or hurt, then maybe you can suck it up for a few extra minutes and help us get through your good news.
Are you hurting because you have to tell me you're pregnant? I can understand that. But your discomfort shouldn't mean I have to make you feel better when I'm literally struggling deep and hard and long.
This guilt is a funny thing, really. And, ultimately, it's what is hardest for me to swallow when someone has to make that really hard call (or hides away), because it puts a lot of pressure on me to tell them their pregnancy is okay. I have to be the bigger person, I have to tell them it's all going to be fine, and - yes - I'm the one with the bigger suffering in the equation, right? So why is it that people can't see this and automatically assume we're being selfish when we're hurting or don't jump for joy as soon as someone tells us their news?
I really wish I knew the answer to that.
Friends, please let me be clear about something:
I am not mad at you for being pregnant. I am upset because your pregnancy reminds me I am not pregnant even though we've been trying since our wedding. I have friends who got married later than us and already have multiple children (MULTIPLE).
Don't ask me if I'm okay or if I'm mad. Don't expect me to put on a brave face or nurture you because this one phone call you have to make is difficult. That's the kind of difficult I'm living in right now...for years...so a 10 minute conversation should be your responsibility, not mine. I'm already struggling, already heartbroken, and already fighting monstrous battles.
It feels good to say all of that, though I fear a lot of this will be misconstrued as me saying everyone who is pregnant is my enemy (or an asshole). I'm not saying that at all. What I am asking, though, is that you check your motive in calling:
- Are you calling because you feel obligated or are you calling because you actually care?
- Are you hoping the call will make you feel better or are you concerned about my well-being?
- Can you accept that my reaction is a direct reflection of how I'm feeling about myself, in my own journey, when you tell me?
- Have you created a support system for yourself, outside of me, so that someone can help you deal with your hard emotions (who isn't dealing with harder ones)?
- Have you started trying to empathize with the difficult, complicated nature of being an infertility patient with a pregnant loved one?
Please don't take my questioning here as an implication that I don't care about how you feel, but when it comes to this very happy moment in your life, you are likely supported and loved by people who will be very excited for you. That is not what I'm going through.
This doesn't mean I won't do my best to support you. I will take long, hard looks at my reactions and do inner work to heal. I will challenge the guilt and shame from feeling broken or inadequate or jealous or treated unfairly by Karma, because I know those feelings aren't based in reality.
But you've asked me what you should do when you are pregnant and have a friend who is not, but wants to be, and I share this really tough, vulnerable information because it's the best thing I can do to help you, even if it feels like I'm attacking.
I promise I'm not.
I'm still here waiting, and wishing and worrying.
Because that's what we do when we're dealing with infertility.