What to do when you’re pregnant and your friend isn’t?

When Kaeleigh emailed me to let me know that she’d started an Unpregnant Chicken blog I thought it was a great idea! So much so that I asked her if she wanted to do a guest post here.

When she suggested a post on tips on “how pregnant women can help non-pregnant/infertile friends though the changes in their relationship” I thought it was going to be a little tricky to say the least, but told her to go for it.

Not only did she come up with some great advice, but none of it suggests that you should be any less excited about your pregnancy – I like to think all chicken websites are brilliant like this.

I have a confession to make. I’m infertile. I know, it’s heavy, and probably not what you were expecting on a pregnancy site. But hear me out, because the fact that you’re pregnant makes what I’m about to say even more important. Believe it or not, you probably know someone close to you who is also… infertile. Someone who would take your swollen cankles and leaky bladder and cherish them more than anything.

Seriously! I know it’s hard to imagine. But stats say that as many as 1 in 6 couples are infertile. All those women would really like to be you right now. The problem is, they’re not. That fact can make being around you, and your super cute bump, challenging.  Even if they’re your sister, your aunt or your very best friend! Your belly is a constant reminder of what they want and can’t have. That can make interacting with pregnant friends very challenging for us infertiles.

That’s what brings me here. I feel there are things you can say and do, as the pregnant one in the relationship, to help smooth our acceptance of your pregnancy. It’s important to maintain a friendship, even when one of you is pregnant while the other is not.  I want your relationship to change and grow for the better, even as your belly becomes a catch-all for food and other debris!!  You shouldn’t need to grow apart simply because you’re growing another human! So, here are some tips on how to play it cool around your infertile friends so you can still be friends from conception to birth and beyond.

1/  Don’t announce your pregnancy face-to-face:

Please don’t make them struggle to smile through the news in front of you. They will be happy for you. But they might need a minute to remember that. They might cry at first. Best to send a txt and, when they’ve composed themselves, they will send congratulations. In the same vein, if you want to announce on Facebook it’s much nicer to tell them separately ahead of that. So they’re prepared for any sonograms or belly photos that follow.

2/ Talk about things other than your pregnancy:

Of course you want to talk about your little kumquat. Totally understandable! But they may not have much to add about it. So gush for a small amount of time, say less than 10 mins, and then turn to other topics. Like sports, or mutual friends, or the weather, etc. I’m sure they don’t want to have to cancel lunch dates with you. Please, don’t make this more awkward than it has to be.

3/ Allow them to opt out of your baby shower: It’s just too many “feels”.

Your friend may have gone through miscarriages or have onesies hanging in the closet that have never been used. Seeing all your gifts and having to guess how big you’ll get can be excruciating. Be supportive if they choose not to attend but make sure you invite them anyway. If they decide they want to come and there’s no invite it’s like saying they can’t be part of your baby club.

4/ Be a good shoulder:

Sometimes they’ll need to vent. Just like you need to vent about the shittier side of pregnancy, they may want to talk about how infertility sucks. Even when it’s awkward know, that if they’re opening up to you, they must trust you immensely. Allow them to share.

5/ Don’t tell them about that friend who just did “X” and got pregnant:

Seriously. Stop it. Yes, occasionally, people get pregnant after adoption. Sometimes, a vacation was just the trick. But when you say these things you’re trivializing your friend’s pain. Better to just leave the advice to their medical team. Yes, they have a whole team assigned to this. Assume they’ve got every angle covered.

It’s important to stress that, sometimes, your infertile friend may want to cut off or reduce contact with you anyways. Even if you do the 5 things listed above. This is a real case of “it’s not you it’s me”. I know, that stings. It may simply be too painful to deal with ANYTHING related to babies. Which may, unfortunately, extend to you ATM. Try to be understanding and tell them you’ll still be there when they’re ready.  You’re a great and supportive friend! Hopefully, they’ll come back.

With thanks and love from all the infertiles in your life! We appreciate your effort in helping us adjust.

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  • This is an amazing post. Thank you for sharing. This topic has caused me lot of anxiety. Follow up question: would you recommend telling them not to feel obligated to come to your shower, or is oo insensitive and not giving your friend enough benefit of the doubt to do what’s going to make them feel okay.

  • I wish more women would consider your list. We struggled for years and I watched many friends get pregnant while we tried and failed. I couldn’t believe it when a few friends actually said to me how easy it was for them to get pregnant. One friend who I had told not to wait long if they really wanted children was actually upset with me when she got pregnant after only a few months of trying since it should have taken longer ?!! In end I realized that there are just some people who will never get how painful it is. I’m almost over the top considerate now that we finally have our own baby. Amazing how I still feel those twinges of pain from the journey to get her…

  • This was well done but nothing groundbreakingly "new" for me – as much of it comes down to having good manners. For awhile now, however, I have been conflicted because I have a girlfriend who we all "suspect" is not able to get pregnant. Even her closest friend among the group says she will not, under any circumstances, seem to discuss it with anyone – even her husband. We all want to be supportive for her but not knowing the reality of her situation makes it a challenge. Sure it could be "none of our business" but I will say it is, it has distanced our relationships because she doesn’t reach out to those of us who are pregnant and, in turn, she’s basically just included in group texts but not having many one on one conversations. I feel badly as I am due with #2 (as well as two other girls in our group)… but don’t know how to even go about it

  • Hi Unpregnant Chicken, We went through 5 unsuccessful years and finally found the right doctor. So how do I proceed if I used to be an Unpregnant Chicken? Do all the same rules apply? I want to share because I’ve been through the hopeless feelings and the "geez I’m pretty sure the reason you call any more is so I can buy your baby a present" and wanting to send a card that says "so glad somebody in this friendship can get knocked-up". I SCREAMED at my boss when she suggested that maybe her pregnant teen would be better off if she (the teen) fell down some stairs (and miscarried).

  • Thank you, thank you! I’ve been struggling with telling 2 of my very best friends, who are each managing their own infertility, that I’m pregnant. I struggled along with them for the better part of the last 3 years…..I don’t want to feel ‘guilty’ about my pregnancy, but I admittedly was uncomfortable sharing the news as I can relate to the feeling we all felt when other friends conceived. I want our relationship to grow and for them to continue to be supported. This post has been fantastically helpful – thanks again

  • [email protected] says:

    This is a great blog and these are very good guidelines to follow. However, not all infertile people feel this way, but it is always good to consider those around you, this goes both ways……

    At the age of 26 I was told that I would never become pregnant do to cysts on my ovaries. I was devastated. But I worked through it, I never once didn’t want someone to not tell me they were pregnant or not tell me in person. Did I feel a sting of pain, yeah sure I did I am human. However, I guess I am the type of person who puts others feelings before my own and I would be happy for them and it was in no way fake or forced. Did I feel sorry for myself once I was alone, yes I did. Did I cry by myself, yep. But these are feelings I kept in private. I never once felt angry because someone else was pregnant and I wasn’t. I was happy and excited for them because while I couldn’t have children they could and I enjoyed their pregnancy with them. I never once got aggravated or angry when a pregnant friend or family member complained about the hardships of being pregnant, because being pregnant is hard this isn’t the movies this is real life… And I NEVER called a friend or family member "smug" for being excited about being pregnant. It is an exciting time that consumes every moment of their lives and if you are a friend to begin with you will understand that. Were there days that I just didn’t want to hear about it, yep. But you know what, I listened anyway because I was and always will be their FRIEND till the end no matter what. My pain was my pain and no one else’s to bare. They in turn listened to me about me not being able to have children…. With all that said at the age of 29 I became pregnant…. I had lost over 60lbs and became pregnant while on a low dose birth control to keep my cycles regular. When I became pregnant I had and still have friends who are infertile you know what they were just as happy and excited as I was. Yes I called and sent messages before making my big announcement on Christmas Eve for some and Christmas Day for the rest. I never once felt like I had to walk on eggshells and not share about how I was feeling or post every sonogram picture I had on social media. But I do understand that some don’t want to be a part of their friend’s moment because they are hurting and need space. I recently (10/2014) became pregnant again on birth control I lost that pregnancy and we didn’t tell but a hand full of people because it was never announced that I was pregnant. It was one of the hardest things I have had to deal with. On the same day that I miscarried actually only hours afterward my best friend (who now lives halfway across the country form me) sent me a message, not knowing what had happened to me, to tell me she had finally gotten pregnant after countless miscarriages and 15 years of trying. In that moment I put my sorrow aside and was thrilled for her. The worst day of 2014 quickly became the best day of 2014. We celebrated her news and I did tell her what had happened to me that day and she cried with me because she has been there. I am getting emotional just typing this. I did go through a mourning period all by myself because my SO deals with things by not talking about them and moving on. That just isn’t how I deal with things so I was able to confide in my, newly pregnant, best friend. I never once didn’t want to hear about her pregnancy and she never once didn’t lend me an ear when I needed it to mourn the loss of my child. I guess what I am trying to say that is that no matter what if you are truly friends you will always be there for each other. We cannot help how we feel but we can set our feelings aside and not begrudge someone for having something we cannot have. Separating ourselves from friends and family because they are pregnant and we are not isn’t the answer and can become unhealthy. By all means give someone their space, but check in on them from time to time to make sure they are ok. From experience, when you distance yourself from someone with the intent of it only being for a little while it can turn into years and then you miss out on your loved ones life. I want another child so bad it hurts, I will continue to pray and wait, if it doesn’t happen then it wasn’t God’s will for it to happen and I am ok with that. It really pisses me off when someone says "you should be happy with the one you have" as if to imply I am not happy with my son or not thankful that I was able to become pregnant and have my son. My son is my world I just don’t want him growing up alone, I was an only child and I know how lonely it is. And I am not putting myself on the sidelines where my friends and family who are pregnant are concerned. I will continue to be a part of their lives and spoil their children just like I spoil my son, who just turned 4.

    Please don’t take this the wrong way it just flicked a nerve when I read a comment about someone calling her pregnant friend "smug" for being excited… If this commenter became pregnant I am sure she would become that "smug" friend she was talking about. Just because you are in pain don’t minimize others joy and excitement by calling them "smug".

    • Thank you! I was reading through these comments and actually can’t believe some of them. It took a while for me to become pregnant (one year of if it happens it happens) and two years of active trying, so not as long as some obviously) but the only thing that ever bothered me to any extent was when people asked when we were having kids or why didn’t we have kids yet. We never told anyone we were trying but I don’t think that’s really a question you should ask any couple when you don’t know.

      I was always happy for people who told me they were pregnant and would never want them to tell me by phone or text. This is exciting for them and they have every right to be excited. Why would I want to minimize that for them? Yes, sometimes I was sad afterwards and I did cry a few times when I was alone and feeling sorry for myself but I would never want them to feel like they can’t talk to me.

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