Or How to talk to your friends about your growing family without hurting anyone
If you are fortunate enough to have never worried about your fertility or have never experienced pregnancy or infant loss, you may not realize how common these things are. Research shows that 1 in 4 known pregnancies will end in loss and that 1 in 8 couples will battle fertility struggles. This means that in any friend group, there is likely at least one friend that may be hurting in ways you don't know. Now imagine that you have had a positive pregnancy test, you've seen the little bean on the ultrasound, and you're ready to tell your favorite friends at a huge holiday gathering! Congratulations!....But wait, that friend that you don't know is struggling is suddenly crying at your announcement. Are those happy tears? Is she sad that your family is growing? What's going on here?
The reality is that even today, fertility and reproductive struggles are often kept private and may be linked with embarrassment, grief, or isolation. Because of this, we may not always know what is going on behind the closed doors of those we love. For some women, learning of a friend's new pregnancy is a complicated and often heavy experience- she is both thrilled for the friend she loves and is grieving for her own losses or lost time. She is both celebrating a new life and worried about the way her friendships may change. She is excited to see her friend growing and devastated to be left behind.
With this in mind, here are some ways to have *Fertility Informed Announcements*
Maybe skip the big, public announcement- so often a woman with infertility will say "I just wish I could have processed the news without being in the spotlight." If you could let a friend know your news in a gentle text or in a 1 on 1 setting, this may be easier for her.
Check in and ask! "Husband and I can't wait to grow our family! When the time comes, how would you like me to tell you?" No one knows her heart better than her, she will probably have thought about this, and has an idea how she'd like to learn about pregnancies.
Don't assume that silence or tears mean she's not happy for you. She is processing so many emotions right now, and yes, those may include grief and jealousy. She doesn't want to feel this way, and she is so happy for you. She just might need a minute.
Likewise, if she has to take a step back, let her. Infertility and pregnancy loss are experiences of chronic grief. She is hurting and when she is ready, she'll be more able to see pictures, hear stories, or attend showers.
Try not to make light of your *easy journey.* Few things hurt more for infertile families than hearing "It was so easy for us! I'm not sure we were even intimate this month! Haha!" This innocent comment can further isolate your friends who may want to share their struggles but don't know how.
At the end of the day, trust that your friend wants what you want. Let's normalize serious conversations about fertility and family planning. Let's ask what our friends need. Viewing our friendships through this Fertility Informed lens, allows us to meet everyone
where they are and can help to decrease isolation and hurt feelings. Afterall, we're all just doing the best we can out here!