The word itself carries connotations of a formulaic process. Commit this specific act in this specific time frame and you will conceive a child. It’s objective. Scientific. It clearly works for so many without a second thought. It’s just a question of, am I ready?
For some of us, it was merely a decision to end all preventative measures and leave it to chance. A missed period and two pink lines later and we are scouring Pinterest for the best baby announcements, dreaming of big bows or Saturdays at the ball field, and ordering birthing books off of Amazon.
For others, it starts out as the next natural progression in life… until it doesn’t actually progress. After a few months of a painfully solitary line, we start counting days. 14 days quickly evolve into eternal dog years, our spouses begin to dread that lovin’ feeling, and the thought of another birth announcement on social media makes us want to throw our phones against the wall.
And, there’s another group. We see the two lines… and then a few weeks later listen to the silent, absent heartbeat as the doctor waves the blue goo across our bellies. We slip into cycles of guilt, anger, and envy, wondering how anyone ever goes on to have a healthy baby… and why it is our bodies are failing us? Watching the swelling bumps of others is enough to reduce us to tears and unnecessary shame.
Fertility and pregnancy are not without their layers of complication. Behind every birth announcement is a story… whether it be a rainbow baby following a series of miscarriages or an unforeseen surprise, few babies are conceived without complexity. I myself have carried three healthy babies to term, miscarried one at 8 weeks, and lost another via ectopic pregnancy.
The thing is… I’m not in my mid-twenties anymore. I’ve had a bit of life experience and so have my friends. I can’t un-know the feeling of a hand in mine as I comfort a momma-to-be whose baby died in utero. I can’t un-know the grief shared with a friend who has taken yet another negative pregnancy test. My experiences shape my words, and this shapes how I would share a pregnancy.
Having experienced a roller coaster of emotions throughout my five pregnancies, I wanted to write this to help moms bridge the gap that is the complicated role of fertility in our female friendships. I’ve talked to mom friends who have struggled with infertility, mom friends who have easily conceived, and mom friends who have experienced heartache and loss I cannot imagine. With the help of these brave women, I’ve compiled some helpful tips for sensitively sharing your pregnancy announcement with your friend that is still waiting for a baby… be it through infertility struggles, failed adoptions, or loss.
- If possible, do it face to face. If your friend has trusted you enough to share her struggles with you, you must do her the honor of sharing your news face to face. There is no ideal way for her to receive this news, but shooting her a text or waiting for her to see it on Facebook can be detrimental to your relationship.
- Just do it. Period. I get that it’s uncomfortable and scary. You’ve grieved with her… and you don’t want to cause your friend any pain. But avoiding her at all costs until it’s time to slip into maternity pants is primarily self-serving. Don’t hurt the relationship to save your own comfort.
- Welcome her grief. I promise she is happy for you. But your happy news is just another reminder of her empty womb and empty arms. She loves you dearly and, since you love her, allow her the space to grieve.
- Nothing can soften the blow. We were all set to adopt a baby once until the mom arrived at our home with cupcakes to tell us she had changed her mind. Once she left, I threw every single cupcake in the trash. It was a nice gesture, but the news was still devastating. Chocolate doesn’t compensate for wanting a baby.
- Invite her to your baby shower, but be gracious if she decides not to come. She doesn’t want to steal your joy or take away from your happy moment. She knows herself best and, if it’s an emotional trigger for her to attend your shower, love her well enough to let her stay at home. It isn’t personal, I promise.
- Continue to ask her about her feelings and her struggles. Your growing belly doesn’t render that part of your relationship off-limits. The desire for a baby can be all-consuming, enveloping every thought… and even if you are happily pregnant, you can still be a safe space for her to air her grief and frustration.
Women need women. We can’t simply cluster in groups determined by our childbearing successes and failures. The woman with five miscarriages can, in fact, do life with the homeschooling mom of ten. But we must be willing to kindly listen, consider, and share, respecting the hearts and histories of the women we love.
Knowing that we are all unique women with varying backgrounds… are there any tips you would add to this list?