In my earlier post, I mentioned two things: I'll be doing a series on fertility (and infertility), and some of my loved ones struggle with their own fertility. When my friend called me and said the endometriosis had progressed to the point that the odds are stacked against her ever bearing children, I didn't know what to say. There is no instruction manual for this. What do I say?
My first pregnancy ended in a miscarriage, and we didn't tell anyone about the pregnancy before it ended. At the same time, a family member had a miscarriage after another round of IVF. They called me to share they were miscarrying. While it sucked for both of us and our partners, it also brought us closer together. We had both incurred a scar; a tragedy invisible to many. Within a few months, I was pregnant with Shep.
This time around, I was excited to tell everyone we were having a baby! We even announced it publicly at eight weeks instead of twelve. But before we made it official on Facebook, we wanted to let out family member know. I hoped to give them as much space to feel however they wanted to feel about it, so I went in with no expectations of their reaction. Now, I called them. Some might say that I should have shared in person, but I felt that was very invasive or overwhelming. Again, it's about them being comfortable. What if they need to cry? Nobody wants to cry in the middle of Panera.
Another thing that helped me was remembering that this person didn't owe me their excitement or encouragement. Remember that circle of support I talked about recently? In this example, your friend is at the center of the circle of their struggle with infertility, and you are pouring your energy into them. Their job is to conserve that energy instead of pouring it back into you. Give them space, let them process however they need to. Make yourself scarce and let them seek you out. Mind you, all of this is advice that I sought out from those who are trying to conceive.
Perhaps that's the best advice? That you should try to figure out how this person would prefer to hear the news, how much space they'd like to be given, and how much exposure to a pregnant person they can bear. Infertility is incredibly painful - seeing pregnant people or babies can be a painful reminder of something that seems to be unfairly out of reach. It might be best to ask them if they'd like to celebrate your baby shower before sending them an invite in the mail. This is how I approached it: "I don't want you to feel pressured at all, but I want to make sure you're comfortable with X. Please tell me if it's not."
Those that are better people than I would always know exactly what to say in these situations. I'm certainly no Miss Manners, but one of the threads that unites my philosophy on compassion is this: Show up. Be present. Listen. Even if you're pregnant and you want to get swept up in all the excitement of a new baby, remember to be considerate of those you love who are struggling with infertility. It's not difficult - and a little kindness goes a long way.