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What to Expect (From Your Infertile Friends) When You're Expecting

What to Expect (From Your Infertile Friends) When You’re Expecting

By Amalah

Amy,

I came across your advice board and thought I would reach out and seek your help. I am 4 months pregnant. I have a close group of friends and we all got married around the same time and now, three years later we all have gotten on the baby train. However, one of my friends is having a very difficult time getting pregnant and has gone through some fertility treatments already, with no success. Ever since I announced my pregnancy to her, she has been distant, and it hurts. I know its hard for her because, everyone else around her is getting pregnant. I tried to give her some space first, but then I was worried and missed her. Then I reached out and have been trying to hang out with her and when we talk or see each other it seems fine, but it really isn’t. Finally, last night before parting ways, I called her out. I told her that I felt that she has been distant ever since my announcement and I wondered if I had said or did something wrong by her. I told her I missed her, felt hurt, and like I lost a friend. She denies everything and said, “Oh, no everything is fine.” I also told her that I noticed she seemed completely fine with our other friend’s pregnancy but not with mine. She said she is just going through a lot right now. I told her that I understood, but that I wished she felt like she could talk with me. I am not sure if this can be mended, will it be awkward now when we all get together. I feel like I need to move on, cause worrying about this is not healthy for me or my baby. Is there anything else I should do, or should I just move on. I appreciate any advice you have.

Thank you,
Seeking Closure

As difficult as it might sound/feel/be, I think you should 1) give your friend more emotional space and time, and 2) try not to take it personally in the meantime.

No, I’m not giving her a free pass on being a “bad friend,” but I do understand what she’s going through right now and can spot a depressive-type defense mechanism from a mile away. It sounds like she’s literally the last non-pregnant person in the group, or at least, the only one having active trouble conceiving and going through treatment. She feels isolated, left behind, and (if I may project my own feelings here for a second) fundamentally “broken” in some way.  No matter how hard she’s trying to be happy for you and all your friends, your growing bellies feel like salt in a wound right now. She’s also likely preparing herself in some way for the next phase of “left-behind-ness,” once the babies are here and friendships get even harder to maintain, particularly with non-parent friends. Which will be her, in her mind, while the rest of you have a built-in playgroup.

And I promise she IS trying. Her reaction to your calling her out is telling. She doesn’t want to open up to you because she’s afraid that her sadness and crushing monthly disappointment really WILL cause you to feel badly and worry. (Very similar to the reassurances you’ll get if you attempt to confront a clinically depressed person, by they way.) So she’s trying to convince you that no, no, no, everything is fine, fine, FINE. Her distance is protecting herself; her denial of said distance is her attempting to protect you.

You mention a sense that she was happier/better with all the other pregnancies, but I don’t know. Were you one of the last ones to announce a pregnancy? If so, it just could be a “straw that broke the camel’s back” sort of thing. She just got increasingly overwhelmed and has shut down, or maybe she’s full-on depressed about it in a way she wasn’t before. Maybe she was actively going through the fertility treatments before and felt more optimistic. Now that they’ve failed she’s feeling worse. (Not to mention that hormonal fertility treatments can do an absolutely BRUTAL number on your emotions and mess with your body for a long time afterwards.) But again, she doesn’t want to talk about it, or burden you with her problems.

You could also ask your fellow pregnant/recently pregnant friends if they noticed a distance/shift in their interactions with her. You might find out that while she put on a happy face for the group, they noticed the same weirdness when they hung out one-on-one.

Does giving her space mean I think you should write her off and dump her as a friend? NO. NOT EVEN. Continue to reach out and care and yes, hang out even though it feels “different.” Just recognize that she’s likely giving you as much as she can right now, so don’t push for more. And again, don’t take it personally. Being a concerned and unconditionally supportive friend — and yes, even a slightly worried friend — is not going to hurt you or your baby. Pregnancy doesn’t give us a free pass to check out of every emotionally fraught or difficult situation, as nice as that might be. Let her know that you love and miss her, and are there for her if she needs you, through thick and thin. If she needs some time, or just needs to check out from the belly bump party, that’s okay too.

I can’t promise that things will suddenly snap back to the “way they were before.” That’s honestly true for ANY friendship after a major life change, be it moving away, getting married, having a baby, having more than one baby, etc. Some friendships adapt and grow with the changes, others get strained, others just flat-out break. But I think you’d regret being the one who broke this one off right now. It’s not like she’s refusing to answer your phone calls and blocked you on Facebook — she’s still talking and hanging out with you, even if she’s not initiating it all that much. Of course it’s going to be different. You have the very thing she wants the most in the world right now, but at least it sounds like she’s TRYING to hide her jealousy and sadness and “be there” for you, even if it feels to you like she’s not really all “there.” It’s still  worth something.

Believe me, I’ve gotten enough letters from women like your friend who really ARE trying to not be bitter, jealous jerks to their pregnant friends while at the same time are throwing internal temper tantrums of IT’S NOT FAIR.  And they all sound a lot like your friend. They don’t want to open up and burden their friends, or they are just plain sick of pregnant friends trying to act “concerned” because it comes off more as “pity.” They put on happy faces at baby showers and then go home and cry for hours. So in this case, I really feel you both, and think this friendship is worth saving…even if you have to put it on a little extra life support for right now.

Amalah
About the Author

Amy Corbett Storch

Amalah

Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy’s daily mothering adventures at Ama...

Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy’s daily mothering adventures at Amalah. Also, it’s pronounced AIM-ah-lah.

If there is a question you would like answered on the Advice Smackdown, please submit it to amyadvice@gmail.com.

Amy also documented her second pregnancy (with Ezra) in our wildly popular Weekly Pregnancy Calendar, Zero to Forty.

Amy is mother to rising first-grader Noah, preschooler Ezra, and toddler Ike.

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Comments

  • Jeannie

    I haven’t had fertility problems — only a minor and fixable hiccup in conceiving my second. But I do know several people, including one of my best friends, who have had problems, and all I have to add is: if you haven’t been through it, you have no idea how soul crushing it can be, especially to watch people around you all get pregnant. I’d advise giving this friend time, space and compassion — and when you think you’ve given enough, give more.

  • Lily

    Good for you for being a good friend to her!  She may never want to “open up” about how she’s feeling, especially to a pregnant or new-mom friend. My first baby conceived immediately, my second took about half a year to show up. Not even remotely like infertility, not even unusual. And yet I remember the disappointment and sadness and BITTERNESS each month that didn’t have the news I was desperately hoping for. Amy’s right, she is doing awesome, considering the jealousy that must be eating at her. You are both strong friends. Don’t abandon the friendship now, even if it means you have to be the one to “carry” the friendship for a while. 

  • Jillian

    I am going through this exact situation at the moment, although, I am the infertale friend. Every one of my 8 siblings has children, 4 of them have kids under 2. Every close friend has little kids or recently had a baby.. and I’m still not pregnant. We recently had months of fertility treatments and just called it quits. They all failed and we’ll now be working towards adoption. What Amy said is spot on advise.. the hormones are insane on our sanity, and not being able to get pregnant is TOTALLY soul crushing. Watching every person around you get pregnant is pure torture. I’m sorry, but it is. Your friend is most likely very happy for you and your family, but your growing belly is a constant reminder of the hole in her life she would give anything to fill. I’ve tried to be a good friend and sister to the people around me and some days I totally fail. I’ve skipped some baby showers because I just couldn’t do it but I usually will still send a gift. I’ve been able to be very open about my feelings and once when I couldn’t take the sadness at a dinner, I broke out sobbing to my sister-in-law that while I was SO happy for her, this is killing me. She was so supportive and gave me a big hug.. I felt better with it being in the open and not having to fake it, but some people can’t be that open with their feelings. It sounds like your friend is trying her best but doesn’t want to burden you with how much she is hurting and how much seeing you get everything she wants is killing her. It’s a perfect kind of torture.. we are pretty insane with jealousy.. and then we feel so self centered and petty… Which in turn tortures us more. It’s awful.
    I feel for you in wanting your friend back, but honestly, try to not take it personally. Her distance has everything to do with how much she is hurting inside, and probably hating herself for self-pity and jealousy. Keep asking her what she needs and being there for her, and maybe keep your pregnancy talk to yourself or your other friends. If she wants/can handle talk of the baby coming, let her lead the discussion. Yes, it does sound unfair to not be able to share exciting things about the pregnancy with your friend, but if she is hurting that much, you might end up losing her. Let her come around in her own time and hopefully she’ll be able to join in once the sweet little baby is here. One more thing.. I can personally do really well with one on one time with a baby and the parent(s), but I have a really hard time in group settings when the focus is on the baby or kids. I feel like an outsider and like I’m just Trying to play house while everyone else is doing it. Maybe some activities you two could do together (non-baby related) would help your relationship. Pedicures? Paint night? Best of luck.. sorry this was so long winded.

  • Jasmin

    Yay Amy!

    Cut your friend some slack! This is not about you. If you are worrying about the emotional stress on your unborn child just because you feel slighted, you have not been a great contender as a great friend to be open with.
    It is wonderful you are pregnant! Congratulations all around! It is super exciting but not exactly uncommon…unless you are struggling to join the group.
    I was this friend. I struggled for years to get pregnant – sooo many treatments, diets, drugs, hormones, tests… tears. (I found out I have PCOS during this time.) In the grand scheme of life, sure, it may not be the biggest deal but it was a constant weight on my chest and it sucked.
    I’m guessing most of your get togethers are baby/child-centric. Even if not on purpose it just ends up what everyone talks about. I want to point out that even though it is innocent, everything hurts! I personally avoided all baby showers after a year of trying. Unless we were super close I avoided moms, especially new moms, in general. It wasn’t personal, it was self preservation.
    Try to be understanding. Celebrate your good fortune but also let your friend deal with her emotions as she needs too. Let her know you are there when and if she needs and then back off. Don’t avoid inviting or calling and don’t be hurt if she just can’t that day. That is what friends are for.

  • Jessie

    I lost a dear friend because I was not enthusiastic enough about her pregnancy. At the time I was in the depths of infertility despair. If my friend had just had a little more compassion for my situation instead of being totally wrapped up in how hurt she was that I wasn’t turning cartwheels then our friendship would have survived. And for what it is worth, I was happy for her and I tried to always be clear about that. Anyway I think your friend is trying and just needs some time and space.

  • Becky

    Great advice as usual from Amy. Without knowing more information (which clearly she doesn’t feel comfortable sharing at the moment), you can’t be 100% certain what’s behind the apparent distance, so I wouldn’t be quick to jump to conclusions.

    Yes, maybe she’s jealous of your pregnancy. But maybe she’s simply struggling with personal issues (fertility or otherwise) and doesn’t want to “rain on your parade.” Maybe she’s very happy for you but just needs a break from the pregnancy/baby talk. Maybe she’s feeling depressed and really doesn’t want to be around anyone at this point, pregnant or otherwise. Maybe she’s not ready to talk about it for a variety of reasons. None of those sound like very good reasons to write her off entirely.

    And chances are, when your baby comes along, you’ll be very busy – not because you’re a bad friend, but because that’s the way life changes. I’m guessing you would want her to be understanding about this and not take the distance personally, so maybe give her this same courtesy right now. In fact, she may even be pulling away some (consciously or unconsciously) during your pregnancy in preparation for this time, especially if you were previously close.

    As the single childless friend, I can admit to pulling away some during various friends’ pregnancies. It wasn’t because I was jealous or that I wasn’t over the moon happy for them, but there sometimes reaches a point when all interactions become about the pregnancy/childbirth/baby. And that’s perfectly ok – but I sometimes felt uncomfortable because I didn’t have anything to add to the discussion. I wouldn’t have wanted my friends to change their behaviors or in any way dampen their enthusiasm, so it was sometimes just easier to take a little break. 

  • Claire

    I was that friend. We lost multiple pregnancies in a short period of time and I was just no very nice. I was angry and hurting and feeling like my body was broken and couldn’t do the one thing it is meant to. Pregnant women made me angry, my SIL’s son turned 1 just after our first loss, and she announced her 2nd pregnancy as we were going through testing. I was so angry and really didn’t deal with it very well at all.

    When I was heavily pregnant with my son, my eldest, there was a woman in a shop who turned to her oh and said,’ they’re everywhere’ and she looked so sad. I wanted to tell her I deserved this, that I’d been there. I’d been the woman having a panic attack in the shop because there were babies and pregnant women everywhere, I’d cried and raged and felt the despair. I didn’t though, I just walked away and cried myself.

    When you’re childless and it’s the one thing you want most in the world it is hard. More so when everyone around you is pregnant and you’re not. And you were. Or are struggling to get there.

    Cut her some slack.

  • Jo

    Two things.

    One. It sucks beyond belief to not be 100% happy for your friends when they’re pregnant… but it’s not possible. At least it wasn’t for me. I *hated* that I couldn’t put my own issues aside and be truly happy… but I couldn’t. And so then you’re adding into the already awful mix the knowledge you’re a shitty friend. That was how I felt when one of my dearest friends announced her pregnancy… I cried. In a bar. Yeah, good times.

    Two. Sometimes when people ask how you are because they want to “be there” or whatever, it’s also hard. It’s great to know people care, it really is, but when you’re barely staying afloat letting people who are not your partner in as a support network can sometimes feel like you’re supporting them. 

    Keep being her friend. But understand she may not want to talk about your baby or her infertility. Best. 

  • Lisa Y

    My best friend started trying to get pregnant when I met my husband. I had three babies while she was still trying and it killed our friendship. She has since adopted two beautiful children and has explained how she just had to pull away during those years and apologized for pulling away from me. I completely and totally understood/understand but we drifted too far apart to ever be as close as we once were. We are in occasional contact and I’m grateful for the relationship we once had.

  • Lydia

    Oh I have been your friend.  Amy nailed it when she asked if you were the straw that broke the camel’s back.  I have three amazing friends from college.  I started TTC before any of them. In 2011 I miscarried my first pregnancy.  In 2013 I went through 6 months of unsuccessful fertility treatments.  During that time one friend announced her pregnancy in April, another in June and the third in September.  The third one BROKE ME to my core.  It was not personal, I love this friend dearly.  But I was so sad and so upset and feeling really lost and hopeless  I’d spent a lot of time dealing with the first two friends getting pregnant and how hard that was for me.  I worked SO hard at being happy and setting aside my deep despair.  But the third announcement pushed me over the brink.  I could not feel any joy for this friend, even though she was not unworthy of it.  I avoided her, I couldn’t see her pregnant.  I just could not do it.  It was an act of self preservation because I knew I couldn’t be as kind and friendly as I needed to be.  Because I knew my Big Huge Tough feelings were not about HER, they were about ME.  And I just needed time and space to figure it out, and I didn’t want to ruin our friendship.

    My story ended happily, I got pregnant at the end of 2013.  But before that positive test in November it was the worst and most awful year of my life. Thankfully I caught up with my friends and am now part of the “playgroup”.  But if I hadn’t, I would have still needed compassion, time and space.

  • Alison

    You need to give your friend some space.  Try to see it from her point of view, she is going through a lot and although she may need or want support, it will be really hard for her to get in from you while you are pregnant, no matter how close you were before.

    I know this is hurting you too, but you have let her know that you are there for her, now give her some space.  She won’t be able to give you the support you need in your pregnancy, you are better off seeking help from your other friends who already are pregnant or parents.

  • Kim too

    Repeat after me: she is doing the best she can.  She is doing the best she can.
    There’s this concept of “holding space”- of being there for a person without judgement, without trying to fix things, with nothing but love and compassion for that person who is hurting. It sounds to me as if the best thing the two of you can do for each other is just that.  Yes, you’re hurt, and you’re super emotional and hormonal right now, and you miss her.  She is, too, and with her, there’s an added wrinkle of “wrong.” Her body is “wrong” right now. Her emotions are “wrong.” Her sense of self is “wrong.” 
    If you love her, and it sounds as though you do, reach out again, and tell her she’s ok. Tell her you can hold space for her, until she’s ready – because she is doing the best she can- and tell her you know that you know she loves you, too, and that this hard time will get easier.  Hold space for each other, and eventually you will find each other again.

  • lisa

    I echo the other posters who were “that friend”. And honestly I thought I was doing a good job of covering my sadness/despair. It has nothing to do with you…we’re having such a difficult time dealing with the infertility issues (hormones, negative pregnancy tests, financial issues, marriage difficulties, believing something is wrong with ourselves, etc) that what appears as distance to you is self-preservation to us.
    Also, not saying this has happened, but my closest friends were the worst with their advice…it I heard one more time that “it’ll happen” or “relax” I could have screamed. I realize now they weren’t being insensitive…they just honestly had no idea how to help their infertile friend.
    please please give your friend time/space. yes, you are going through your own stuff (some anxiety mixed in with that incredible happiness), but that friend may come back around…and I’ve learned, its hard to replace those long-term friendships.

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