When Pregnancy Announcements Attack
Photo by Xurble
I had a question that I did not see addressed in your archives but maybe you have already answered it. If not, it might be a good thing to ask just because I am sure other people have the same question.
My best friend is 12 weeks pregnant. She has started sharing the news with her friends, and decided to email the news a friend who recently lost her baby at 24 weeks gestation. I think she did the right thing: she wanted her friend to hear it from her, and not as a surprise in conversation from someone else, and she also wanted to give her friend the space to respond to the message as she needed to, and not have to say “congratulations” over the phone, etc. The friend who lost the baby responded very poorly to the news and accused my best friend of being insensitive and selfish, when really she was trying to be the opposite.
I think she did the right thing. I have read in various blogs of people who lost babies and then felt completely marginalized when people did not share pregnancy news with them. What do you think? What do your readers think?
For me the whole situation is that anyone can lose a baby at any time. Just as we share the joy of pregnancy and birth with our friends, we also want to share the news because if there is G-d forbid a loss, we want their support as well.
I am curious to hear your take on things.
Thanks for all the great advice over the years Amy!
Your devoted reader,
D in Philadelphia
Well, I agree with you. Without seeing the actual text of the email, it sounds like your friend shared the news in the best possible way. The problem is that sometimes that’s just not going to be enough, for someone who is still stinging from the worst possible thing ever.
As a general rule, sharing pregnancy news with someone who is struggling with infertility or past losses should go something like this: tell them soon, possibly first, thus ensuring that they don’t hear the news secondhand, in a space where they aren’t prepared for the force of their reaction. When we were dealing with our failed Clomid cycles, I was casually informed of a coworker’s pregnancy while microwaving my lunch. And I had to stand there, smiling like a crazy loon, watching the seconds tick down and trying with all my might to make it back to my office before the tears started. Do not announce the news in front of them in a large group, for the same reasons.
Tell them in private or in a letter or email, so they can be free to cry, throw things or just to go numb for awhile without forced smiles and “congratulations!”
Don’t say you understand how they are feeling…or that you know how your news will make them feel. Don’t put on a happy spin to their situation, or say things like “I just know it will happen for you too!” Don’t go on and on and around in circles with a lot of superfluous kid-glove empathy and apologies for the pregnancy. Instead, tell them simply, and then step the hell back and away. “I wish I knew the perfect way to tell you this news, but I don’t. I am X weeks pregnant. I wanted you to hear it from me, and I want to give you as much time and space as you need. If you don’t want to talk about it, I understand. Please know that I love you and care about you.” Maybe not even that much, depending on your level of friendship and how involved you are in their grieving (or infertility treatment) process. Remember that pregnancy is a gift that keeps on stinging, for an infertile woman. The growing belly, the baby shower, the ACTUAL BABY. That “time and space” you offer to give them may go way beyond an initial half-hour crying jag.
But as your friend found out, you can do everything “right” and still end up hurting someone. It can totally happen, considering she’s trapped in a situation where EVERYTHING feels so “wrong.” She reacted badly, yes. Her own personal tragedy should not interfere with her ability to do good hair. Or be a good friend, in this case. Unless there was something in the text of the email that was a specific trigger for the “insensitive and selfish” thing, she really shouldn’t lash out at everyone who dares to get pregnant in the wake of her loss. But she did, and I’m guessing her grief is just too much, too fresh. Perhaps one day she’ll look back and be horrified at her words and apologize. (And perhaps she won’t. I mean, let’s be honest and admit that infertility and pregnancy loss can happen to people who are just self-centered jerks, regardless.)
But just like we forgive a pregnant woman for screaming horrible things at her husband in labor, or for a grief-stricken spouse for breaking down at a funeral and ordering all the well-wishers to get the hell out, this friend deserves a break too. Not to play the Pain Olympics, or anything, but 24 weeks. Gah. That’s…totally not the same thing as putting on a stiff upper lip in the wake of a anovulatory Clomid cycle. I’m not sure I’d be able to get out of bed, much less compose polite emails expressing my appreciation that my pregnant friend had done the best she could with her news.
But, for the record, I think your pregnant friend did the best she could. Some situations are just ass, all around.