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I'm Pregnant and She's Not

I’m Pregnant and She’s Not

By Amalah

Hi Amy,

This is embarrassing (and says something about the various places I have worked) but I have been reading your blog and the advice smackdown for I guess 7 years at this point!? Anyhoo, I neeeeeeeeed your advice (you being the master of all things pregnancy etc.) on a sensitive issue.

Advice Smackdown ArchivesI began a job last year and work closely with a very sweet 34 year old woman who has been trying to get pregnant for 5 years with I think 20 IVF cycles behind her (we don’t live in the US so IVF is completely covered by health insurance) and all the anguish that involves. The past year she took a break from back-to-back treatments and was told by her doctors that due to the health risks (for her) they will only let her go through one more cycle. She is planning that cycle for December after finishing up some work stuff and going on a holiday to destress. Lovely.

Except I just found out I am pregnant (and I already have a couple of kids). Which is good news, at least for me. But I can see where telling her that will be a horrible, devastating experience, especially if she just had her last cycle with no result. While I don’t know all the details, with her history I think it is fairly safe to guess that her chances of success this time are unfortunately not great. But by December I will be 3-4 months and about at the point where I need to tell because it will be noticeable.

So the question: Is it better do you think to tell her before or after the treatment? That is, will it be harder on her to hear it before the cycle when there is still a chance she may get pregnant but it will upset her right when she is trying to be calm and not stressed, or after when she is already a puddle on the floor. It’s just horrible to contemplate either way. I don’t want to add to her misery but can’t see how this won’t just be a punch in the gut for her. What should I do!!! HELP!

Thank you!

You know, we’ve covered this topic before and it’s…a tough one (Here’s When Pregnancy Announcements Attack Part 1, Part 2 & Part 3). And not really a topic where you’re going to get a nice consensus about: THIS. THIS IS THE 100% FOOL-PROOF WAY TO HANDLE THIS SITUATION.

Some women who struggle with infertility like to be told in person, privately. Some like to be told over email so they can be alone to process the news. (Though the world of smartphones and wireless devices has changed this — emailing now runs the risk of dropping your announcement on the person in…the grocery store or on the subway.) Some women prefer to be treated just like anybody else and actually bristle at the idea that they need to be treated with kid gloves. And for all of them, it also probably depends on their relationship with person announcing the pregnancy. I was always pretty good at handling friends’ pregnancies and managing to work up a decent amount of joy and excitement for them…but that bitch down the hall in accounting who just had a $200,000 wedding and got knocked up in Italy on her honeymoon and is being so freaking smug about it? WHERE’S MAH VOODOO DOLL AND SOME PINS.

So weirdly, this past week I found MYSELF in a position I never, ever thought would happen: suddenly looking at an OOPS! THAT’S CRAZY! surprise (third!!!) pregnancy. And then wondering how to tell a friend who I know is currently trying to get pregnant and getting mighty frustrated, particularly because she’s been surrounded by people announcing their own OOPS! THAT’S CRAZY! surprise pregnancies. So I emailed her. I felt…weird, because I didn’t want to come across as 1) head-pattingly condescending, 2) presumptuous that MY news would like, completely shake her world to the core and make her cry, because you know, she’s an adult with her own life and all, or 3) overly-apologetic about the pregnancy itself, because that doesn’t really help anyone, especially because it’s MY BABY I’m talking about.

Instead I apologized for the timing and made some jokes about suddenly being the person I always secretly hated, and expressed my sincere wishes that she get similar news super-extra-soon.

And she was nothing but thrilled for me, because we’re FRIENDS and friends get happy for each other.

(If she’s reading this — dude, NOW I need to apologize for using you as an Advice Smackdown case study. Feel free to chime in the comments and tell everybody everything that was wrong with the way I handled the situation and what an asshole I am.)

Anyway. Back to you. I’m guessing, at some point over the past five years, during these grueling back-to-back IVF treatments, your coworker has encountered other pregnant women. (Has anyone in the office had a baby during that time frame? Anyone that maybe you could talk to and find out how they told her?) While your timing may suck extra particularly hard, I’m sure she’s aware that other women manage to conceive the old-fashioned way, and has managed to remain professional despite feelings of jealousy or grief. It’s wonderful that you are valuing her feelings and want to do everything you can to minimize her pain, but…it might just not be super-possible. And that’s not your fault. It’s infertility’s fault. Because it’s a huge freaking jerk and I hate it.

I suppose, if it were me, I’d want to be told before the cycle. Before my last bit of hope was yanked out from under me. I’d want to be told gently and privately — but not condescendingly, with the assumption that I “can’t handle it” or anything. “I understand this might be hard, but I want to tell you, even though I know the timing sucks…and I also want to tell you how absolutely fervently I am thinking of you and wishing/praying/hoping for a really awesome outcome this time.” Then perhaps a “good luck!” card or flowers would be nice, a few days later. (Delivered at home, preferably, so as to not make it a big thing at the office.)

But that is just me. You know her, and she might be completely different. You sound like you have a good heart, so listen to it, and your gut, and do the best you can.

She might completely surprise you with her own level of maturity and acceptance — or at least, her poker face and ability to fake it. Perhaps they already have a plan to proceed with adoption or surrogacy if this cycle doesn’t work and it won’t be the catastrophic END that you fear it might. Perhaps…this cycle WILL work and she’ll get to enjoy a pregnancy right along side of you. Let’s all hope really hard for that option.

If there is a question you would like answered by Amalah on the Advice Smackdown, please submit it to [email protected]

Published October 13, 2010. Last updated April 17, 2018.
About the Author

Amy Corbett Storch


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 [email protected].

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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  • Julia

    October 13, 2010 at 2:41 pm

    WHAAAAATTT?!??? Congratulations Amy!!

    Regarding the Amy’s advice, I think she is 100% correct. There is no good way to break the news to someone having difficulties conceiving, but no matter how hard it is to hear they will likely be happy for you and would appreciate not being tiptoed around.

    • michele

      May 28, 2013 at 11:15 pm

      All women are different. I have always loved being around children and it never once bothered me being around them or when my friends or family members became pregnant. I was never so offended when my neighbor found out she was pregnant and did not tell me for fear that she may offend me? Why on earth would I be anything but happy for someone who is able to accomplish something I can’t? I envy her, but am in no way offended. I WAS however that she felt the need to tell all the other neighbors and stopped inviting me to get togethers because she didn’t want me to know. My advice would be to just tell her. You are happy about it. I have had 7 miscarriages and have given up trying. We are pursuing adoption. Theres always a child who needs a home. Good luck.

  • Elizabeth

    October 13, 2010 at 3:14 pm

    That post seemed like a good way to make the bulk internet announcement ;-). Congrats!

  • Hillary

    October 13, 2010 at 3:24 pm

    There’s no good way to break the news, but there are ways that are to do it than others. I’m infertile, and I’ve always appreciated it when I get the news via email (or once via IM, and once via text) or even by phone. That way, if it is a day when I need a minute before I can be happy for the person — and sometimes I do need a minute, I’ll admit that — I can make a sad face without feeling judged and then take a deep breath and respond. And I think she would want to know before the cycle. I’m (hopefully) getting ready to do my own IVF cycle soon and I’d want to know now.

  • Tracy

    October 13, 2010 at 3:56 pm

    First, it’s awfully kind of you to want to make this as painless as possible. Second, realize it’s probably going to suck for her, and it may change her relationship with you, just because you are yet another painful reminder of what she cannot achieve. (And anyone who’s about to yammer “but she should be haaaappy for yoooooouuuuuuu!” should just hush, because seriously, how entitled do you have to be to demand that someone else be happy for *you*? When are you going to be SAD for them? But I digress.)

    Anyway, whatever you do, do not announce it at the beginning of a staff meeting (yeah, a so-called friend did that to me… thanks a lot) or over lunch with a bunch of colleagues. Because if it does happen to hit her at a really bad time, she’s not going to appreciate that happening in public. Please tell her privately.

    And again, kudos to you for caring.

  • Nic

    October 13, 2010 at 5:36 pm

    Now I don’t want to come across hard, But lets stand back and look at this as simply as possible to try and help you. Its wonderfull that you are so caring. you are very mindfull of your friend…I’m hearing all about her….Now there is a very lucky lady called Alphamom who is being blessed with giving her children a sibbling & husband a part of himself & herself a little mirical….We get only one chance in this life time to do all we can for our selves, and although you are blessed with being mindfull of others, it is so important not to forget yourself. Enjoy your moment with your family….God will guide your friend….take the pressure of worring about her off yourself…she would have plenty of support with the programe. My mum told me once that maybe having kids wasn’t in my life plan…! I envide the pregnent woman I didn’t know as to the ones I did…Now I have my Kidlets and count my blessing at home….god bless you…Help the people you can and pray for those can’t, Luvnhugs Nic

  • Jaymee

    October 13, 2010 at 6:43 pm

    OMG!!! CONGRATS AMY!!!!!!!!!!!

  • Erin

    October 14, 2010 at 9:03 am

    I already congrats’ed Amy on Twitter (even though I’m sure has NO IDEA who that random message came from, but really, when you’re as popular as she is, how can you possibly keep track of all your followers?) but congrats again!

    Also congrats to the question-asker!

    Having just been through this myself with a coworker, I’d recommend telling her before the cycle, and doing just what amy says — saying “I know the timing is kind of awkward, but I wanted to tell you myself, and I’m really, really hoping that you get good news here soon.” My coworker was thrilled for me (I’d told her over email because I wanted her to be able to process it on her own) and she appreciated my concern for her feelings, and I’m sure yours will too.

  • PaintingChef

    October 14, 2010 at 9:12 am

    So. I, also, am an infertile woman who has been through years of grueling infertility treatments and been “blessed” with nothing more than a few miscarriages. And being in my early 30s, along with most of my friends, I’ve had to endure plenty of “I’m Pregnant!!! announcements but I will say this about my closest friends. They are the most sensitive group of people I’ve ever known and I’m lucky to have them.

    Every single one of them made a point to tell me in person and before they announced their pregnancy to everyone else. And I’ve never been anything but thrilled for them. I think that your co-worker will recognize and appreciate that you saw that this was going to be hard for her and the effort you make to be sensitive to that will make it easier for her to hear your news. But I would encourage you to tell her in person and behind a closed door if at all possible. I think that emailing the news to someone you know will have a hard time with it at first is only acceptable if you are dealing with long distance.

    I do want to caution you to not take her initial reaction personally. In general, we take a little time to process news like this and a gut reaction can often be negative. But once we think it through and come to the very obvious realization that YOUR pregnancy has nothing to do with OUR infertility, in general we are nothing but thrilled for you. Don’t expect her to throw you a baby shower and don’t be offended if she opts to not come, baby showers can be difficult.

    But as long as you show sensitivity in handling the situation, that’s all you can do. You each have your own lives to lead and you shouldn’t let anyone take away from the excitement you have going on right now with your pregnancy. Congratulations!!

  • Jessica

    October 14, 2010 at 12:49 pm

    Congratulations! I love reading your columns. I am currently 17 wks along with our surprise! pregnancy (though number six, not three.) Good luck with everything. And get some rest!!!!! I know it’s impossible by the third one but do it anyway.

  • Ruth

    October 14, 2010 at 1:16 pm

    As someone who struggled with infertility and miscarriage (although I’m 8+ weeks now- fingers crossed!) there came a time when I crossed over the line from “happy friend” to bitter. I didn’t want it to happen & I realized it when it happened, but there was just so much talk about babies and pregnancies I could take. That being said, yes definitely be upfront with your friend (and I would absolutely tell her beforehand) and give her as much support as you can- whichever way it goes. Just as you want her to be happy & supportive for your great news, you can be supportive with her struggles. It sounds like you are very aware of doing the right thing for her which is just wonderful.

    And…congrats to you & Amy both!

  • Briana E

    October 14, 2010 at 5:44 pm

    OMG, congrats Amy!!! WOW! Good advice here, I had to recently announce that I was pregnant to a friend who knows she’ll never be able to have children. I had no idea how to do it, it just came tumbling out. She was so excited for me and I still wasn’t sure if she was OK, I think it affected me more than it affected her, she was very Zen about it all. At least on the outside.


  • Heidi

    October 14, 2010 at 8:12 pm

    I’m a big fan of the “tell-me-over-email” thing.  I like to have a few minutes to process; this is true with everything, not just pregnancy announcements.  I don’t think quickly on my feet in the middle of difficult conversations.

    I also really, really appreciate being told early on.  I hate the idea that people have been talking about me behind my back trying to figure out what would hurt me least.  The idea of it is sweet, but knowing I’ve been the brunt of secret conversations hurts.  I deeply appreciate being one of the early ones to know.

    Also, it always bothers me when pregnant people don’t tell me their due date in their announcement.  I think the general sense is that they don’t want to burden me with information.  But I want a chance to prepare myself, and knowing the date helps me feel like I have a concrete amount of time to deal with things.  Not totally logical, but I really appreciate getting an “I’m-due-around” sentence in the email announcement.

  • Libbi

    October 14, 2010 at 9:40 pm

    I also agree with Amy’s advice.  It is wonderful news that you’re pregnant, but also so kind of you to take into consideration your friend’s struggle.  As someone currently struggling with infertility (and at a young age, i’ll be 25 in January), it is extremely difficult to see the pregnancy announcements, pictures, and babies and pregnant woman everywhere.  Whether at the store or online, my heart constantly breaks.  Telling her before the last cycle is incredibly ideal, the end of a cycle always being worst.  The hormones of menstruation and the knowledge that another month has gone by with no positive result is something incredibly difficult.  No one wants to wish infertility on others, but it’s nice when people realize that it’s not as easy as people think to get pregnant.  It’s a nice reminder to count your blessings.  Again, congrats! and good luck.

  • Jessie

    October 15, 2010 at 9:56 am

    I am someone who would prefer to find out via email, even from a close friend who lives nearby. I lost a friendship due to my reaction to her in-person announcement – I burst into tears and had to cut our evening short. Not ideal, of course, but I couldn’t help it. She was pissed at my reaction and I was pissed at her for being pissed and…well, there you have it. At the SAME TIME there is definitely such a thing as treating me TOO carefully and avoiding me too much: recently a childhood friend told me via email when she was EIGHT MONTHS PREGNANT (obviously we don’t remain in frequent contact but STILL).

    Anyway, this is a difficult situation and I don’t envy you. As Amy said, you have a good heart – follow it.

  • Andrea

    October 15, 2010 at 3:28 pm

    Wow! Congrats Amy! And to the question asker!

    I am 19 weeks, and had a hard time with knowing how to tell a coworker who found out she had early ovarian failure (at 23 🙁 ) I actually found out about her issue when she was asking me about our TTC plans, so she knew it might come up at some point. From all that I have read, and Amy’s great advice, I think that the best you can do is the best you can do. You should maybe just be prepared to deal with the fact that it still might not have been the way she would have wanted to hear about it. Not your fault, since you tried your best to be sensitive.

  • Janette

    October 15, 2010 at 3:31 pm

    That is such a difficult spot to be in, if she is getting treatment to get pregnant it might be extremely hard to take the news that you are pregnant even if you tell her before or after the treatment. It might be best to tell her in person though since if you did it through email it might sound you were dreading to tell the news.

  • H

    October 17, 2010 at 4:29 am

    Thanks Amy for answering my question!! and to everyone else who commented. I was leanging towards before and I am glad to get a consensus on the issue. I also figure that ‘happy for me’ is not necessary and totally understandable if she cant get there but that is ok. But Amy, I saw your pregnancy announcement on your blog just after I sent this and I am due 2 days before you! – and my youngest was born within a couple of weeks of Ezra. Freaky. Are we twins?

  • juliette

    October 18, 2010 at 2:07 pm

    Practicing general understanding and kindness is always the way to conduct ourselves… but overthinking the emotional states of others and downplaying your own happiness is a waste of energy.

    I spent a good portion of my life downplaying things for fear of making others uncomfortable or jealous. But you can never win… some people will always find a reason to be wounded and use you as the reason for their own pain.

    I got married recently, and when I got engaged, I was very hesitant to share my happiness with certain single friends who I worried would feel like I was moving on and leaving them behind.

    I spent inordinate amounts of time trying to reassure them of my friendship. Most came around and were truly happy for me, but there was one who showed her self centered resentment very clearly over time. I bent over backwards for her, but sadly, after all the energy I spent trying to include her, she ended up blaming me for her own loneliness.

    I think that a grown up, mature person should be able to separate your happiness from their perceived misfortune and shouldn’t take away from your personal joy.

    Would it be right for a cancer patient to ask the rest of the world to stop living because they are ill? Would it be okay for someone to expect everyone who has parents to tiptoe around them because theirs have passed away?

    Live your life and share your joy with others. The world needs more love and happiness to balance out all the suffering and pain. If someone can’t handle it, they have personal work to do and it is not your fault. Be sensitive, but don’t dim your light for fear of others.

  • Linda

    October 19, 2010 at 12:51 pm

    I completely understand this. I was unable to have children for 11 years. My brother’s wife got pregnant with twins 5 minutes after they got married. Yes, it was crushing every time someone else I knew got pregnant but I knew it wasn’t personal against me. Sure, it felt bad but I also loved seeing that new baby and hoping that it would be me one day. It was…in 2007 I had twins through IVF 🙂

  • Nerwal

    October 21, 2010 at 2:38 pm

    I, too, agree with Amy. As an infertile who is familiar with miscarriage myself, in your co-worker’s shoes, I would appreciate being told through email (sent to a private address; not a work one) BEFORE my last treatment. Amy’s words are perfect. 

    Congratulations to you!

  • ecodrivefan

    October 27, 2010 at 5:09 pm

    congrats to both of you! amy’s advice is spot on. i took some recent news from a friend in a very conflicted way. i know that it helped that she told me over the phone, where i could listen to her, congratulate her and put the smile in my voice when speaking to her, then hang up after a perfectly good conversation and have my little cry. she’s happy, i didn’t humiliate myself, and no one’s the wiser.
    so i would say over the phone or on an email might be best.

  • AlexMMR

    November 6, 2010 at 3:10 am

    Yup, I’ve done the IVF thing and while I was doing it, my best friend was pregnant. My best friend with two grown children already was now getting a second generation of baby to raise. It sucked, I was bitter, and there was no hiding it. This will not be a new experience for your coworker. But I agree with everyone else, tell her before her cycle and pass your good luck baby mojo her way. And yes, tell her privately or via email. And please don’t be upset if she simply can’t be happy for you. Or is gritting her teeth while you’re showing ultra sound pictures and having people feel your baby kick. As much as I tried to be a good person, I really resented my friends pregnancy. Fortunately the IVF eventually worked for me and I’m pregnant with twins now, but it was rough watching her for that year.