How to handle your friend’s pregnancy announcement when you’re struggling to conceive

It's sometimes hard to be happy for a friend's new pregnancy when you've been struggling to conceive. Here's how to deal with those conflicting emotions.

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Pregnancy announcements can be wonderful things. They elicit high-pitched squeals of congratulations, OMGs, hugs and tears of joy. But when you’ve been trying to get pregnant for quite some time, discovering that a close friend is expecting can trigger a completely different reaction—namely sadness, frustration and even jealousy.

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It isn’t that you’re cold-hearted or unsupportive. It’s just that trying to get pregnant can be emotionally and physically draining, especially when the journey is taking longer than you expected.

Imagine that you’re struggling to conceive and a family member, friend or colleague blurts out “We weren’t even trying and bam!” or “It was so easy and happened so fast!” or “I swear, we just looked at each other and I got pregnant!” If you’ve been trying for quite some time and you hear that a friend is suddenly pregnant (especially if they reveal it happened with little effort or planning), it might stir up some unexpected emotions.

I know because it happened to me. And it wasn’t a moment I’m proud of.

While I heard (and reacted to) many pregnancy announcements while trying for my second child, there was one announcement that still haunts me. We had been trying for over two years and, on that Friday night, I was feeling emotionally raw and physically worn down. To say it wasn’t a great time for a close friend to catch me off guard with a surprise pregnancy announcement is an understatement. And, wouldn’t you know, they got lucky on their first month of trying.

I was like a deer caught in headlights when she told me. I barely remember what she said. In that moment, I wanted to be anywhere but there. I needed time to process, to separate the hurt I was feeling inside and to be able to show my excitement for her.

I felt like a failure. I was in shock. I was jealous. It seemed so unfair that we had been through so much—physically, emotionally and financially—and it was so easy for them. I vaguely recall awkwardly congratulating her, but I’m sure my face gave away my feelings before I left the room.

Looking back, I wish I had been happier for her when she shared her news. But at the time, all I could feel was the weight of the previous two years on my shoulders. There were many private tears and, the following week, I booked an appointment with a reproductive counsellor at my fertility clinic. I knew I needed to get my frustrations off my chest and pull myself together.

When your friend shares a pregnancy announcement, you may feel ecstatic for her—or you may feel envy and disappointment. Here are some things I’ve learned about how to deal.

Respond as positively as you can
If you are like me and have zero poker face, I recommend that you have some responses ready for a friend’s pregnancy announcement just in case. Try “Wow, that is amazing news! I am so happy for you!” or “Congrats, you’re going to be a great mom!”

If you feel compelled to be transparent about what you’re going through, perhaps say “This is a difficult time for me. It’s hard for me to hear based on what we’re going through right now, but know that I’m happy for you.” And leave it at that.

Talk to those who understand
For me, talking to my husband, my mom, a close friend who had gone through unexplained infertility and a counsellor helped ease the pressure and get my emotions in check. I had been internalizing things for far too long. The counsellor helped me see that, while there was a lot that was out of my control, the things I focused on and my internal dialogue were within my control.

Put yourself in her shoes
In the end, remember that she has exciting news to share and has the right to be excited. If the roles were reversed, you would want to share the news with your loved ones as well. For now, be prepared with a response, keep your emotions in check and remember that this, too, shall pass—and when it does, you’ll want your friends by your side.

Author note: After undergoing IVF in late 2013, I was over the moon to find out I was pregnant with my second child. I immediately called my close friends and family, who had encouraged and supported me through my journey to let them know.

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