There is a certain etiquette for everything. Yet, so many people have forgotten how to be genuinely kind, compassionate, empathetic, sensitive, respectful, and good listeners to others. This forgotten and very poor etiquette is blatantly out there in the infertility world and it needs to stop. This is a topic that is overlooked and I strongly feel needs to be talked about. Those suffering with infertility are dealing with so much and on top of their suffering they take the poor etiquette blow from other people in their lives (sometimes by a friend or family members, acquaintance, or even by a complete stranger) on a daily basis, sometimes multiple times in one day. It can be a lot to handle, and the infertile person is often left feeling very alone and overwhelmed with sadness. Be sensitive! You may have no clue how your poor etiquette and lack of compassion affected them. Now, you may not know you are one of these people and may not be intentionally trying to even have poor etiquette-how can you when you are so naive and uneducated about the topic of infertility? In defense of these people, I have to say that their etiquette is poor because infertility is not understood fully. Yet, I can’t blame it on that entirely. I also blame it on my second sentence in this paragraph: People have forgotten how to be genuinely kind, compassionate, empathetic, respectful and good listeners in general and common sense is lacking. I may not be an expert on this topic, but I am very passionate about the topic of infertility, educating others on infertility, and spreading awareness to others who have no idea what infertility feels like and what people with infertility deal with on a daily basis. With that, I want to talk about a very specific part of etiquette and infertility: Etiquette in telling your infertile friend or relative you are pregnant.
Those of us dealing with infertility know how it feels when a friend or relative tells us they are pregnant. As much as you are deeply excited for them and do not wish your circumstances on them-or anyone for that matter, it is a gut wrenching reminder of what isn’t happening for you and it takes a lot of time to process this news. It hurts and the hurt is pretty deep. Someone who has never experienced infertility will not understand this pain and never will. As a person dealing with infertility and being in this type of pain on a regular basis, I give my friends and relatives this advice: it is your responsibility to brush up on your good etiquette when it comes to talking with and being there for this person in your life who is suffering so deeply. What I see happen most, and have experienced it myself, is the person with the exciting news takes offense to the reaction or lack there of, of their friend who is suffering. What you need to realize is you are getting offended because you don’t understand infertility. Not taking the time to understand is what makes you tell this person your news in such a non- compassionate manner in the first place. Think about it!
From my own experiences here are my tips for you on telling your friend or relative you are pregnant:
- Tell her right away, don’t keep this a secret from her. By keeping this a secret you may think that you are protecting your friend/relative. However, if she finds out from someone else it will be even more hurtful to her then if you had just done it yourself at the very beginning. You have the control to tell her in an environment that she feels safe in. If she hears it from someone else, it could be in a really uncomfortable place with people she’s uncomfortable with making an already difficult situation worse.
- When you tell her, don’t announce it in a way that rubs it in her face even more. Although you are very excited about your news (as you very well should be) and your infertile friend/relative is deep down excited for you (she really is) this is just another in her face reminder of what isn’t happening for her. The last thing she needs is some cheesy Pinterest announcement from you that puts her over the edge. Instead, find a place that is quiet and you know she will be comfortable in and sit down and say that you need to talk. Start out by saying something like, “I know you and (her partner) have been trying to have a baby for a while now and although you don’t know exactly what she is going through you know that news of another’s pregnancy is hard. Tell her you by no means want to hurt her but wanted to be upfront and honest with her and that you are expecting. There is no need to go on about the details (how long it took you to get pregnant, how excited you are, when baby is due, etc unless she asks these questions herself). Tell her how much you love and care for her and tell her that you are there for her (you could even ask her what kind of support she needs from you at this time.
- Give her space after she receives the news of your pregnancy. Unless she asks you to sit with her or stay with her, please just give her some time and space to process and to grieve. It’s normal for her first reaction to be heartache and if you have any empathy at all, you would not take offense to her not jumping for joy at your amazing news. As much as she is deeply happy for you, it simply hurts. You have to remember that she goes through the grieving process on a monthly basis, and theses feelings of loss she encounters are there every second of everyday. Triggers are everywhere for her. It’s hard and takes an enormous amount of energy for her to muster up the courage to even smile. On the inside she’s in so much pain. Remembering that this isn’t about you and giving her the space she needs is the start of having great compassion and being a great friend/relative. Realizing it’s not your pregnancy she’s unhappy with, but the reminder of loss and heartache being the root cause is key. After an adequte about of time and space has been given, please don’t forget to reach out-this could be via email, or sending a card, or even a phone call.
- After an adequate amount of space and time was given, touch base with your friend/relative if you haven’t heard from her in a while. Maintaining some sore of relationship is important and that there was “life” to the relationship before the pregnancy announcement. Talk about those things. However, continue to keep an open line of communication about what is currently going on in your lives as well-this includes being honest with how you are feeling and her being able to be honest with how she feels and still knowing that you are there and vise versa.
- Be understanding that she may not be involved fully in your pregnancy journey and don’t hold this against her or treat her any differently because of it. Continue to be sensitive to her and what she is going through. By her taking a step back from you at this time. Again, this isn’t about you, it is for her own well being and health. Not being able to get pregnant involves a lot of self care to be able to continue putting one foot in front of the other each day. Don’t take offense to this, encourage and support her need to be a bit selfish during this time. Don’t hold it against her. You have plenty of other people who can be there for you at this time and it isn’t affecting their health to do so. Of course extend an invite out to her to your baby shower, but do not get mad if she can not attend. Baby showers tend to feel a bit suffocating and provoke a lot of intense emotions for those dealing with infertility. Be understanding of this.
- Use common sense. If you had a friend dealing with a major health crisis, such as cancer. After going to a yearly physical and getting a good health report, would you make a big production in front of them about how healthy you are? No, I would hope you would be more sensitive to their feelings then this. Same goes for your infertile friend/relative. At all times, use the qualities that so many people are lacking when it comes to good etiquette: Be kind, be sensitive, show compassion, be empathetic, listen whole heatedly, don’t judge, be respectful, educate yourself on the topic of infertility so you can better understand, understand that your friend is grieving more than anyone should have to grieve, do not take offense to your friends reaction or lack there of, be there, check in, support her, don’t talk behind her back, give her things to look forward too (movie nights, coffee dates, shopping trips together, etc.), don’t make this about you, knowing what she is going through use other support systems in your life if you are looking for positive attention regarding your pregnancy but don’t shut her out completely, cut her a little slack, don’t offer unsolicited advice, don’t complain about your pregnancy symptoms, etc….