This is a question that I have been asked on numerous occasions, and while I am by no means an expert in this area, it is something that I have dealt with – on the TTC end and on the pregnant/mother of a young toddler side too. It can be particularly tough to know what to do if you were able to get pregnant relatively easily, or currently have a baby.
When I was trying to conceive, I felt overwhelmed by the number of friends who were pregnant or had young babies around me, and was tending to withdraw from others more and more. I really struggled with girls’ nights for fear of having to feign happiness for yet another pregnancy announcement, or handle pregnancy tests literally being thrown around.
As difficult and heartbreaking as it is on the TTC struggling end… being on the other side now, I also can empathize with my wonderful well-meaning friends who were able to get pregnant easily (or motherhood wasn’t even on their radar yet), and weren’t sure if and how to approach the topic, what to say to me, and how to be there for me. Although everyone is different, I always come back to what worked for me when trying to guide others on how to help their friends.
After a particularly hard gathering with girlfriends almost 2 years into my journey of TTC, I received a beautiful email from one of my best friends who had given birth to her son a few months prior. She graciously gave me permission to share her kind words with all of you. I encourage you to read the excerpt from her letter to me and if you are trying to think about how to respond/treat/approach a friend struggling with getting pregnant, some of her kind words may come in helpful.
Most importantly, make sure the letter comes straight from your heart – how you truly feel. If this doesn’t resonate with you, it might not be the right approach for you to take. After I read the letter below, I felt so much closer to my friend, and yet also had permission to not talk to her/reach out to her for a little, while which I SO needed, but didn’t know that I needed it. Our friendship was always there – I just needed a little space from it while I was in a very dark place.
I’d love to hear from you if you have other tips or strategies on what WORKS when communicating with a friend who is struggling to conceive.
As I mentioned in my text to you, that video [Letter From Me *must watch* if you haven’t yet] you sent me was so moving and brought tears to my eyes and made me want to say so much.
It actually came coincidentally at a time when I have been thinking about you and specifically about our correspondence as of late. I was thinking about how I have not reached out as much as what would be normal for us before I was pregnant and/or my son was born and that my reason for doing so was that I have assumed it would be difficult for you to hear about what is going on in my life. I then was thinking, what if all your friends who have kids/are pregnant are doing the same thing? and how much that must suck for you. You are already going through a terribly tough situation and how awful that you must also have to deal with changing friendships. The comment that really struck me in the video was when she said something about people being "afraid of making me hurt more than I already do, the truth is that there isn't much else that could make me hurt more than this". I really have no idea exactly what you are going through. I imagine that it is a painful subject and one you are living on a day to day basis and so not something you want to talk about and so it's not one I want to ask about when we're talking, but on the other hand, I don't want to ignore what is likely the single biggest issue in your life right now by not asking about it. So, I want to follow your lead on this. If you feel like venting or talking about it, please talk away, but if you don't, then I'm not going to ask, but know that of course I am thinking about you and acknowledging that you are going through something.
I know some people going through infertility have needed not to talk to their friends who are pregnant/have kids or at least about those things with them. I want to let you know, that if that's the case with you, it's OK and if you need to not talk to me for a little bit, then I'm OK with that because I know our friendship isn't going anywhere permanently. But, let me know, because I don't want to make any assumptions. I know that you are incredibly happy for me but I can imagine it's difficult too. These days I don't really have too much to talk about other than my reality of life with my son.
My jaw nearly dropped to the floor when in the video, she said that people have made comments to her about being lucky to enjoy a hot cup of coffee. Has anyone ever said anything like that to you? I hope I haven't said anything as horrific as that. I do however, often think back to when I first told you I was pregnant and wish I could have been more eloquent. My biggest regret is that I asked ahead of time if Lee was with you and you said he was out, and I wish I had waited to tell you when I knew he was home, because it makes me sad to think you hung up the phone after receiving my news and were all alone. But, I felt like the longer I was keeping it from you, the longer I was lying to you by omission. I'm not sure if it's annoying for you to hear people say to you that they are sure it's going to happen for you, because I know I have said that.
I may not know how to best navigate these waters, but I want you to know that I love you and will take your lead.
Sending all you beautiful ladies TTC out there so much love and compassion. Please feel free to reach out or leave comments below if you have further suggestions about how to help others TTC!