Carolyn Hax: Announcing a pregnancy to a friend with infertility

Carolyn Hax: Announcing a pregnancy to a friend with infertility

Adapted from an online discussion.

Dear Carolyn: What is the most sensitive way to announce a pregnancy (unplanned, if that matters, but a pleasant surprise) to a friend who has been publicly battling infertility, including two failed IVF attempts? She has expressed to me in the past that it’s really hard for her to hear about people who “don’t even really want kids” getting pregnant without difficulty. I feel really guilty that I now fall into that category.

Pregnant: This is hard no matter what you do. But even though different people feel, want and take offense to different things, one common thread I’ve noticed is a preference to respond to hard news privately on their own time. So, tell her this in writing — email, a letter slipped under her door if you live close by — and aim its arrival for the best time you can gauge.

Just say outright that you’re mindful of what she has said to you before about how hard this is for her to hear, and you’re telling her this way to give her room to process it.

Re: Pregnancy: Just two bits of advice from having had to do this three times:

  1. Tell the friend as early as you are comfortable telling other people and at least 48 hours before social media announcements. You don’t want her to hear about this through the grapevine, but also know she may choose to tell lots of people before you are ready.
  2. Don’t apologize or give too much detail. You can acknowledge her pain and that this must be hard for her, but there is nothing for you to gain by saying things like, “It just happened,” or, “I wish it were you, not me.”

Anonymous: Helpful, thank you.

Dear Carolyn: Do you have any advice on how to deal with anger and resentment around relentlessly having to enforce boundaries? It took me a while to realize a lack of boundaries was the root of so much of my unhappiness and anxiety with my family of origin. I’m getting better at setting and sticking to them (thank you, therapy). But is it always going to make me so angry?

I know staying calm is important to the process, but it’s hard! For example, I have been clear we are not allowing anyone in our house, and yet my security camera spotted my mom letting herself in while we were at work. I had the locks changed, but part of me wants to call her and SCREAM. So then … do I scream into a pillow or what?

Angry: Damn right you’re angry. Your family, by trampling on you at will, gave you these boundary problems. Specifically and directly.

So this is actually part of the enormous foundation shift you’ve undertaken, and good for you for doing it. You’ve set the boundaries, you’re holding them — and they’re doing their part by resisting your changes.

That’s not right, by any means, but it’s normal for people to resist change and push back toward the familiar. Especially when the old way benefited them. And it’s normal for their resistance to stir up lifelong stored anger at their disrespect for who you are and what you value. Don’t give in to it, of course, but do understand and respect it.

And neutralize it by not expecting your mom to become someone new. This is about changing you, not her. If the latter does happen, that’s just a nice bonus for you.

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