May 15, 2008

The Fertile Friend

So I have this friend. No really, I do. And she has a friend who is in that brutal stage of infertility where you're beyond the naive newbie days full of hope and optimism (denial?), but not yet jaded and cynical and enjoying the ridiculously low expectations that are only earned after a certain amount of failure. Remember the horrible days when you made your first appointment with the fertility clinic? She's there.

And the fertile is a really fantastic friend so she's doing it all right: supportive, but giving her space, trying to be educated but not giving assvice. But she has a dilemma: she is ready to try for #3. Although they've been friends since well before the first two kids, this is the first attempt since the infertile got married and discovered the problem. At first the fertile put her plans on hold waiting to hear good news from the infertile friend, but now her daughters are almost five and six and she really feels like the right time is approaching. Because she is such a great friend, she asked my advice on how to handle things with the newly infertile.

I told her she needs to tell the friend. It might suck, and it might be tempting to just say nothing and then something apologetic like "I'm so sorry, I didn't want it to happen this way, I was hoping we'd be pregnant together," etc. I told her something like that would only make me feel worse. The last thing you want to hear is the oops announcement. On the other hand, if I knew a friend was trying I would be hoping along with her, invested in her hopes, and would be happier for her when it happened. This particular fertile is of the sort who really does seem to get pregnant at the mere thought of it, after three consecutive pregnancies on her first potential cycle. What do you guys think? What would you want a fertile friend to say? What's the best way to protect the friendship?

We all know just caring and sympathy isn't always the answer. Fertiles have to walk the fine line between not knowing what to say, worrying about saying the wrong thing, and actually saying the wrong thing because in fact they don't always understand (and can't be expected to). So to help her understand I sent the fertile Tertia's famous "How to be Good Friends with an Infertile" post. One of Tertia's main points is that the rules change all the time. Not just based on where you are in the infertility abyss or minute by minute if you're on Clomid as this particular infertile is, but also from person to person. Which is why I thought I shouldn't be the only one to answer the question, so please comment: What would you want your fertile friend to do/say? Had a positive experience? What made it so? And the easier one, what NOT to say?


Rachel Inbar said...

I think that changing your plans because of a friend's infertility is a bad choice. I never expected anyone to do that for me and I was actually offended when my brother said that they'd waited until I got pregnant (especially since I'm fairly sure it was a lie). My married friends all had at least 2 kids before I had my first and though it was hard for me and I skipped a whole lot of parties, I still don't think it should have been any other way.

What I think she could say, to avoid having to break the news suddenly later is, "We've been thinking about having another baby for a while now..."

JJ said...

Just having friends (which Im fortunate to have a few friendly fertiles) that just listen and say "damn that sucks" right along with me.

Sarah said...

i totally agree with JJ, the most important thing is being willing to listen. almost anything you might say trying to make me feel better is a recipe for failure, but if you listen (and drink heavily with me) it can make all the difference.

Marie-Baguette said...

It seems strange to wait for the friend to get pregnant to try to conceive!
A friend told me she was trying and she told me she was pregnant when she was only 6 weeks along and that hurt because 1. it was so freaking easy for her to conceive and 2. at 6 weeks, a lot can happen.
If I were your friend, I would just not mention it because if she gets pregnant right away, it is going to sting. If it takes time, her friend is going to push her to see a specialist, because you just never know (secondary infertility happened to a friend of mine who was EXTREMELY fertile and had had 2 oops babies).

Furrow said...

I had this exact thing happen. My uber-fertile friend told me she was trying for #3 when I was a year and a half along in my struggle. She knew it would hurt me to find out after the fact. I appreciated that and asked her to tell me the news, when she got pregnant, in an email so that I could process it privately. And I didn't want to hear it from our other friends. She got pregnant the first month of trying (of course), and did let me know in an email. It stung, but in about a week, I was able to congratulate her. I think your friend should tell her friend that she is going to try. Nothing sucks more than a surprise pregnancy in your midst.

Sara said...

I always appreciated it when people told me that they were ttc. It still hurt for a second when they got their bfp, but at least I knew that the good news didn't just fall on them from the sky, if that makes any sense.

At the same time, I suggest that she try to avoid giving a time frame. I think it's better to use the approach that Rachel suggested ("we've been thinking about having another baby for a while now"), rather than saying "we started trying yesterday." That way, the infertile won't be tortured with exact knowledge of how many(or rather, how few) months it took.

Really, though, I think that the most important thing for me in dealing with my fertile friends was having them acknowledge that their pregnancy announcement might hurt me in some way. That validation of my feelings helped me to put them aside and to be happy for my friend right away. It seems petty, but it made a real difference to me to know that they realized that it was unfair and really sucked for me.

Sticky Bun said...

For me, the worst thing one of my infertile friends did was hide from me that she was pregnant. Then when she did tell me, I was so ticked and hurt. Sure, it would have hurt to hear she got pregnant so easily, but I would have been hurt by the situation. Instead, by hiding the news from me (to protect herself, really), SHE hurt me. Not just the situation. So, I think I would agree with you. The only thing to do it to just be open about it--about trying, and about whatever happens. Sensitive, to be sure, but open.

Busted said...

Here via NCLM.

This is a hard one. As much as I hate to admit it, I feel like no matter how they approached it, told me, I'd still be bitter and upset. Although, thinking of my most supportive and fertile friends, I think if they told me before they started trying, expressed it in a way that they understood it might be difficult or upsetting to me, that would help.

I would definitely tell her NOT to say anything like "It will happen for you too," or "Maybe we'll be pregnant together"...I hate when people say that to me. I'm allowed to have hope for myself - others aren't, because then I feel like I'm disappointing others and not meeting expectations.

Anonymous said...

My brother lied to me about being in the process of working on #2 (when in fact #2 was already on the way), and it made me furious. He doesn't know about our infertility, only that it seems to take us a while to get pregnant.

I'm in the "be open about it" camp. Not tactless, but honest. I can't imagine any infertile begrudging a fertile friend if she's as compassionate as she sounds.

twirl said...

I wouldn't be hurt/offended if someone didn't tell me that she was trying, but I would be hurt if she got pg and then didn't tell me in order to protect my feelings. But that's just me.

I like what furrow said too though about the heads-up.

Either way, I think the important part is that the fertile friend is 1) being honest and 2) placing the importance on the infertile friend's feelings, whatever they may be.

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