So you’ve started your family – HOORAY! Whether you pushed through months or years of infertility and finally conceived, or you’ve adopted a beautiful child, you’re in a wonderful stage of life. Sometimes we see life only through our bubble of past experience or, worse yet, only through our current stage of life. Why is this bad? Because when we forget to look at life in a broader way, relationships can be damaged and the richness of diversity diminished. If you have an infertile friend, it would be advantageous to be intentional about your relationship.
It’s Okay to Celebrate Your Happiness
Years ago, my sister and I lived near each other. It was a wonderful time for both of us, as we lived half the world away from the rest of our families. We had both adopted children—her adoption on the small island was finalized almost immediately, ours was tenuous. Ours was a contested adoption and we were on pins and needles for a long period of time. As we got closer to finalization, her husband was suddenly taken from her. A bleed in his brain took his life, completely unexpectedly. The day he died, our attorney secured the adoption of our son. How could we possibly celebrate when she was in the deepest of sorrow? I kept the thrill inside of me for a few hours while we cried together over her husband’s passing. And then I said “Jenni, the judge is signing Bryan’s adoption papers tomorrow. I’m sorry to tell you happy news when you’re so sad.” Her response? “I’m so happy for you! Honestly! Steve would have loved to have been here for this!” We laughed and cried together, both rejoicing and sorrowing.
Don’t Exclude Your Friend, Thinking You’re Protecting Her
I’ve thought about that experience often when wondering how to share happy news with someone experiencing sadness. Having experienced infertility for years, I know what it’s like to have friends avoid me because they didn’t want to flaunt their pregnancies. Sadly, that just created loneliness and rejection on top of my personal sadness. As hard as it was to face my childless state as others added to their families, it was ultimately sadder to lose the closeness I once felt with specific friends. I know their intention was good, but instead of feeling like a consideration, it felt like exclusion. I would much rather have celebrated with them while trying to push through my jealousy and sadness.
My daughter knows how painful infertility can be. Partly because of her personal experiences, but also because of mine. Brooke has a sweet friend who has been hoping and trying to get pregnant for a long time. A year or so ago when Brooke got pregnant with her fourth child and it would soon be obvious to friends, she considered carefully how to approach her childless friend. Before the announcement was made publicly, Brooke sent a private text to this friend. Carefully worded, and with much sensitivity, she told her the happy news. When the rest of their mutual friends were told, Brooke’s special friend had already prepared herself, gotten beyond the initial pang, and was able to be happy with her and for her.
Pretending like your friend isn’t experiencing infertility doesn’t do anything to build your relationship. And being insensitive creates distance. Just remember that everyone experiences and presses through sadness and grief in individual ways. Keep communication open, be sensitive and nurturing, and you’ll find that your friend will appreciate your honesty and benefit from your loyalty. One can do much good by being intentional about all relationships—especially those where individuals are struggling.