Ask the team: how do you deal with pregnancy announcements?
If receiving the news that a friend or family member is pregnant has been a particularly difficult part of your infertility journey, then you are not alone. Whilst we hope and pray that others will not have to carry the heavy cross of infertility, learning that someone else in our life is growing their family can be a stark reminder of our waiting and longing, and it is inevitable that this brings difficult emotions with it. You are not a bad person for finding that news hard; you are not a bad friend for needing time to process it. In this blog post, members of The Fruitful Hollow team are sharing how they deal with these occasions and what has helped them over time.
When I receive news of a pregnancy announcement, it often can leave me with a lot of challenging emotions to process. As soon as I am able to, I find it helpful to retreat to a quiet place on my own to do a relaxing activity that doesn’t require much thought. Wordsearches are helpful for me. The quiet, easy activity allows my heart and mind to catch up with the surprising news and allow that processing to begin, and also can help me to regulate my emotions too. Journaling (I like to use the Finch app) is a great way for me to just vent. Once I am in a slightly more regulated place, I give my husband a heads up regarding the announcement, how I’m feeling, and what kind of support I may need from him. Watching a movie or a favorite show together or on my own is often helpful. Crying is also helpful - better not to stuff those emotions down, because they will only explode later! Planning a date with my husband or an outing with friends helps to reconnect me with the good that does exist in my life and remind me that I’m not as alone or as isolated as my initial emotions may make me feel. I also try to remember to ask for God’s comfort, because that is what I need the most at those times. Getting out for a solo walk in nature often can help sooth my soul and help me find God again. And seeking out the sacrament of reconciliation is important as well. In the following days, I find it really important to take it easy, be gentle with myself and make some time for some self care every day.
“As soon as I am able to, I find it helpful to retreat to a quiet place on my own to do a relaxing activity that doesn’t require much thought.”
Over the course of my infertility journey, pregnancy announcements have affected me in a number of ways. There have been some, like my best friend telling me she was pregnant, that just brought me so much joy, and then there were others that just felt soul-crushing. I think the effect they have on you depends on your relationship with the expecting parents and how much of a shock it is. Pregnancy announcements can add salt to the already painful wound that is infertility, especially when the announcement is also the announcement of a first grandchild. They are a reminder of what you’ve yet to experience.
Where and how I receive the news of pregnancy from a friend or family member makes the biggest difference to how I’m able to process it. Once my close friends knew that these announcements were hard for me, I asked them to let me know next time they’re pregnant in the form of an email or card/letter. This way I do not have to fear face-to-face announcements, and there is no pressure for me to “react” immediately. I have now had emails, letters and cards from pregnant friends telling me their news, usually with thoughtful attention to the fact that they know this is hard for me to hear. It has meant so much to me when they have taken the time to do this, as it leaves me with thoughtful letters to keep and treasure rather than memories of shock announcements in uncomfortable group situations, and that has set a better tone for the months that follow. When I receive an announcement, I wait for an appropriate time to share the news with my husband so that he too is in a good place to process it, and I usually have a little cry in his arms when reading them with him. (I’ve learnt that if I suppress those tears, they’ll leak out some other time anyway.) We take a couple of days to let the news sink in, holding space for those emotions before responding with a congratulatory text and a question or two, and we add the couple and their baby to our nightly prayer intentions.
Care packages are my love language! Much earlier on my infertility journey, I would make care packages for my best friends throughout their pregnancy - one for each trimester. At times I have started gathering items for a care package ahead of time if I suspected a pregnancy announcement was coming soon, while I had the mental and emotional energy to do so, so that as soon as I heard the news I had something lovely to wrap and send right away. In recent years it has been harder to put together these packages without getting upset so I have given myself permission to only do these kinds of things when I know I am in a good enough place that it won’t cause me to dwell too long on the hard emotions.
“Care packages are my love language! I start gathering items for a care package ahead of time if I suspect a pregnancy announcement is coming soon.”
I don’t know if this puts me in the minority, but I would say that about 90% of announcements in my life roll off my back and I can delve into the joy of the announcement. The other 10% depends on past history with the person and usually results in acutely feeling the unfairness of infertility for a day or two. For these instances I heavily rely on my prayer warriors: my husband, my close friends, friends also experiencing infertility, and my spiritual mentor. Knowing that anyone in this network will be able to commiserate helps pull me out of the urge to isolate myself and shut down. If any frustrations linger after the initial announcement, I do try to bring it to the sacrament of confession. The graces of the sacrament allow me to work on ordering my emotions and not let bitterness get a foothold in my heart.
I think the thing that has helped me the most is to give myself permission to feel the difficult feelings. There’s a temptation to get stuck in the disappointment-guilt-anger cycle that can just fester. What I really needed was to slow down! Before giving a verbal response, I would internally remind myself that what I feel in this moment is grief. What I want is to be happy for my friend or family member. If that meant giving a quick congratulations in person and then excusing myself for a moment to collect myself, then that’s what I did. If I found out through text or social media, I would physically put down my phone or tablet in order to separate myself from a feeling of having to react.
As I experienced the emotions, it helped me to remember to breathe and acknowledge that I didn’t want to feel the way I felt; that this reaction will pass and that I can give myself room to feel it, acknowledge the hard, and then make a plan. Praying for the grace to move through it, to tell God that I was upset because I longed for a child but wanted to support others, helped me get through some restless nights. I think also telling my husband about these feelings, sharing with my closest trusted friends, and making plans for something fun that week like a date night or fun outing gave me something else to look forward to and celebrate. As I built my support system and made the effort to “slow things down”, I discovered that deep down I truly was happy for my loved ones and was able to put some separation between my grief and my love for them.
“It helped me to remember to acknowledge that I didn’t want to feel the way I felt; I prayed for the grace to move through it, to tell God that I was upset because I longed for a child but wanted to support others.”
Pregnancy announcements used to knock the wind out of me. I’ve shed tears, had immediate anger rise to the surface, and have completely shut down. They were especially triggering when we were actively trying to conceive and undergoing NaPro treatments. We were working so hard and going through so much to have a baby and it often seemed like others were pregnant by surprise or like it wasn’t a big deal. The emotional reactions that pregnancy announcements bring vary greatly depending on the who, what, when, etc. There is only one thing that has truly helped me through each pregnancy announcement and since embracing this action step I have found each pregnancy reaction to be less and less triggering (and more like a fun challenge).
Pregnancy announcements are now a joyful call to action. When someone tells me that they are expecting, I get excited because they may not know it, but they’ve just given me another spiritual child! I immediately make a note to pray for the child’s development, labor and life. I remind myself that they were created with purpose for this specific time in history. With my niece, this action step resulted in such a beautiful connection. When she was still an infant she would smile and look at me and I felt in my soul that I already knew her and that she knew me (in fact, I was the ONLY person who guessed her gender correctly). I was more excited for her birth than I had experienced previously.
I’ve found that shifting my focus from the pregnancy or from the expectant mother to the developing child has helped tremendously. They have a little soul and I can pray for them. I also feel like so much attention during pregnancy is on the expectant mother, but this trick allows me the opportunity to get to know this child spiritually. How cool is that?
For practical guidance, check out our resource “Dealing with Pregnancy and Birth Announcements”.