Pregnancy is a time of celebration. But when you are infertile and your friend isn't, it's a time of pain.
Health Parenting

When Pregnancy Comes Between Friends

Pregnancy is a time of celebration. But when you are infertile and your friend isn't, it's a time of pain.

By Anna Lee Beyer of

“I understand why people adopt; being pregnant is so uncomfortable!”

My friend said this as I drove her to her baby shower. That was the sentence that paused our friendship — as she started motherhood, and I continued my seven-year fight with infertility. She didn’t know the full details of my infertility struggle, and I didn’t care to share them. I’m positive she had no idea how insensitive her words sounded to someone who would have endured any discomfort to be in her position. Rather than try to explain my feelings or risk making her feel guilty, I put some distance between us for several months.

Years later, I would be in her position — happily pregnant and unknowingly causing hurt to a friend who wanted it to be her turn, too.

Single friends and those who aren’t interested in having kids can get quite bored with the baby obsession that overtakes a new parent’s life. We gush over the little nugget’s every twitch; they joke about hiding us from their Facebook feeds or replacing all baby pictures with pictures of Chuck Norris. However, the flood of baby talk and baby images are more than annoying to friends who are struggling to conceive.

Every woman who has difficulty getting pregnant knows the emotions associated with seeing pregnant bellies and new babies blooming around her:

  • Wincing jealousy
  • Mild guilt
  • Personal failure
  • Hopelessness
  • Fake enthusiasm
  • Exhaustion from faking enthusiasm
  • A bitter mix of shared joy and disappointment
  • A need for isolation

Until my daughter was finally conceived, I cycled through each of these phases in silence, determined to push away the envy and bitterness. I was able to feel joy for family members and close friends as their families grew, but my own missing piece always took up most of the picture. A logical, optimistic person can come up with a rebuttal to each of these feelings:  You will get your chance. You can always adopt. Your friends understand what you are going through. You are not a failure. You are not broken. Through years of failed fertility treatments, I was less and less logical or optimistic about the subject.

Then the tables turned, and I was the one with a new baby while a friend retreated into her own disappointment. I realized finally what I had wanted to hear and what I wanted to say to her: I want to be there to support you even if you have mixed feelings about my new baby.

Erin never told me about her personal struggle when I was preoccupied with my own new motherhood. She sent thoughtful, handmade gifts as soon as my daughter was born.  But eventually texts and emails were less frequent; I hardly saw her on Facebook. I could sense what she was going through because I had been there so recently.

Erin was living in the purgatory of infertility.

What I didn’t know was that she was also afraid she would taint our joy with her disappointment. And she didn’t know it wasn’t all joy in our household either, as I struggled through months of anxiety and depression. I wish I could have said to her, “Let me be your friend through this. Let me listen. I need you now too, because I’m drowning.” Sometimes the walls we put up are permeable, and friends should be able to see the truth in what filters through.

Though I have my little one now, I am slipping back into the role of longing for pregnancy. It’s a condition known only to those who can’t get pregnant within a short time of deciding they are ready. This time, I will need fertility assistance again, but even starting that process has been delayed by my doctors.  I have Type 2 Diabetes, and the clinic wants it managed very tightly before I get pregnant again.

I haven’t yet felt that sting from seeing a pregnant friend and wishing it were my turn again. So far my envy is limited to all the non-diabetic hopefuls who don’t have that extra stumbling block. Now that I’ve been both the envious and the envied, I know everyone has their own stumbling block.


About the Author

Anna Lee Beyer is a writer and mother in Texas. Her work has appeared in Good Housekeeping, Cosmopolitan, xoJane, Redbook, and Mom Babble. Read her blog at Like on Facebook: Follow on Twitter: @anna_beyer