If you have a baby, or baby news, and your friend doesn’t, and wishes she did, here are some thoughts / ideas / tips to help your relationship arrive safely on the other side:
Know that she IS happy for you and your news. Know also that she will cry so hard into her husband’s shoulder that her whole body will shake. But do know that she IS happy for you and your news. At this time you will want to feel many layers of guilt and possibly avoid this friend. Don’t. “It will be for her own good, I don’t want to make it worse for her, I don’t want to rub it in.” You will tell yourself. Don’t let guilt cloud the situation. That makes it all about you, and you already get to have a baby when she would do anything to be in your shoes. Instead, just understand that she IS happy for you, and that this is also very hard for her. I always appreciated when friends told me ahead of the public, or online extravaganza that they were having a baby. I thought it was nice to receive the news via text (or email or some messenger app du jour), so that I could cry it out (as infertility is a cycle of grief, little monthly deaths where you wish there was life), take a deep breath, and respond sincerely, telling my friend how overjoyed I truly was for them.
Know that it may take her a minute, or a few days to respond. You’re going to be pacing the living room with your phone in hand, wondering if you did the right thing by telling her that you’re pregnant. You did. I want you to hear this: you shouldn’t have to apologize for your joy any more than she should have to apologize for her grief. Just know, too, that it’s her deepest and most painful desire to get pregnant, to hold their baby, to not need to endure one more shot, so when someone is presenting her with this sweet news, it’s hard for her to not look down at her own belly and wonder why not her. It’s not just the momentary announcement that stings either. It’s everything: she’ll soon get to go shopping for maternity pants and experience the phenomenon of a growing and soon to be kicking fetus, she’ll soon get to act surprised when her husband brings her chocolate cake because he caught on to her (not-so-subtle) hints that that’s what she’s been craving. She’ll soon get to know the gender, scribble down name ideas, decide how to decorate a nursery, experience the surreal experience of childbirth, look at a face they created, and hold and raise their own. It’s all of that. It’s everything she wishes she could have, and experience. So if it takes her a minute to see past all of that, and respond by saying how happy she IS, that’s okay. She’s earned it.
Know that maybe the baby shower will be too much for her, so she’ll choose to sit it out. Please, please still invite her. Know that even when she stays home she’ll wish she were there. She’ll want to be there for you, not home crying into the crook of her arm on the couch. She’ll know that everyone’s dressed up and laughing over an assortment of little donuts and “momosas”, having fun while she’s not. Normally she’s the social one, but this social circle comes with the warning of a sharp pain that starts in her stomach, right where she wishes a baby would grow.
Know that not only is Mother’s Day hard, the weeks leading up to it are hard. There’s so much hype. Women are honored, they get little pasta necklaces made by little hands, and they get to pick where they want to go for lunch. They get showered with confetti and cards for something she’d feel special enough just to call her own, even without the celebration. They carry a title and a child that she dreams of carrying. Know that she feels isolated on a day like this. She stays home from church to avoid having to face what has happened for others and not for her. It’s hard to stand in a room full of mothers at church on any given Sunday, singing of the goodness and faithfulness of God, let alone on a day where the beauty of motherhood is center stage. And for the record, struggling to sing of the goodness and faithfulness of God does not mean that she doesn’t believe it. It just means that her faith is growing and it hurts. Maybe it will be stronger than it ever was. Trials tend to have that reputation, if we allow God to use them.
I was blessed more than I even realized at the time, to have a friend like Kari (5,418 miles apart) who didn’t push, beg, or plead for me to come to her baby shower. She understood that it would have been too hard for me to be there, surrounded by the hope and excitement of a baby, and unable to fake or hide how I felt. She cared about what made me cringe, what made me feel left out, and what made me cry over and over again. She wanted to understand the place of grief we were in, having gone through many years of infertility and failed embryo transfers. She and her husband weren’t shy about asking how we were doing, or to inquire about what was next for us in our treatment plan. That meant the world to us.
It’s okay to not understand someone else’s grief. There are people who hold scars and who are in places of pain that I can’t imagine. And I don’t have to pretend to understand. In fact, too many words can sometimes cloud good intentions. Sometimes just saying, “Thinking of you” or “I’m so sorry”, or sending yellow daisies goes a really long way.
Maybe those daisies are for a friend who wishes she had a baby, or maybe they’re for a friend who just took the risk and told you, even in your own season of pain, that one is coming for her. Let’s work hard and go above and beyond to love one another in our grief, and in our joy, and even when we can’t even imagine what that must be like.