How much sharing is too much?
February 14, 2010 8:42 PM   Subscribe

Should I tell my dear friend, who is currently undergoing fertility treatments, that I'm trying to get pregnant too? How?

My beloved college roommate recently confided to me that she's gone to a fertility specialist after trying to get pregnant for a year. We are both 31. We live on opposite ends of the country.

I'm a terrible waffler about life decisions and have talked to her (before she told me about her fertility troubles) about my mixed feelings about babies and spawning and whatnot. However, shortly before she told me about her troubles, my husband and I had decided that it's rapidly nearing the right time for us to start trying to get pregnant.

I hadn't planned to tell anyone that we were trying, but I will tell her if that's the right thing to do. (She is, after all, sharing with me many of the sordid details of her treatments, as girlfriends do.) I almost want to delay our trying till she conceives. (I know that's insane ... right? but it does speak to my intense fondness for her.)

Now that I know that she's undergoing fertility treatments, should I tell her that we're trying? What should I say? Should I just try to conceive and tell her when I've hit the magical three-month mark when people usually start announcing?
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (26 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Don't tell her that you're trying, but I don't think there's anything wrong with letting her know once you do conceive.

When I was actively trying a dear friend of mine got pregnant. She made a special point to let me know before a group activity we went to where she was going to announce it to everyone, which is one of the kindest things anyone has ever done for me. While of course I was ecstatic for her, giving me a chance to process my feelings of envy on my own was a very generous gift.

And honestly, if she's undergoing treatments, she might get pregnant before you do.
posted by sugarfish at 8:51 PM on February 14, 2010 [4 favorites]

I'd worry, if you tell her you're "trying," that it would make her feel like you are asking for her support, and yet that she would also be sort of dreading hearing from you about it either way -- either that you conceive the first month you try, or that it takes a while.

I guess my personal feeling is that, yes, she's sharing with you, but that's because she's the one who needs the emotional support.

I'd tell her before the three-month mark, though -- as an expression of your trust in her, and also to sort of give her time to process the information before you make it common knowledge.

Best of luck!
posted by palliser at 8:56 PM on February 14, 2010 [1 favorite]

I agree with sugar fish and palliser. Don't tell her you're trying, only once you get pregnant, and tell her personally and alone before it becomes common knowledge.
posted by kch at 9:09 PM on February 14, 2010 [1 favorite]

Be absolutely honest. "My dear friend, I have something difficult to share with you. Even though I've been waffling in the past, husband and I have really been thinking and talking, and we'd like to try to have kids too. I know this has been a really rough road for you, and certainly I still want to talk about your difficulties as a good friend. And who knows if and when we'll conceive, god knows it's not as easy as wishing for it, but not sharing this decision with you would feel like a unnecessary secret. We're all on individual paths to familyhood, but I want to walk with you down yours, and have you walk with me down mine." But have this conversation on its own merit -- you should initiate the conversation, and ensure she doesn't have any bad baby-related news to share on that day (i.e. miscarriage, bad doc appointment, bad labs, whatever).

- If you wait, and portray it as an 'oops,' women experiencing infertility sometimes have an intensely difficult time reacting to it (i.e. I want to have a baby and am spending so much time and money - they didn't even try!" She was also not given any preparation time to process her own feelings.

- If you wait until 3 months, and you were talking with her during those 3 months, that's going to feel like an intense lie by omission (if you're as close friends as you portray).

- When you do conceive, tell her privately. And if you do conceive before her, don't take it personally if she needs some time to process. It's a really really emotional situation.

You're a stellar friend for thinking through this. You'll both get through it. And who knows - she might get pregnant before you! Support each other, learn from each other, the best way you can. With any luck your kids will grow up around the same age :-)
posted by barnone at 9:12 PM on February 14, 2010 [14 favorites]

What Barnone said. My wife and I are going through IVF at the moment. While we're very, very happy for our friends and family that conceive, there is a strong pang of loss at the same time. We feel small, ungenerous and wretched that we have these bad feelings about what should be entirely happy news, but they're quite undeniable. It's easier for us if we have as much advance warning as possible in order to prepare.
posted by centerweight at 9:23 PM on February 14, 2010 [1 favorite]

You're a great friend for being sensitive to this!

She may feel betrayed if you don't mention that you're trying and then are suddenly pregnant. I would mention it but not make a big deal about details unless she asks. It's a tough thing not being able to get pregnant and, as centerweight put it, "advance warning" is appreciated. She has to rehearse her joy for you, after all.

Good luck!
posted by MiffyCLB at 9:30 PM on February 14, 2010

I'm of the opinion that, unless you have a friendship where you'd normally announce, "tonight, I plan to have sex with my partner for the purpose of sexually gratifying one another," you shouldn't announce, "tonight, I plan to have sex with my partner for the purpose of procreation." I may be in the minority on this one, but unless you regularly tell one another about the specific details of the sex you're having, I don't think you should start doing so now.
posted by decathecting at 9:39 PM on February 14, 2010

I would mention it but not make it a big deal. Like, "Hey, by the way, Husband and I stopped using birth control."
posted by amro at 9:39 PM on February 14, 2010 [2 favorites]

This isn't about sex, folks. It's about someone going through what sounds like a really difficult period, and how a friend can relate her own situation that directly impacts her. I know it doesn't sound like it *should* -- but it probably will at least cause the friend to think about it. If you haven't seen someone go through prolonged infertility, you really can't fathom how it is completely unravelling to people.

And these friends already are there - they're talking about infertility and the ensuing heartache. Basically the friend has already announced, either directly or indirectly, 'we've been having sex a LOT this year and nothing has worked, and I time my entire cycle and map my cervical mucus, and sex is no longer fun but a chore, and I know my temperature down to the milidegree, and now I have to go get my uterus wanded by an anonymous doctor during my period (yes) and take crazy stim drugs and give myself massive bruises in my stomach or ass with these big needles and try to produce eggs that will fertilize and how are we going to pay $20k just for this go around, or maybe we shouldn't, or maybe we should adopt or use donor sperm or just keep trying." Or something to that effect. Or that's what she fears.

So I really don't think mentioning your own plans - either you are actively trying, or as amro says, you've decided to stop using BC - is out of the normal for this friendship.

You're two dear friends. You'll know what to say. Give her the chance to process it, and hey, if she doesn't care at all and isn't bitter at all about it anyway, then yay! You can talk shop.
posted by barnone at 9:59 PM on February 14, 2010 [1 favorite]

anonymous: “I hadn't planned to tell anyone that we were trying, but I will tell her if that's the right thing to do. (She is, after all, sharing with me many of the sordid details of her treatments, as girlfriends do.) I almost want to delay our trying till she conceives. (I know that's insane ... right? but it does speak to my intense fondness for her.) ¶ Now that I know that she's undergoing fertility treatments, should I tell her that we're trying? What should I say? Should I just try to conceive and tell her when I've hit the magical three-month mark when people usually start announcing?”

You are clearly fond of her, and that's a fine thing. However, there is no moral issue here whatsoever. Friends are not required morally to share details of their private lives with each other at all. You have no duty whatsoever to tell her whether you and your husband are or are not trying to get you pregnant. So put this "right thing to do" stuff out of your head - seriously, I don't want you to feel as though you're going to make a decision and then have to 'feel bad' because you 'didn't do the right thing.' There is no right thing. All you have to consider is practical benefit, one way or another. When you look at it from that angle, it will be easier, I think, not to 'waffle' on it; just remember that there can be no situation where you should look back and know you messed up, since you only have your feelings and the feelings of your husband to be concerned about here.

She has every right to share the details of her fertility treatments with you; that's her prerogative, since you're her friend and she is your friend. She also has every right to keep those things private, if she wants to; apparently she didn't want to. And that's fine. The nice thing about friendship is this space between us; we get to choose the details we share with each other, and since we're all different, the details we choose to share will always vary somewhat.

If she is irrational or emotional, she might jump to some strange conclusion that you were 'hiding' this from her, or that you have to share the same details with her that she's shared with you. However, it doesn't sound like she's necessarily the type, and as long as she's a normal, well-balanced person, I don't think she'll take this as an insult. It's just part of the space between friends; she knows that your relationship with your husband, for example, is different from her relationship, so why wouldn't she accept that the process you two go through to have a child is different?

I know this seems like a non-answer; you wanted to know what to do, and I'm telling you that you should do what you want. But I wanted to say something because I've been thinking about this lately, and a friend of mine and I had an interesting discussion about it the other day; it seems to me that people feel far too much obligation these days regarding how much of their pregnancies must be shared with others. I only wanted to speak up and say: it's your pregnancy. Share it exactly how much you choose to. Don't worry about doing 'the right thing,' because, as long as you're taking care of yourself and thinking about your comfort, you're doing the right thing no matter who you tell about it. Talk with your husband if you like - discuss with him how you feel about your preferences - but don't worry that you might do something wrong; that's not possible.
posted by koeselitz at 10:25 PM on February 14, 2010 [1 favorite]

Sorry, I meant to say this:

I know you feel like an issue, but I don't think this will affect her as much as you're worried it will. People who are trying to get pregnant are aware that other people in the world get pregnant, too. It is not an insult, or some kind of oneupsmanship, to be attempting pregnancy at the same time as someone else, or to succeed more easily. And it shouldn't keep your friend from calling from time to time and commiserating over just how frustrating it is for her; you might have different things to overcome, but that doesn't stop you from talking about them, does it?
posted by koeselitz at 10:29 PM on February 14, 2010

barnone: “If you haven't seen someone go through prolonged infertility, you really can't fathom how it is completely unravelling to people.”

(A fair point; take my advice with the grain of salt that I haven't been through this particular difficulty before.)
posted by koeselitz at 10:30 PM on February 14, 2010

If my friend had a child who died, should I refrain from talking to her at all about my child? Today? Sure. Next Month? Maybe. Some months from now? Almost certainly not. And I'd expect about the same conduct in return. I chose the example that I did because it is probably the singularly most devastating thing that can happen to a person or couple and generally shreds their entire view of the world and themselves. But her tragedy would not and should not cause my life to stop, nor vice versa. She - or I, depending on which tragedy - would have to contend with a world where people have children that don't die and to pretend otherwise would be a cruelty.

Yes, I've been close to a couple trying to conceive for years and then dealing with almost too premature twins and that was incredibly harrowing for them and empathetically difficult for me (the twins are now 7 and are exactly like 7 year olds, happily). And the hypothetical above isn't hypothetical. There is a limit to how preemptively sensitive to other people's reactions we ought be. It may well be the case that the person you imagine really doesn't want talk of his mother's illness in fact really does wish to and could well feel hurt by your silence on the matter. We're generally pretty lousy at predicting our own emotional responses and atrocious at anticipating other's.
posted by fydfyd at 11:18 PM on February 14, 2010

Would you tell your very close friend you were trying to conceive if she wasn't seeing a fertility specialist? If so, I say tell her. Obviously you know her and how she would react better than us Internet Strangers, but I would be seriously offended and hurt if one of my really close friends didn't tell me something major like this out of concern for hurting my feelings. If you trust your friend to handle it like a grown up, treat her like one.
posted by MadamM at 11:43 PM on February 14, 2010 [1 favorite]

No, I wouldn't tell her. Quite apart from anything, you have no guarantee you will be successful - at which point telling people places a burden of other people's hopes and expectations on you.

If you get pregnant quickly, it just rubs it in. If you get pregnant, tell your friend sympathetically but I'd err on glossing over the details of exactly how long you were trying for.

There's a fine line for many people who have problems conceiving. On the one hand, they don't want every friend's pregnancy to be a sore issue or big deal between them. People will get pregnant. They know that, but a little, temporary envy and self-pity are natural, given the circumstances. In summary - there can be a slight gap between their rational self and their emotional self.

On the other, be a little sensitive - the contrast between someone else's joy, and the ease with which pregnancy comes to them, can get a little wearing. It sounds like you're already on top of the sensitivity thing so if you get pregnant don't feel like there has to be an elephant in the room.
posted by MuffinMan at 12:25 AM on February 15, 2010

I haven't been in your exact position with friends, but in similar ones, just not regarding children.

If you're very good friends that share, then share with her. All of the trials and tribulations will be different, but you are good friends, yeah? If you conceive relatively soon, well, you're going to have challenges that she's reaching for. If you are super good friends, you can visit about this stuff. I understand that it may cause problems and I'm sorry.

If she flakes out, I'm so sorry, and that's hard. She's in a hard place, as I'm sure you know, but that's a friend thing, too.

I'd tell her. I hope she understands and I wish the best for both of you. Especially with regards to your friendship. Also, most happy regards to the potential kiddos for both of you. Get ready to not sleep a lot if you succeed. A difference in circumstance shouldn't cause that large of a rift, hopefully. Be kind to each other, and best wishes from this mom.
posted by lilywing13 at 1:31 AM on February 15, 2010

As an IVF graduate... I'm with barnone and centerweight.... a pre-warning is in order.

"Hi darling, I'm wasn't sure if I should tell you, but some really lovely people on the internet thought it was a good idea to. Hubblybubbly and I have decided to start trying to have a baby too. I have no idea how it's going to go, but I just wanted you to know in advance so it doesn't blow you out of the water if and when it happens. Hopefully you'll be pregnant by then anyway, but I wanted you to know before we start.

This does not change in anyway my love and support for you on your IVF journey and I still want to be there for you in anyway I can. "

That's what I would want to hear. Not that you've already started... that you are going to start. And then I'd want to talk about every tiny little detail of a normal woman's reproduction... so I could experience normal fertility vicarioiusly.

And then my heart would have broken a little bit when you finally did get pregnant. But I would have been happy for you, because it would have felt a tiny bit like OUR shared success because we'd shared it together.... like sisters.

That's what happened to my best friend in the universe and myself..... and I loved her and her pregnancy almost as much as my own, eventual, pregnancy.
posted by taff at 2:10 AM on February 15, 2010 [8 favorites]

I can't imagine it'd be easier for her to hear that you'd conceived suddenly--and seemingly without trying--than it would be for her to hear that you're trying, too. An open dialog is preferable, even if not easy. If, for example, you struggle too, you'll have that in common; if you conceive easily, it won't come out of the blue for her. I don't think there's any way to make it painless for your friend, though, if you conceive before she does--if she manages to at all.
posted by willpie at 3:05 AM on February 15, 2010

On reflection, I would tell her now because it will be less of an unpleasant surprise when you have to tell her later. But the thing I really wanted to say was:

When you do get pregnant, please do not wait three months to tell her. I understand very clearly the reasons for the Three Month Rule, but please make an exception in this case. If I found out I had been sharing the stress, pain and heartache of failed ART with you for three months while you had been sitting there pregnant, I would feel deeply betrayed and that would be harder to deal with than the pregnancy.

Tell her quickly, tell her with compassion, and expect some backing off from her. Depending where she is in her ART "journey" (I fucking hate that term), she may need to step out of the friendship for a while. Please know that if that comes to pass, it isn't about a lack of love for you, but the sheer weight of sadness and isolation infertility issues can bring.
posted by DarlingBri at 3:36 AM on February 15, 2010

I vote for sharing with her. I agree with a pp that it's presumptuous to assume that you know she'll feel awkward and horrible about it. You are one of her best friends, right? There are all sorts of inequities in life. You might have a great job and your bf might be fired. Your parents might be living and your bf's parents might be dead. Your husband may cook 5 course meals and rub your back, and hers might be cheating on her. This doesn't mean that you can't be close.

Do it in person or over the phone. Tell her you feel awkward telling her, that you love and care about her, and that you will be there for her 100% no matter what, even if she wants to back away from the friendship for a while. Tell her that you really, really hope that she still shares her IVF journey with you. Tell her you hope that she gets pregnant before you, but if not, she'll be #1 on your list for all your best hand-me-downs. Tell her you hope that you have kids within a year or two of each other. Be a friend, be close!

I wish both you and your friend the best of luck.
posted by tk at 4:31 AM on February 15, 2010

I have been on both sides of this equation as well. What I've found works is focusing on the *possibility* of having children around the same age, going through the same parenting phases together, and how lovely that would be. Because it is lovely, when it happens. Just be very focused on the possibility part, so that neither of you feels saddened if only one of you gets pregnant in the immediate future (or maybe, unfortunately, ever.) Keep it light, talk about your own hopes and fears a little, and focus on your friendship.
posted by pomegranate at 4:37 AM on February 15, 2010

This is very close to my heart. It's probably seems quite irrational to those who haven't gone through IVF palaver but ... when a good friend of mine knew and cared about my IVF experiences, and didn't tell me she was trying to become pregnant and acted like she wasn't interested in babies for herself at all, it felt devastating when she got pregnant. In fact she was pregnant the whole time she seemed to be commiserating with me. It wasn't just the inevitable jealousy and anger for my own situation, but that I felt I had bared myself, something raw and deep, to her and she had been somewhat dishonest in our friendship. I felt angry and kinda preyed upon for my emotional openness when she had been so closed. [Key verb: 'felt' - it's feelings, not facts, I know I don't have an automatic right to her story.]

And yet a friend who also knew about my 'journey' [I like your scare quotes for that word DarlingBri] told me about her pregnancy before she told others and like Barnone and Taff said above, it felt reassuring, calming and honest. I am sincerely happy for her, and love her little ones immensely. It doesn't have to make sense in a logical way to you, but I offer this as another internet stranger's voice telling you what it might be like for your friend, and what some of us would like a friend like you to consider. Good luck to both of you.
posted by honey-barbara at 6:33 AM on February 15, 2010 [1 favorite]

I was in this very situation once. Once I was pregnant, I went to lunch with my friend and said, "I have something to tell you, and I know you're going to have mixed feelings about this and I understand. Boyfriend and I are expecting a baby. We're due this summer." She blinked twice, and said. "Yes, I do have mixed feelings, but mostly I'm really, really happy for you guys." (But I was not one to tell people we were "trying" so there was no weird feeling about having not told her that part.)
posted by ThatCanadianGirl at 6:39 AM on February 15, 2010

What do you hope to accomplish?

Maybe it would be better to wait until she conceives, within reason (say, six months) if that would help you feel OK with it.
posted by kathrineg at 7:51 AM on February 15, 2010

Another IVF grad here - I vote that you should not tell her. If she's anything like me and competitive this will just add another dimension of stress because with every phone call or email from you, she will be bracing for the inevitable news that you managed to pull off (for free) what she's been trying to do.

That being said, you are also in a bit of a pickle if you do manage to become pregnant before she does and you want to tell her that. If she hadn't known that you were trying and then got pregnant, she may assume that it was an oops and that is probably the hardest announcement to deal with. I got that one when I was pregnant after IVF and it still hurt like a dickens.

So, my advice would be to say nothing now. If you should get pregnant before her, you should tell her in a calm, personal way that allows her to process her feelings (I prefer email for these - you can have a few days to gather yourself before responding) and make it very clear that it was not an oops but that you did not want to add to her stress while she was undergoing treatment with the news that you had started to try.

You may also want to read this post from Tertia at So Close - basic helpful guidelines for being a friend to someone going through treatment (although you sound like you are already well on your way to being an awesome one).
posted by Leezie at 9:37 AM on February 15, 2010

Follow-up from the OP "Thank you all for taking the time to answer. I've been stressing about this for a while, and your kind and thoughtful answers have given me lots to think about. More than one of your stories brought tears to my eyes. Thanks, everybody. I really appreciate it."
posted by jessamyn at 7:24 PM on February 15, 2010

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