How to tell a bereaved or infertile friend that you’re pregnant

If you have a friend who is trying to conceive, struggling with infertility, or mourning the loss of their baby, it can be very tricky to tell them that you are pregnant. There are a lot of factors to consider in how you personalize the news; the grief from losing a child and the grief from not being able to have a child can be different, and individuals process grief differently, so there are a lot of caveats and “well, if x…” that you might need to consider. Here are a few overarching suggestions from my own experience as a loss mom and from the experiences of some of my Instagram followers, whose advice I am grateful to get to share.

1. Tell them.
Don’t let them figure out on their own that you’re pregnant because you aren’t sure if they can handle the news. They will find out eventually, and deciding on their behalf whether they will be able to process the information in a healthy way, takes away their choice in the matter. Even if you don’t intend that to be patronizing, it can come off that way, so it will probably be most helpful to tell them before they guess or hear the news elsewhere.  

2. Tell them privately.
Big party announcements and public discussions are not the gentlest way for this friend to hear the news. A heads up before the news goes public will probably be very appreciated.

3. Be intentional in the medium.
Some people really prefer to receive this news in person, as they feel more honored or respected by an in-person announcement. Others prefer a text letting them know about your pregnancy so that they can process their feelings privately. If you know which your friend would prefer, that’s great. If you don’t, you may have to make your best guess about which route to take. Here are my suggestions for you in either case: if you choose to tell someone in person, be ready to give them space and/or emotional support. If you choose to tell someone via text, offer to chat on the phone or meet up soon if they want so that they know you’re willing to discuss further if they’d like.

4. Acknowledge their struggles.
You don’t need to make your pregnancy announcement about your friend, but it can help to show them that you are aware of why this moment might be a mixed bag (or even just straight-up difficult) for them. You might say something like, “I’m really excited to share this news with you, and at the same time this makes my heart ache for you and your baby Samuel,” or “I know that this is something we both want for ourselves, and I’m rooting so hard for you,” or “I am so happy about this, but that doesn’t take away from how much I want to be there for you in your grief.”

5. Meet them fully where they’re at.
Meeting someone fully where they’re at goes beyond sending a card or expressing pity (which can be arms-length ways of expressing compassion). It is about giving the person what they need. While often telling someone you are pregnant makes you the center of attention and the focal point of emotions, it may be most supportive to set your expectations such that you tell a friend who is infertile or bereaved that you are pregnant in a space where they can be the center of attention and the focal point of emotions. If you are looking for someone to emote only joy, you may be disappointed if this particular friend is not in the space to do that for you. If you are looking for someone to ask lots of questions or talk a lot about the baby, you may be let down if doing so is too painful for them. Your infertile/bereaved friend might indeed emote a lot of joy or ask lots of questions, but entering into that conversation with the expectation that they will can set everyone up for failure.

6. Leave the conversation open moving forward.
You might want to ask, “How much do you want me to tell you about the pregnancy?” Which is a beautiful question. It shows your friend that you are planning to do your best by the relationship. Keep in mind also that the person’s answers to this might change over time. It’s always fine to say things like, “I am going to start posting about my pregnancy on social media. If seeing that will be painful for you, how about you mute me for a few months and I’ll just text you about other things going on in my life?” or “I’m planning to announce my pregnancy at the end of our next staff meeting, so if you want to hop off the call or leave early, I can give you a signal of when to do that.”

Photo by Sincerely Media on Unsplash

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Do you have further advice for someone in this situation? If so, comment below!

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