This weekend, some friends and I were chatting about pregnancy, specifically about an acquaintance who is pregnant and how happy we are for her. She is around our age, in her forties, and the miracle of the whole thing lit us up.
Central to our discussion was the question, "When do you tell your friends and family you are expecting?" At a certain week? When you've heard the heartbeat? After a sonogram?"
There are a lot of different feelings on this subject, but my answer is this: you tell the people you'd want to be there for you if things go right or if things go wrong as soon as you'd want them to be there for you. So, if you have close family/friends who could walk with you through the heartbreak of miscarriage, and more importantly, who you would rely upon during that time, don't keep them in the dark. If they are in the dark, you could hurt each other unintentionally, compounding the pain of an already awful situation. I learned this firsthand from our experience with infertility.
My husband and I were diagnosed with infertility in our 20s, back when the normal pregnancy rate among healthy couples is around 80% within a year. Doctors put our chances at 3%. This is why we call our one-and-only daughter "our 3%," as my husband likes to state, "3% isn't 0%—it's just really close."
I remember all the pain of that period, before we had our daughter, over three years of wanting to have a baby, and then figuring out it probably wasn't possible, and within that time, watching most of my close friends become pregnant. They had no idea that we were even trying, since who tells that kind of information, right? Because of this, we had several really painful moments with people who would never want to hurt us, but sliced us up without realizing.
Key phrases I remember cutting were:
"We weren't even trying!"
"Everyone in our family is so fertile, I couldn't help but get pregnant!"
"This baby thing is so great, you should try it!"
How do you tell all your girlfriends, "Wait a minute! This baby idea isn't just yours, it is ours, too. We've been trying for so long—longer than you—and no baby! Please shut up, shut up, shut up!"
You don't tell them like that, I guess. Truthfully, I don't really remember how I eventually spilled the beans. I know it was while planning a baby shower for one, helping out with meals and support for another with a newborn, and compulsively reading the blog of a third across the country, which I would describe as the psychological equivalent of picking at my brain's hangnail (I'm so happy/ouch, this hurts; I want to know more/why am I reading this?; I love them so much/I hate what's happening to us.) I know that sharing our situation involved a lot of tears, but I also remember that it felt so much better once everyone knew. The secret had become worse than the truth.
I wasn't the only victim of that secret—I know I hurt my friends, too. I couldn't go to all their baby events. I sometimes said snarky things. I avoided seeing them when I realized another month had gone by and I wasn't pregnant. I do not take it for granted that I am incredibly blessed to have wonderful friends, friends who forgave me of my coldness and cynicism once they were told why I was so hurt, friends who did the work with me to patch up the tender places in our history where we had scratched at each other in the dark.
I'm not going to lie: getting pregnant and having a baby helped, too. I noticed that, as these friends went on to have their second or third children, I would sometimes have an occasional pang of jealousy, hoping that our 3% could account for a sibling for our daughter, too. When people would say things like, "I never wanted my child to be an 'only,'" or "Siblings are the greatest gift you can give your child," I did want to punch them just a tiny bit, I'll admit. The fact that the one kid I had kept me plenty busy, though, made getting over the envy faster. Also, I've never punched anyone. I should probably put that on my bucket list.
In the past few years I've felt a shift away from any longing for more kids, much to my surprise. Have I moved on? The proof may be in yesterday's girlfriend chat. When one of my friends mentioned that sometimes people have kids even 10 years apart due to infertility, my response was this:
"I think we'd have to do IVF, and I'd rather use my discretionary medical funds for laser hair removal. It's about priorities."
So, do you hear that, friends? No secrets! If you have the funds or the FSA dollars to get your face lasered before me, don't tell me about it. I don't want to accidentally hear:
"I wasn't even interested, then it was offered to me for free!"
"Everyone in our family has it done, I couldn't help but do it, too!"
"This laser thing is so great, you should try it!"