She’s Pregnant, I’m Not: When Sisters or Friends Spill the News

Baby items“Guess what?” your best couple friends ask when you’ve just sat down at an elegant restaurant. “We have an announcement. Guess who’s not having wine?” You and your partner are jolted. You just found out an hour ago that your third in vitro fertility treatment didn’t pan out, and you didn’t even know your friends were trying.

You and your partner have a quick, furtive look. Your throat is dry, and a tear slides out before you can will it to stop. “Great news,” your husband says.

You can’t think of anything you can say aloud. You know you can’t say what you’re feeling: “Why you, not us? This is your third child, and we may never have a first. Why did you have to tell us here and ruin this expensive dinner?”

You could say, “I’m happy for you, but sad for us,” if your friends know that you’ve been trying.

With more public awareness of infertility, people announcing a pregnancy or birth are sometimes more sensitive to your needs. They might tell you in a private moment and add, “It’s hard to tell you, knowing how much you want this. I hope it happens soon for you.” You may appreciate the empathy, and elaborate on your feelings, and feel supported. On the other hand, you might be embarrassed and not want to talk about it, especially if you’re not emotionally close to the woman or you have reasons not to trust her.

First we’ll talk about dealing with your own feelings. Then we’ll talk about taking some control over how you receive news of future pregnancies.

Your feelings: handle with compassion

Mixed in with feelings of disappointment and competition, you may also feel guilty. You may even fantasize about miscarriages or complications. Your partner may add to your guilt by asking “Why can’t you be happy for them?”

Give yourself a break. You’re a good person, not someone who typically goes around with ill wishes. If you’ve been trying for months or even years to get pregnant or to carry to full term, it makes sense that you would be envious. This is especially the case if your friend is complaining of an accidental pregnancy or doesn’t have as much to offer a child as you and your partner do. A compassionate thought to say to yourself is “I’m happy for her but sad for me.” You wouldn’t expect a 24 year-old whose husband died yesterday to dance up and down about a friend’s engagement. It is understandable to have good wishes for the other person while also having feelings about your own loss or disappointment.

Controlling how you receive the information

You can’t control whether your friend gets pregnant before you do, but you can have a say in how you find out. This assumes, of course, that you are aware that someone is planning a family and that they know what you’re going through. Many of my clients have benefitted from what I call “the card trick.”

Ask your friend to send you a card. Yes, an old-fashioned greeting card via snail mail. Real envelope, real stamp. A phone call is hard, because it puts you on the spot. You need to congratulate the person right away, before you’ve had a chance to digest the information. IM is no better than phone, and e-mail is only somewhat better. Even if you don’t open the message, if its subject line reads “BIG NEWS!” you may feel that you are expected to respond quickly.

Because old-fashioned snail mail is unpredictable, your friend doesn’t know what time or even which day you receive it. This gives you time to tear up the card and stomp on it, have a good cry, or do some deep breathing before you pick up the phone and hit the keyboard. You get to feel like the loving, caring person you actually are and offer sincere congratulations. Even if you don’t have any negative feelings, you still have the luxury of time to respond when you’re ready. Everybody wins. You win because you controlled how you got the news. Your friend wins because you gave her a gentler way of breaking the news. You can both feel good about her new status and sincerely celebrate.

Even though you don’t know when or if your own luck will change, you can avoid unnecessary stress and enjoy your friend’s support and good wishes for your future pregnancy success.

Related articles:
Dealing with Fertility Challenges: Coping Tips and Resources for Parents-in-the-Making
Coping with Holidays While Trying to Have a Baby
Why Should I See a Therapist? I’m Not Crazy – We Just Can’t Have a Baby!

© Copyright 2012 GoodTherapy.org. All rights reserved. Permission to publish granted by Merle Ann Bombardieri, MSW, LICSW, ACHP-SW, therapist in Lexington, Massachusetts

The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by GoodTherapy.org. Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.

  • 20 comments
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  • Kori

    April 17th, 2012 at 3:39 PM

    Honestly I can’t imagine being so shallow that I would not be happy for my best friends when they had this good news to share.

    No matter what is going on in my own life, how could I not be happy for them?

  • Raizy

    May 31st, 2016 at 3:42 PM

    It’s not shallow, you can’t imagine what it means to try and try to get pregnant and then someone close to you who started much later gets pregnant.
    I never showed my feelings to her, I’m happy she doesn’t have to go through what I have to. But it’s very very normal to be upset about it.

  • lisa

    June 9th, 2016 at 3:37 PM

    Hi I actually responded to kori comment. That it’s shallow not to be happy for others. I am totally with you. Just found out my sister is pregnant with her fourth. All I feel is devastated that she is pregnant AGAIN and I am still not.

  • lisa

    June 8th, 2016 at 4:40 PM

    Habe you actually ever had fertility issues. I take it you have not from that ludicrous comment

  • Raizy

    June 9th, 2016 at 8:23 AM

    Yes, I have and even worse am still feeling with it and my sister started 5 years after me and she got pregnant right away. And yes I still think it’s not shallow not to be able to be completely happy!!

  • Xavier

    April 17th, 2012 at 4:50 PM

    Ok so here’s my point of view:

    If someone like this is your good friend and they were aware of the problems that you have had conceiving, then they are not going to be so callous as to just drop this bomb over you at dinner. I know you would want to try to be happy, but they would have to know that there could be some sadness there too. I just know that if my wife and I had this kind of news to deliver and it was to friends that were having problems getting pregnant, then I would try to be a little more considerate and think of their feelings before laying that kind of news on them.

  • Andrea Stevens

    April 18th, 2012 at 4:11 AM

    It is easy to see both sides of this situation. If you have been trying to get pregnant you will want to share it with others. But you do have to think about who you are telling and how. If you are telling a friend who has had little success with conceiving, I know that you will want them to be a part of your happy news, but step back from that for just a minute and think about how you would feel if someone was sharing that same information with you and you had been struggling. I don’t think that it is fair for someone to NOT be happy for you just because they are having a hard tiome, but you know that that has to be hard for them to stomach at some point, so please try to keep those feelings in mind.

  • Hope Mullins

    April 18th, 2012 at 12:52 PM

    I went through this same thing with my twin sister; I easily got pregnant and she has never been able to have a child. Why? That is what you are thinking the whole time when planning the best way to tell her. This is the person I have spent my whole life confiding in and I could not easily tell her this because I was so afraid that it would hurt her. She understood and has been such a great aunt to my children, and she has never voiced those questions to me about life being unfair. But sometimes I see how wistful and wishful she is and it makes me want to cry. I know that she does not want this to make me feel bad because it is not my fault, or hers for that matter, but I still feel so guilty because of what I can have and do have and she can’t.

  • Kall

    July 2nd, 2015 at 10:08 PM

    My twin is been trying to get pregnant since could years did an Iv was not successful, now me and my husband want to have a baby but every time I think about it I burst in tears knowing that I just can’t do it cuz I won’t be happy for me knowing that my twin still trying and can’t get pregnant!!! I can’t even talk about it with her although she always encouraging me to get pregnant yet I can’t get over the feeling of guilt ! Don’t know what to do ;(

  • Jill

    April 19th, 2012 at 11:07 PM

    this can be really hard for a couple and especially for a woman.there is no ‘right’ way this can be handled really.if the other couple knows about you and your partner trying then we may assume they will be considerate and will break the news in a much more appropriate manner so as not to bring feelings of hurt to you.but if not,then it can quickly turn into a tricky situation wherein you are supposed to seem happy for them but deep down inside you are feeling blue!

  • me

    October 8th, 2012 at 3:54 AM

    Not alright. My hubbie and I have been trying for 9 years myself, had many miscarraiges. Then my sister gets married 2 years ago and has had problems concieving. Then now Im 3.5 mts pregnant. I told her recently in person, gave her a card that said congrats u r about to be an Aunt, and right after/ as she opened it I told her very sincerely Im soooo feeling for her that it hasnt yet worked out for her. I told her how I agonized about how/when to tell her. Made no difference…she was an Ice princess to me. Mean and Evil in her reaction w scowls and no Congratulations in response. Worse yet…I told her to say NOTHING YET, she was the first to know, and that my hubbie and Id be telling our PG news to family one on one personally. Then I now find out shes already told other family members my baby news?!!!!
    If shoe was on other foot I DEFINATELY would be happy for her even if Im sad for myself. May God have mercy on her Evil soul.

  • Jen

    May 2nd, 2014 at 10:18 AM

    I sympathise with your story. Women can definetly be harsh creatures to one another. I have a friend whom I’m maid of honour for, and when she found out we were trying… She flipped out cause she didn’t want me focussing on a baby on her big day. I don’t see much logic in that… Anywho, being the person I am I put the baby making plans on hold so that I wouldn’t be giving birth before her wedding. Now I’m just disappointed in myself that I listened to her when she was upset. It’s 4 months were trying with no luck yet… I sometimes think maybe if I had started earlier maybe it would of happened by now… So annoying

  • Liz

    October 31st, 2014 at 10:28 AM

    Just because a person is sad for herself does not mean she is not happy for her friends. I had been trying for a year and half when my best friend told me she was pregnant. She did not know we had been trying, largely because I am not a sharer but also partly because I was embarrassed. She literally stopped the pill then and never got her period. When I broke out in tears at her happy news it was a huge shock to both of us. I had no idea how strongly I would react, and my reaction was the last thing from what I intended. Now she sometimes hesitates to talk to me about the pregnancy because she doesn’t want to hurt me, so it’s impacted our friendship in some subtle ways. I am overflowing with happiness for her, and now that I’ve had time to process, I handle things like her shower and talking about her pregnancy with much greater poise. I still feel grief over what I am missing, and it’s hard to constantly show joy for someone else when I have such grief in my own life. It doesn’t make me harsh, selfish, or nasty. It just makes me human. As friends, we both have a responsibility to be sensitive of each other’s needs and to share each other’s grief and happiness. Sometimes I have to give myself permission to excuse myself so that I can feel my grief without hesitation. She also has to give herself permission to be totally happy and to share her excitement without hesitation.

  • Katie

    December 8th, 2014 at 6:49 PM

    I have a friend who was absolutely cruel to me because I became pregnant while she had fertility issues although she has no actual awareness of her behavior. She checked off all of the boxes “planned my shower, went out with me to celebrate my pregnancy, etc” but doesn’t realize she was mean to my family and was overtly hostile when we went out to celebrate. She also was rude when I tried to go to her for support when I had trouble breastfeeding. She is now pregnant and I want to be really happy for her but the resentment I feel for her is enormous because she absolutely has no awareness of how she behaved.

  • Hazel

    April 9th, 2015 at 1:40 AM

    Katie, the exact same thing has happened to me. I’m now 6 months pregnant and there is no letting up from said friend. She is very mean and makes up lies about me justify her behaviour to others. I’ve found it so hard to not lash out and to remember that she is going through a hard time but some of the things she has said and done towards me and about my unborn child are unforgivable.

    I will find it hard not to resent her pregnancy news when it comes because she really made my first few months hell.

    I never ever set out to upset someone so much, why would anyone!?

  • Amy

    December 30th, 2015 at 7:07 AM

    My husband and I have been trying for a baby for almost 3 years. My sister is 10 years older than me and has two children by her first husband. Their ages are 9 and 5. Shortly after her second child, she found out her husband was cheating. He left and they divorced. A couple of years later, she remarried. Well, her second marriage was not going great… A week after they separated, she finds out she is pregnant. Today we find out the gender. My heart hurts because I feel that it is not fair! I feel like I am a cold and bitter person because I can not be happy for others… not only for my sister but for the 239058689763498789 other pregnant people I know. Unless you have been in an infertile woman’s shoes, you can not call her cruel.. or mean… or be resentful to her. She does not hate you. She is not mad at you. She is hurt in general. She is mad in general. I wish there was a better way to explain the emotions that I feel… Unfortunately, there is not. A good friend even went as far as having a secret party to announce her pregnancy to everyone. The next day all of us friends were together. They kept laughing and making inside jokes that I wasn’t included in. It wasn’t until the next day that I found out what all there secrets were about…. my heart was and is broken. I wish people just could understand.

  • The GoodTherapy.org Team

    The GoodTherapy.org Team

    December 30th, 2015 at 10:07 AM

    Dear Amy,

    Thank you for sharing. We are sorry to hear of what you are experiencing. The GoodTherapy.org Team is not a substitute for professional advice, but we encourage you to reach out. Speaking to a therapist or counselor can often be helpful to address emotions, even those that are difficult to explain.

    You can use our site to locate one in your area by entering your ZIP code here:
    http://www.goodtherapy.org/find-therapist.html

    Please know you are not alone. Help is available, and we wish you the best of luck in your search.

    Kind regards,
    The GoodTherapy.org Team

  • I'm married for 5 yes did IVF not conceived.

    December 30th, 2015 at 7:22 AM

    My twin sister married for 2yr got 1 yr boy n pregnant again.I hv a mixed feeling why god blesses couples who already has kid n not the one’s who don’t hv.I hv lost all purpose in life.Just living coz people

    I want to conceive married for 5 yrs.Want to adopt but hubby not agreeing.My twin sister married for 2 yrs has 1 yrs boy now she’s pregnant again.Why not me.I have lost interest in living.why god blessed couples with kids n not to childless couple. I want a solution to my life.Can’t live full life like this

  • P

    February 16th, 2016 at 5:59 AM

    Everytime I try and celebrate an occasion in my life SOMEONE ELSE IN MY FAMILY GETS PREGNANT….birthday / thanksgiving found out that my (much younger) cousin is expecting an oops baby….Christmas, same cousin’s sister is also expecting, now the day day before my anniversary MY SISTER is expecting AGAIN. My husband and I have been trying to get pregnant with our first for 4 years now…and in that time in my immediate family alone, 4 babies have been/will be born…as a woman experiencing infertility, there is no good way to tell us. It hurts regardless but there is no way you CAN’T tell us so best to try and understand that we are allowed to be sad for us. Be patient we will come around eventually. It may take a while but we will.

  • Juvarya V.

    March 27th, 2016 at 10:29 AM

    This is an old thread but in case other people read it, I wanted to add my suggestion here.

    We struggled for nearly 4 years. 4 failed IVF, $120k that we don’t have out of pocket. At least three close friends lost because of various interactions. So here is my take on it.

    When friends around me got pregnant, whether I was genuinely happy for them or not depended largely on how supportive they had been of our struggle.

    Two friends (who I had not been that close with before) invited me to dinner when they heard what I was going through. They asked me questions about my treatment, learnt all the terminology and acronyms, and then I could easily update them about our progress, and support them in return. I felt heard, understood, cared for. When one of them got pregnant, it was so easy to talk to her, because I knew she knew exactly what I was going through (even though she got pregnant easily).

    On the other hand, people who knew what I was going through that I was much closer to, ended up never really listening, and brushed off all our pain by saying things like ‘just relax, you are thinking about it too much!’, ‘you can adopt and be like Angelina Jolie’!’ or ‘oh maybe it’s not meant to be?’. Now these people are no longer my friends, but early on I was still trying to figure out why their comments hurt so much, while maintaining the friendship. When one of them got pregnant, it was impossible for me to be happy for them because they had never heard me, never supported me, and so I felt even more distance and frankly a bit of bitterness towards their selfishness.

    So for me how genuinely and authentically I could be happy for someone was directly related to how much support (and friendship) they had showed me.

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