To Ask or Not to Ask: When Your Friends are Trying to Get Pregnant

To Ask or Not to Ask: When Your Friends Are Trying to Get Pregnant;

I am an open book.

Someone: How are you?
Me: Ohmygod, Arden woke up four times in the middle of the night last night, Elle threw up in her car seat on the way to school, when I got to work, my heel got stuck between the elevator and the ground floor, causing my foot to fly out of my shoe in front of a bunch of people, I had a strawberry seed stuck between two teeth all day and I couldn’t find any floss, some lady in a white Volkswagen Jetta cussed me out at the gas station because she thought I stole her pump, and so I got stressed and binge ate a Baby Ruth. How’ve you been?

Someone is sorry they asked.

While the dialogue above is generally light hearted, I’m equally revealing about life’s catastrophes. Little is left to the imagination.

It took me 30 years to realize that not everybody thinks, acts, or processes life the same way I do. Some people don’t want to talk about obstacles.

As my friends and colleagues have started settling down, getting married, and thinking about starting a family- or about extending an existing family- something I’ve struggled with is whether to inquire about their efforts to have a baby.

I know an unsettling number of women who have dealt with infertility. Some of these women have had miscarriages, from very early in their pregnancies before the child had a heartbeat, to very late in their pregnancies when the baby had a name, a nursery, and the parents anticipated a future that would never happen.

It’s heartbreaking.

I’m also aware that it’s not just women who struggle with infertility issues, but men also. It hurts for everyone involved. The woman might have her own issues to deal as does the man. What women go through has been mentioned above, but obviously for a man it is a bit different. Advanced Urology is something that has specialised trained doctors who can help diagnose and treat any problems that a man might have with his fertility issues. It’s never something that a man wants to admit to, but when you’re trying for a baby you just have to deal with it. That might sound harsh, but there’s no point beating around the bush about it now. Better to find out what the problem is straight away then pretend like it doesn’t exist.

From a social [and perhaps moral] standpoint, it’s necessary to be interested in- and show an interest about- important things that are happening in other peoples’ lives.

Mama always said that it’s better to be interested than it is to be interesting.

Notwithstanding, if I suspect, or specifically know, that someone is trying to have a baby, I’m often at a crossroads about whether to ask how it’s going. On one hand, I don’t want to not ask and seem like I’m uninterested in something huge that’s happening [or not happening] in that person’s life. On the other hand, I don’t want to ask and pour salt in the proverbial wound if the person’s childbearing efforts aren’t progressing the way they hoped. Overall, I don’t want to project an inaccurate feeling that I don’t care.

According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, infertility is common and defined as unsuccessfully trying to get pregnant for 12 months or longer. Approximately 10% of women between the ages of 14 and 44 have difficulty getting pregnant, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Before writing this post, I undertook a completely non-scientific survey of a bunch of girlfriends, all of whom come from different geographic, age, and educational ranges, to get their views on whether they want their friends to inquire about their attempts to have a baby. Here’s what I learned:

Don’t assume that a woman who already has children is immune from infertility. Anna* [not her real name] has two children with her husband, and has been trying for a third for a year and a half. “What I hate is when acquaintances nonchalantly ask if we are having more children or make comments like ‘so and so has three kids… she must be CRAZY!'” Anna believes people assume she’s finished having children because she already has two, or that if she wanted to have more, getting pregnant wouldn’t be an issue. There are people out there that have trouble getting pregnant. Fortunately, there are a number of fertility pills for women that can increase the chances of getting pregnant faster.

Most people aren’t eager to talk about their pregnancy efforts. After suffering a miscarriage, followed by months of not being able to conceive, Casey finally had her first child a year ago. “We got pregnant so easily the first time that ‘struggling to get pregnant,’ wasn’t a consideration. After I had the miscarriage, I thought I would get pregnant quickly like I did the first time. When it didn’t happen, it was stressful and disappointing. I’ve always been a perfectionist and a workaholic, and discovered quickly that this wasn’t a ‘problem’ I could control or micromanage. That was the hardest pill to swallow. Given how much pressure I was putting on myself and on my marriage, it wasn’t something I was readily willing to talk about with other people. However, when a close friend did ask about it, I did see those chats as more of an escape than dwelling on something I couldn’t fix.”

Know your audience. Elizabeth is currently pregnant with her first child, who was conceived with fertility treatment. She has many friends and colleagues who also experienced infertility and underwent treatment, some unsuccessfully. “Just like our chronically single friends don’t always want to hear about how in love we are, or all the details of the amazing wedding we are planning, our friends who are experiencing infertility may not want to hear about our pregnancy or baby all the time. Hearing about a friend’s baby can be a painful reminder of a life they want but can’t achieve. Now that I’m finally pregnant, I let my friends who are experiencing infertility bring up my pregnancy to me, but I don’t bring it up to them.”

If you’re close friends, then it’s always ok to ask. With regard to specifically asking about childbearing efforts, 100% of the women I spoke with agreed: if you are close enough to the person to know they are trying to have a baby, then you are also close enough to either ask them how they are doing or let them know you are thinking about them. On the same token, all of these women agreed they wouldn’t be offended if a close friend didn’t ask. “I know it’s an awkward subject that most people don’t want to broach, mainly out of fear of a potentially bad reaction from the person they’re asking,” said Amanda, who has been trying to get pregnant for two years. If one of your close friends has been struggling to get pregnant for some time, it might be worth reading some details on being a surrogate for a friend. Whilst most women would never expect their friend to do this for them, it might be a nice way to help a close friend out, especially if you know they’ve been trying for a long time.

They also provided valuable information on things people should definitely not say to a person going through infertility:

Be patient and it will happen. “I knew I would eventually get pregnant, but living in the moment, you feel like it won’t,” said Kate (who now has a two year old daughter). “I hated when people told me to be patient.”

Just have a lot of sex. “This is probably the most infuriating thing to hear,” said Lauren, who has been trying to get pregnant for almost a year, who added, “it’s not that easy.”

You’re probably not getting pregnant because you took birth control for so long. “Well thank you for that outstanding observation… please let me jump in my time machine and rewind the clock,” added Lauren.

How old are you? Oh yeah, you’re getting up there! “Thank you Captain Obvious,” said Lauren.

I had such an easy time getting pregnant, I didn’t even have to try. “People who make comments like these look like socially inept jerks,” said Ashley, who has been trying to get pregnant for four years and three failed attempts at IVF.

I wish I could experience “trying” to get pregnant. See the comment to the statement above.

Would you consider adopting? “People who are trying to get pregnant want to have a biological child. If and when adoption becomes their path, they will let you know,” said Elizabeth.

If you’re at a loss for the right approach, sometimes the easiest way to show someone you care is by sending a text or an email that says, “Just wanted to let you know I’m thinking about you and am here if you want to talk or need anything.” This lets the person know you care without the potential difficulty of a face to face reaction.

Special thanks to all the women who candidly shared their stories with me.



    20 Comments on To Ask or Not to Ask: When Your Friends are Trying to Get Pregnant

    1. Tu
      February 24, 2017 at 5:44 pm (5 years ago)

      I missed carry twice. When my friend keep asking me if I went to any specialist for treatment, if I am going to adopt, it was really annoyed me. When I heard my friends got pregnant, I cried. I am happy for them, but at the same time I felt so pity on me. I think every mother who went through this would understand this feeling. I was even scared to look at other pregnant women, or mothers with their babies on the streets, because it broke my heart.

      It has been 8 months since I last miss carried. I felt hopeless and broken. One day I went to church, I prayed with tears. I said to God please it don’t let me suffer this one more time. If it is your plan for me not having kids, please don’t make me pregnant again. But if is not against your will, please let me successfully having a baby….a month later, I got pregnant with twins naturally without any medicine. It is God’still miracle. It is his gift to me. I asked for one and he gave me twins. I am blessed. And you too. Please be brave and put all your heart to God. He is there and listening to you. He will answer you.
      I hope my story will help release your pain mentally and also physically for those who experienced miscarriage. JESUS loves you

    2. Tracy Gocht
      November 23, 2016 at 12:30 pm (5 years ago)

      To every woman its always a joy that after marriage the next should be holding her child, I did gave birth to mine but after 4 months I lost her and since then I have not been able to conceive again for the past 7 years after I lost my child. I have been to so many hospitals and I have done series of tests. Though I have a very supporting and understanding husband but I was always thinking about it. It became my major problem every time I see children calling their mommy .i was willing to do any thing and willing to pay any price at all just to have a child of mine own. So one day I came across a post of infertilitycurecenter(at)gmail .com on how he has been helping people of the same problem, I told my husband about it and he said will should give him a try and this is the last, I immediately contacted him on the address I found on the net and I got to he. I told him all that I have been facing and if there is any solution to mine to my greatest surprise he told me to calm down that I was going to have a child soon I did not believe it. He told me that he was going to send me medicine which he did and advice that I should meet with my husband which I did. After some weeks I was feeling really weak I told my husband about it. The next morning I went for a check up after the test I was told by my doctor that I am pregnant I could not believe it I was happy in side but I could not control it so I have to show it out with a tears. Am so happy now because he has restore my life and my home. if you are reading this comment and you have the same problem or you know any one of the same problem please contact him. Here are his contacts Email: infertilitycurecenter(at)gmail .com

    3. Kristine
      June 25, 2015 at 10:38 am (7 years ago)

      Thank you so much for this post! My husband and I just started trying a couple of months ago and when people ask, it’s definitely uncomfortable when you tell them you are trying, yet months later you still aren’t pregnant.
      I have heard the “have lots of sex” and “be patient” but that is NOT what one who wants to conceive wants to hear.

      Thank you for sharing this with us. 🙂

      • jenniferdaku
        June 26, 2015 at 8:51 pm (7 years ago)

        Oh my gosh, Kristine, I can totally relate. I remember kicking myself for telling people we were trying, because people were always checking my drink at social events to see if it was a “mocktail” and were waiting for “big news” when there was none. Lesson learned. Good luck to you and your husband!

        • Kristine
          June 26, 2015 at 9:11 pm (7 years ago)

          UGH! The worst! I have been trying to think of a clever response now because it is a very annoying question!

    4. Emily
      June 16, 2015 at 12:30 pm (7 years ago)

      I am one of the hosts for Think and Make Thursday and wanted to thank you so much for linking this up with us! We are 8 months in to trying for our first and I am getting the “be patient and it will happen”, “try to relax”, and “don’t get stressed out” from friends. Even from my really close friends. That “advice” and having to be around babies or pregnant women are tied for putting salt in my wound. It’s excruciatingly frustrating. These feelings are something you just can’t help and are also something that nobody will understand unless they’ve been there, and they shouldn’t try to. Much love to everyone TTC <3

      • jenniferdaku
        June 17, 2015 at 8:24 pm (7 years ago)

        Thanks for connecting and sharing your personal story, Emily! When we were trying for our second, my doctor said it takes the average person 6 months to a year to get pregnant, so try not to get frustrated by the people who seem to be effortlessly getting pregnant (easier said than done, I totally get it and have been there!) Cheers to women being able to be vulnerable and honest with each other about pregnancy. Keep me posted on your journey, I am thinking about you!

    5. Vickie @Vickie's Kitchen and Garden
      June 15, 2015 at 6:33 pm (7 years ago)

      I like asking them how they are doing. Then if they want to talk about it they will…it can be so hard. That wait is unbearable sometimes. Thanks for sharing at the #HomeMattersParty

    6. Julie
      June 3, 2015 at 8:00 pm (7 years ago)

      Thank you for writing this! I never knew what was appropriate and finding that balance between nosy and caring doesn’t always come across gracefully for me. Great post as always!

    7. Christine
      June 2, 2015 at 2:34 pm (7 years ago)

      This isn’t quite the same, but Joe & I have been married six years now and decided long ago that we don’t want any children. I’m very open about our decision not to have kids, but you’d be surprised at the annoying and rude comments that we get in response to our decision. Either people assume that can’t conceive or worse yet, tell me in a very condescending tone, that it’s a phase that we’ll grow out of because we’re apparently not yet mature enough to make such a decision. I grit my teeth and smile through the “you’re selfish” and “career isn’t everything” comments. I’m always surprised at how many people assume that they know us well enough to understand our reasons. Thanks for giving me the forum to vent about this!

      • jenniferdaku
        June 2, 2015 at 8:17 pm (7 years ago)

        Oh Christine, I just love you, Joe, and your interesting input and extremely unique perspective. Thank you so much for sharing it with me and on the blog. I ran into Joe at a hearing a couple months back in Fort Lauderdale and was so happy to see him, but disappointed that we didn’t get to chat. Ya’ll are proof that having kids isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, and that doesn’t mean that your journey is less fulfilling than anybody else’s. Cheers!

    8. swapna
      June 1, 2015 at 1:45 am (7 years ago)

      Great Post! I still don’t know how to ask or how to probe a couple about their plans or difficulties! so I just don’t! If they are bursting to tell, they will on their own!

      • jenniferdaku
        June 1, 2015 at 12:03 pm (7 years ago)

        Thanks for stopping by and I agree! Sometimes it’s easier to say nothing and avoid a painful conversation.

    9. Nikki Frank Hamilton
      May 31, 2015 at 10:10 pm (7 years ago)

      What a great post. We all need to know what is appropriate in these situations. I have an auto immune disease and people don’t know what to say and often say things that bother me or make me feel badly. I would so hate to do that to someone else. Thanks for giving me some guidelines to go by.

      • jenniferdaku
        June 1, 2015 at 12:08 pm (7 years ago)

        Thanks for stopping by and for the feedback, Nikki! Just like your disease, I think people try to avoid difficult conversations altogether (or aren’t sure how to broach them!)

    10. Elizabeth
      May 31, 2015 at 9:59 pm (7 years ago)

      Great article Jen! I will share it for sure.
      In my response I forgot to add, Never, ever say “You just need to relax”. Relaxation does not cause pregnancy in women with infertility, if it did we wouldn’t need an entire branch of medicine devoted to reproductive endocrinology! When you tell women to relax what they hear is “It’s your fault you’re not pregnant because you are stressed”. This is almost always untrue and never helpful.

      • jenniferdaku
        June 1, 2015 at 12:10 pm (7 years ago)

        Very good point and thanks for sharing! Again, I think people try to diffuse difficult conversations by being lighthearted and helpful, when in reality, it just makes things worse. I’ve definitely been “that person” who made comments about “so and so being crazy for wanting [large number] of kids” and the input from people like you will definitely teach me to think twice before opening my mouth.

    11. Christina
      May 31, 2015 at 9:44 pm (7 years ago)

      Steven and I struggled for a year and a half before we got pregnant (with the help of an RE specialist) with HHH. I wish this post existed then, because I absolutely would’ve shared it EVERYWHERE. I’m anticipating the journey to #2 being difficult as well, so I’m definitely favoriting this post 🙂

      • jenniferdaku
        June 1, 2015 at 12:12 pm (7 years ago)

        Christina- thanks for sharing your story. I know people who had a hard time conceiving their first child but then it was a breeze conceiving number 2, so hopefully your journey is similar! Sending good vibes, let me know if you need anything!

        • Christina
          June 1, 2015 at 3:47 pm (7 years ago)

          You’re the best 😉


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