Carolyn Hax: Her unhappiness not your doing
Dear Carolyn: My best friend got married three years ago and has been talking nonstop from before the wedding about having kids. She laid out an elaborate timeline for when they would get pregnant, when they would have their second, etc. She even was talking often about their early attempts at conceiving. This talk tapered off about six months ago, and as she is not pregnant now, I would guess they are struggling to conceive.
Meanwhile, I recently got married. My husband and I have talked about having children for years, but only to each other. I am now pregnant.
This should be exciting news to share with a friend I’ve shared so many great moments with in the past. But for some reason this one feels like an insult to her, and I’m worried she will be upset. She said to us once that she “couldn’t handle” if I got pregnant before her, although it was said lightly and interpreted at the time to be in jest. How should I announce this news to my friend? – CO
Tell her straight, and tell her soon. “I have some great news” – because it is great news – “I’m pregnant.”
You may think she’s not happy for you – and she may actually think she resents that you’re pregnant. The moment after you tell her, both will likely be true.
But please predispose yourself toward forgiveness for this, because her dismay won’t be because you’re announcing a pregnancy, and not even because you conceived before she did. She’ll be upset because she’s struggling to conceive.
This might read like a “duh,” but I think it’s important to spell it out when two friends are at risk of mismatching various causes and effects. The thing that will upset her is already in progress and has nothing to do with your news.
Granted, because she has hung so much of her identity on motherhood-to-be, she is likely to feel humiliated – even though, no matter how many cultures over how many ages have tried to make it so, pregnancy is not a personal accomplishment. Biology has the last word. And while she had full say in her decision to prattle on about her family plans, she’s three years into a sentence for hubris that already verges on cruel and unusual punishment. No need for anyone to pile on.
Ideally, your best friend will have the presence of mind to be your best friend: to express happiness for you, and save her own frustration for later – even if “later” is your honest and compassionate conversation two minutes after your announcement.
If her angels lose that battle, though, please maintain some perspective as well as forgiveness. This whole exchange will just be a snapshot in two long, complex, changeable lives. She could become pregnant tomorrow, just as, it’s painful to say, you could become not pregnant. And that’s only the most immediate of countless plot twists that might be in store for you both.
Your friend naively boxed herself into a rigid, prefabricated version of her married life. It will take courage and strength for her, and for you, to avoid repeating that mistake with your friendship.
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