Because Life Isn’t a Rom-Com

We all know the scene from movies and sitcoms. We know how it’s supposed to go. Your friend announces her pregnancy, and you both scream and dance around and cry happy tears. Maybe you offer to pop a bottle of bubbly before realizing — d’oh — no champagne for your friend for another 6 to 9 months!

Haha, everyone laughs and goes back to sharing their excitement over this amazing little bun in the oven.

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However, it’s important to note that there are times when it doesn’t quite feel that way to the person receiving the announcement (even when the pregnancy is planned). For example, it’s a bittersweet piece of news for anyone dealing with infertility or mourning a miscarriage to receive — and I would hope that, if the happy parents-to-be are aware of their friend’s situation, they’d be thoughtful in how they share their news.

Where I’ve personally struggled, though, falls into a far different category. I’m child-free by choice, and really secure in that decision. When I meet someone in a situation similar to mine (namely, someone who, on the surface, you’d probably expect to have children), I think it’s a bit like when a mom meets a new mom friend with similar parenting views — often there’s an instant bond, or, at the very least, there’s an acknowledgement of a shared experience outside of the societal norm.

Which is why it can be kind of tough when one of those friends tells me she’s pregnant.

Before you rush to judge me as a horrible person for reacting in any way other than pure joy, give me a moment (and please know that I’ve questioned myself about the root of those feelings ad nauseam). It’s not that I’m not happy for my friend — I am always happy for anyone who wants to have children and is able to conceive. It’s a freaking miracle and it’s amazing and, at my core, I am beyond thrilled for her and her family. I am so well aware that her decision to have a child has nothing to do with me — and it shouldn’t. If anything in the world is not about me, it’s someone’s decision to procreate.

But that doesn’t mean that a small part of me doesn’t feel … well, a little bit betrayed.

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That might be a little overdramatic, I guess — but hear me out.

There just aren’t a ton of people in this particular club, you see. While I absolutely love my mom friends and will go to many lengths to maintain those friendships, there are certain things we just don’t understand about one another. Many of them can’t fathom anything worse than not being able to expand their family, while the idea of a plus sign on a pee stick is positively terrifying to me.

Having people in my life who not only respect, but truly get my choice rocks, so it’s not only the fact their lives are going to change and revolve around a baby for a while that’s difficult to swallow — in fact, I think the bigger issue is that I inevitably question whether I misunderstood some fundamental things about my friend (and about our relationship) all along. I thought we were on the same page, but if she’s now expecting on purpose and excited about it, then, obviously, in some ways we just weren’t.

I mean, think about it. Imagine that you make a new friend and immediately bond over the fact that you’re both, say, vegan. You both have lots of friends who aren’t vegan, of course, but there are certain things that are special to the two of you. And then, after a few years, she calls you up to say, “Guess what? I’m eating the world’s most delicious cheeseburger and it’s so wonderful I could just cry!” I mean, you’re probably happy she’s eating a meal she’s enjoying, but you’d probably mourn the loss of that bond, right?

So, you’re probably waiting for a succinct wrap up, right? Maybe a solution or a heartwarming anecdote about how I’ve overcome this?

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I’ve got nothin’. This was tough to share here — it was actually something I found challenging to even talk about with Jenn, and we talk about everything. But I figured that, if I feel so conflicted over it, I’m probably not the only one, and I wanted to let others know they’re not alone.

We’ve got to support our friends as they grow and change and make the decisions that are best for themselves and their families — that’s what friendship is all about. But if that sometimes comes along with a slight punch-in-the-gut type of feeling, that doesn’t make you an awful person. It makes you human — and in the end, that’s a really good thing.

Anybody out there with me on this? Whether you agree, think I’m being selfish, or have suggestions or stories to share, I’d love to hear from you on this topic. —Kristen

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  1. I can imagine a scenario in which someone has had a hard time conceiving but hasn’t shared that with all her friends, and that one way to avoid that painful topic with her friends is to act outwardly as if she doesn’t want kids. Or one in which someone who doesn’t want kids ends up pregnant and feels like they have to act excited about it even if they don’t feel that way to avoid people suggesting abortion or offering sympathy or explaining how contraceptives work or otherwise acting inappropriately to the news that the pregnancy was unplanned. But I could see how that sudden shift in status could feel like a betrayal to someone who didn’t know.

    I have two kids and have had two miscarriages since my younger son was born. People ask me all the time if I want more kids. The truthful answer is that it’s really complicated, and most of the time I don’t want to get into it, even with people close to me. It’s easier to tell people, even friends, that I think we’re done than to deal with the fact that it just might not work out for me to have more. It’s hard to even discuss with my husband. If I were to get pregnant again, would my friends who thought I was done feel like I was lying to them? Maybe. (Its certainly not the same as going from saying I don’t want kids to suddenly being excited about having one, but I could image mom friends saying “but I thought we agreed we were done with the baby stage and ready to get to do more grown-up things together!”)

    The topic of wanting kids or not and infertility and miscarriage is still so taboo, or at least emotionally laden, that many of us feel like we can’t be open or honest about what we want and what we’re experiencing except with our very closest confidants. Women in generally feel that their situations and decisions are highly scrutinized and judged by everyone around them, and in many cases, it’s absolutely true. The best we can do is to be supportive of each other and to limit our judgement and practice empathy, even when we feel like our friend hasn’t been totally honest with us. Usually there is hurt an fear that lies beneath those unspoken or hidden truths.