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Carolyn Hax: Best friend’s pregnancy news comes at a difficult time

(Nick Galifianakis/For The Washington Post)

Adapted from an online discussion.

Dear Carolyn: My wife and I, both women, recently made the tough decision to not have kids. It’s part expense, part pandemic-induced economic uncertainty, and part lack of enthusiasm on my wife’s part. I’m grieving, but working (with my therapist!) to move through it.

My very best friend in the entire world, who has been trying with her wife to get pregnant for a while, called me and told me she's pregnant last week. I'm OVERJOYED for her! But it's also bringing back waves of grief.

My BFF and her wife each got to tell one person about the pregnancy — for support during the first few months and also to ensure they’re not isolated/alone if something happens in the first few months — and I’m her one person. So I can’t pull back from her right now; she needs me and I really want to be there for her. And BFF knows about our decision and knows I’m struggling with it. And I’m so grateful for her presence in my life — she’s the only friend who doesn’t tell me stories about how awful children are to try to “cheer me up” about not having kids.

I know the only way past my grief is through it, but I’m wondering if you can provide any advice for being supportive and full of joy with my friend while I’m also grieving the fact that I’ll never have a kid of my own.

— Grieving

Grieving: Oh I’m sorry. Sounds like you need your own “one person” to lean on. Not this friend, of course, and not your wife, but someone outside the swirl of emotion. Your therapist may be the right person, even — if you can mentally treat your sessions as the place where you dump out all the difficult things to clear yourself for being supportive. Like, create a visual of it — a bucket you empty? chalkboard you erase? And have a tangible cue or reference handy to help bring you back to that point if you feel yourself drifting into sadness.

You can also thank her for giving you this tremendous vote of BFF confidence, vow to keep trying to live up to it, and still suggest she choose a backup support person, too, as you work through your own grief.

One thing you didn’t ask about, but it’s something I’ve said before and it’s apt here because I actually object to the decision at the foundation of this near-torture: The “one friend who is sworn to secrecy because something might happen in the early months” thing? It drives me nuts. Well, that’s maybe overstating it … but the idea that info must be on Lockdown Till Week 12 is a kind of rigidity that gets way too much of a pass.

Yes, a lot can happen in a pregnancy, and yes, a lot of the things that happen occur more often in the first tri, and yes, it’s agony to go from sharing great news to having to share news of a pregnancy loss. It’s terrible and there’s a real origin to the practice.

But over the years I have seen so many contortions done in the name of protecting this news embargo so absolutely !!! that it seems way out of proportion. Tell your innermost circle, the handful of people you’d want to know good news or bad. Trust them and trust yourself to let go of utter control of the news. It’s just a kinder thing to ask of our loved ones, even those who aren’t grieving the exact thing they’re being asked to celebrate.

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