A friend of mine who lives cross-country was in town last night. We met at a bar to catch up. She ordered a glass of wine; I had peppermint tea. By the time the evening was over, I realized that it had been one of the most enjoyable interactions I’d had with a friend in a long time. But at first I couldn’t pinpoint why.
Then I realized—even though we both know I hope to get pregnant, we didn’t talk about pregnancy once. That’s when it hit me: I wish there were things my friends without kids knew about what it’s like to try to get pregnant.
No one is a mind reader when it comes to supporting friends; most of my friends try to be helpful and conversational about my hopes for a baby, which I appreciate. Not having the topic brought up for an entire night, though, felt particularly good. I know there are many women who are or will be in the same boat as me—planning for a child but not necessarily wanting to talk about it all the time. So here’s my take on how to be there for your friend when she’s waiting to become a mother.
01. In between not being pregnant and pregnancy, there is middle ground.
One of the main things that made this encounter with my friend so remarkable was the fact that she didn’t comment when I ordered hot tea.
This may sound silly, but over the months I’ve become accustomed to my friends’ reactions when I skip the Syrah or coffee. They range from a subtle arch of the eyebrow to an ecstatic, “Oh my God, are you pregnant?” The assumption seems to be that only a pregnant woman would pass on alcohol or caffeine, so if I’m drinking sparkling water, I must be expecting.
The truth is that I started eliminating these drinks, as well as certain foods in my diet, months before we started trying for a baby. Why? Because I don’t want to find out I’m pregnant and suddenly feel like I need to weed out a lot of habits. I’d rather have those habits fully gone by then. In the meantime, I’m just enjoying a cup of tea. It’s not a secret signal. It’s not an invitation to ask if I’m pregnant. It’s just a cup of tea.
02. When there’s news to share, I will share it.
I don’t know how long it will take to get pregnant. I don’t even know if I’ll be able to get pregnant. And if I do get pregnant, I don’t know when I’ll feel comfortable sharing that information. But here’s what I do know: When the time comes for me to share, I will. I love that my friends are so supportive. I love that they’re excited for this new chapter in my life. I don’t love getting asked if I’m pregnant every time I go out.
03. Maybe I am pregnant.
This place in between trying to get pregnant and actually being pregnant is limbo land. I act like a pregnant woman, one who doesn’t consume sushi or soft cheese, but I’m not yet pregnant. Or maybe I am?
Here’s the thing: Every month, there are a few weeks when I simply don’t know. My period is not yet due to arrive, and my mind starts interpreting all of my body’s signals in an attempt to decipher pregnancy from normalcy. Are those typical PMS cramps or the signs of a baby? Am I super-tired because I’m getting sick or because there’s a tiny human developing inside my body? Is that nausea I feel or anxiety?
These weeks are incredibly confusing. Each time a sweet, well-intentioned friend inquires about my pregnancy status, it exacerbates the confusion. Every time I’m met with this question, I want to scream, “I don’t know!” And that’s the truth: I don’t know.
04. Not knowing makes everything murky.
When I don’t know if I’m pregnant, my mind is going insane. This insanity typically manifests when I’m working out. My brain rapid-fires: Should I be working my abs right now? Maybe I should skip my core workout until I know for sure. But then what if I’m not pregnant? Am I going to stop doing crunches for two weeks on the chance that I might be pregnant? Wait, am I using this as an excuse to get out of working out? I should probably just stick to my regular routine until I know for sure. But is that safe? So on and so forth.
And that’s only when it comes to exercise. During those crazy Am I/Am I Not? weeks every month, I’m more or less questioning every choice I make, whether it’s about what I’m eating, drinking, or how I’m managing my health.
05. All of a sudden, pregnancy is everywhere.
I don’t remember getting asked by a gym if I was pregnant before I tried to get pregnant, but now it shows up on every form I fill out: Are You Pregnant?
I’m suddenly thinking about pregnancy all the time. When I ate too much at my husband’s birthday party and wanted to pop an antacid for relief, I had to look at the warnings on the box. Because I’ve decided to act as though I’m pregnant until I am, that means most over-the-counter drugs are now off-limits. I have to think twice before getting in a hot tub. I’m looking at everything, from roller coasters to lattes, differently. For someone who is (probably) not yet pregnant, I sure spend a lot of time thinking about pregnancy. Sometimes this feels overwhelming. There’s nothing more refreshing than an evening with friends that includes zero references to pregnancy.
06. I can’t put a date on this.
When I started graduate school, one of the first things I did was put my graduation date in my calendar. After my husband proposed, we nailed down a wedding date within a few weeks. I like knowing when things are going to happen.
But this? I can’t put a date on this. It may take another month to get pregnant. It may take two years. There’s a real possibility that I’ll never be able get pregnant. Despite those crazy weeks I experience in limbo land each month, I’m doing my best not to put too much pressure on myself. I try to take things as they come. I believe that it will happen if it’s meant to happen. And if it’s not going to happen for a year, I really don’t want to spend that year justifying my peppermint tea order over and over again.
07. Support me by treating me the same.
If and when I am pregnant, I understand that a lot of things will change: my body, the dynamics of my friendships, my lifestyle, my priorities. When that time comes, I hope my friends will support me, and I hope I’ll be able to support them in whatever endeavors they pursue.
Until I’m pregnant, though, I’m the same old friend I’ve always been. I’m interested in talking about the same issues we’ve always talked about. The day will come when I’ll want to talk about breast-feeding and potty training, but I’m not there yet.
I still want to talk about the date you went on. I want to hear about your vacation. Tell me about the fight you had with your husband. Talk to me about your job. When the time comes to talk about a baby, we’ll talk about it. Until then, please give me a break from obsessing. There are so many other things about our lives that I’d love for us to discuss!
Photo Credit: The Kitcheners