Infertility: It is Okay to Decline a… | Counseling | Therapy

Infertility: It is Okay to Decline a Friend’s Baby Shower


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Nawaal Amer (Intern Therapist)

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Georgine Atacan, MSW, LSW (Associate Therapist)

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Baby Shower: Pregnancy & Newborns & Infertility Issues image

Another baby shower invite and you panic. Why does attending a baby shower always make you feel so bad about your own infertility? How can being happy for your friend’s pregnancy be so easy for everyone else? You remember when you had so much fun getting together with your friends and planning for parenthood, but now celebrating your friends’ successes at motherhood brings such painful memories. All you want to do is decline these types of get-togethers.

The journey of infertility can be isolating. You still want to maintain your friendships and support systems but attending events like your friends’ baby showers and children’s birthday parties may be just too difficult. You also may feel like you have nothing to talk about anymore. It feels like the conversation always turns to motherhood and children. You may feel guilty about having honest conversations with your friends. You don’t feel like talking about your experience with infertility is what your friends want to talk about. Furthermore, many of your friends simply can’t relate. They have children. You don’t. One of the hardest parts is that infertility can make celebrating milestones related to motherhood a painful experience.

You feel like you are all alone. You feel even worse for wanting to decline all invites that would force you to be around your friends or hear about their successful pregnancies, fantastic birthing stories, or their babies firsts. You are happy for your friends, but at the same time the fact that they can have a baby and you can’t makes you so mad. You may wonder why they deserve to have parenthood come so easily when you and your husband have no luck getting pregnant. What did you ever do wrong to deserve this?

Giving yourself permission to have mixed feelings about your friends’ pregnancies and or their experiences with parenthood is a good start, but the question is how should you handle your reaction to your close friend’s inclusive invitation to such a happy moment in time. Aren’t close friends supposed to be there for other’s good times as well as their bad times?

So what do you do about the invite to celebrate a friend’s baby shower? You are required to go right? You can’t decline, or could you? Deciding on how to navigate social situations, especially situations that revolve around pregnancies and children, can be difficult. You want to be a good friend but at the same time, it is most important to look out for yourself. Here are some ideas on how to navigate this confusing journey.

Your emotions are okay. I mean all of them. That anger you feel is perfectly normal. Those feelings of jealousy, they are okay too. Do not feel guilty about the emotions that you are experiencing. You are dealing with a trauma. Your emotions are completely normal and completely valid. That guilt you experience, I want to say do not feel it, but I can’t. Guilt is an emotion you will definitely experience, especially when you decide to decline an invite…which is my next suggestion.

You are not obligated to go to events or parties that make you feel upset, sad, or depressed. Your friendships are based on more than just social gatherings. If you are comfortable, share with them what you are going through. You are not obligated to do this, but sometimes it can make you feel like a weight has been lifted off your chest. Feel free to say as much or as little as you want. For example, you could say:

What a beautiful invite. I wish I could attend and celebrate this special event with you. I know how much having a baby means to you and your husband. I look forward in the future to meeting your little one in person.

My husband and I are going through a really difficult situation right now, but I am not ready to talk about it. The reason I am sharing this much is that I really value our relationship and I want to give you some context to understand my behavior.

Joe and I have been trying to start a family. We have been working with a fertility doctor because we were having a difficult time becoming pregnant. Baby related events are still too painful for me. I haven’t come to terms yet with this experience that I am going through. Please keep reaching out to me and including me. I am really excited for you. Your friendship really means a lot.

If you do decide to share your experiences of infertility with your friends, it may make it easier for your friends to understand why you are declining to attend the baby showers. Just remember, you chose your friends because they are good people and care about you. Your friends would not want you to attend something that makes you feel bad.

Ways to politely decline an invite to attend a baby shower invite or other child-focused event are described below. First, decide whether to disclose your infertility. If you do decide to disclose your infertility follow these simple suggestions.

1. Thank your friend for the invitation to their event. Use flowery language. Allow yourself permission to share how much this inclusion means to you.

I am so touched that you included me on your guest list. This is a very special moment. I couldn’t be happier for the three of you. In celebration of this pregnancy, I got the little peanut a silver cup. Every baby needs one.

2. Let them know that you would love to attend, but because of what you are going through it would just be too difficult.

I want to celebrate with you, but I hope you can understand that right now because of my own difficulties getting pregnant, I feel like it would be just too emotional for me.

3. Ask if your friend would like to celebrate in another way. Give her some ideas that are within your comfort zone. This way you can be there for her AND be true to yourself.

A large party with people may be too much, but you may want to suggest doing something together. For instance, you could plan a dinner out, go to the movies, or even swim with her. Doing an activity together that is not directly baby related is okay. If your friend offers suggestions it’s okay to negotiate. Trust that the two of you will be able to find something that will work for both of you. And during your outing if you are in the emotional space you can ask her about what the pregnancy has been like for her, or what her hopes, dreams, and fears are. And if you are not in the zone, focus on other topics of connection. Most people struggling with infertility have good days and bad days. Give yourself permission to have mood swings.

4. Send a gift.

Even though you can not be there in person, a gift lets your friend know that you are thinking about them. This may also help to alleviate some anxiety you may be experiencing about not being able to make it to the baby shower.

5. Feel OKAY about your decision to prioritize yourself. Self care is one of the most important gifts you can give yourself.

Tell yourself, “It is okay if I say yes to myself.

If you decide to not disclose your infertility diagnosis follow these steps to declining an invite.

1. Thank your friend for the invitation to the event. (see above)

2. Let them know you would love to attend, but will be unable to.

Be honest. Do not embellish the truth. If you are unable to make it because it will be too difficult with infertility you do not need to say that, but do not make up an excuse. It is okay to make your response short. You do not want to be caught in a lie.

I would love to be there to celebrate with you, but unfortunately I will be unable to make it.

3. Ask your friend if they would like to celebrate at another time. (see above)

4. Send a gift.

5. Feel OKAY about your decision. (see above)

The most important thing to remember is that it is okay to say “NO”. This is important for your own mental health. Putting yourself first is hard to do, but something we need to practice. If you feel guilty just remind yourself that you have a perfectly valid reason for saying “NO”. Do not be afraid to use this two letter word. Your friends will understand.

If you are struggling with putting yourself first and want help, you can self schedule an inperson or a virtual therapy appointment at The Center for Growth Therapy Offices in PA, NJ, VA, GA, NM, FL or call 215 922 5683 x 100

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