To stop talking to a friend over this bonkers situation?

(126 Posts)
WombOfOnesOwn Tue 17-May-16 17:11:59

This is a weird one, so bear with me, I'd rather lay it all out here than drip feed.

Last year, DH and I moved a long distance (we live in the US) and met up with a couple he'd known from his school days, since they were some of the only people we knew in the large general area where we moved to.

Shockingly (to me, at least, as I find it somewhat hard to find friends after graduating university), we got along very, very well -- excellent conversations, easy to talk to even though we didn't agree on everything. We had new friends, even though they lived a few hours away!

The couple in question had two DC's already, ages 5 and 4, very sweet young children. She wants to have many more children -- they are not religious, but they have a very out-there, self-sufficient, off-the-grid lifestyle: she trained as a midwife, though she's a SAHM now. They don't do a lot of traditional medicine stuff, and they make EVERYTHING themselves, from shoes to salt. A little strange, sure, but nothing that made me say anything more than "well, that's not how I would do it."

I suffered from infertility for a number of years, and I'm at that age where it seems like everyone around me is having babies, so when my new friend told me that she was pregnant again, I felt a mixture of envy and joy for her. She had suffered losses of her own: two stillbirths, both of girl children, and one of her sons was premature and had a traumatic birth and NICU stay.

She was hopeful and proud about her pregnancy, and two weeks later, a freaking miracle happened: I got a positive pregnancy test, too. We were going to have babies together, with due dates just 8 weeks apart! I couldn't have been more thrilled.

We met up a few times during pregnancy, though during the third trimester I was feeling way too out-of-sorts to make the three-hour drive.

This is probably time to mention: both my friend and I are fat women. It's relevant to the issue, trust me on this one.

You see, she was supposed to have her baby 8 weeks before me. I planned to go as doula support for her birth, but she went late, and I wasn't feeling as well as I had been.

Then, suddenly, it was my due date, and she still hadn't had her baby.

We were emailing a LOT during pregnancy, but I slowly started to realize as my due date drew nearer that it was likely she was experiencing pseudocyesis (false/"hysterical" pregnancy, though that term is messed up). She was doing an unassisted pregnancy and planned an unassisted birth, and was making excuses not to go in and see a doctor. She claimed she could hear a fetal heartbeat on fetoscope, but this is something many women with this condition can experience.

My baby is now nearly 12 weeks old. I haven't heard from my friend since he was 7 weeks old, when she was still sure she would give birth any day now (and had at that point claimed to be feeling labor symptoms for about 14 weeks). The last email she sent was about how her pregnancy and birth group had kicked her out, saying no one could be pregnant for that long and that she was either lying or delusional. She was incredibly angry about this and was looking for support.

I never emailed her back. I feel crushingly guilty about it, but I just...didn't know what to do. Her husband has been with her since they were both young teenagers and experienced the trauma of her stillbirths with her -- he is very deferent to her in all matters relating to birth and pregnancy, and won't force her to the hospital.

I feel actually kind of scared to write back, and especially scared about the potential of meeting up with them any time before this issue is 100% resolved and she is mentally well again. My concern is one that feels crazy to me, but also that I know is a thing that really happens: women with pseudocyesis, caught in a shame and mental illness spiral, and with family and friends all wondering where that baby is, can sometimes go crazy enough to kill a woman who is pregnant or has a new baby, then steal the baby (pregnant women are killed this way every year, at least in the US -- the woman with pseudocyesis usually cuts the baby out of the pregnant woman, as horrifying as that is).

I know it's likely that I'm being overprotective and that my friend is not likely to be a killer (I can barely even believe I'm saying she could be one!). But it wasn't likely that when she announced her pregnancy, she'd still be claiming to be pregnant a year later. I want to help her get well, but I want to protect myself and my infant son, too.

Now that I've written you a book, any advice? I'm at such a loss.

Could your DH speak to her DH as they are old friends and see if he can get a clearer picture of what is going on? Based on their conversation you might have a better idea what to do next.

iwantavuvezela Tue 17-May-16 17:17:43

Could your husband reach out to his friend (the other husband), perhaps he could do with someone to talk to

JonSnowsBeardClippings Tue 17-May-16 17:19:15

Wow. Someone needs to have a serious word with her husband.

FellOutOfBedTwice Tue 17-May-16 17:23:36

Jesus! That's bonkers. My paternal grandmother had a "hysterical" pregnancy when my Dad was a child (long story but it made sense that it happened as my fathers early years were traumatic, his Dad left them, my Dad was briefly in care and then lived with relatives etc) but it was only the beginning of further mental health issues and she was eventually sectioned and institutionalised. Now this was 1940s London so the treatment will have definitely changed but my grandmother has never been the same. This is a big deal.

WombOfOnesOwn Tue 17-May-16 17:24:42

We've been thinking that might be what would be the right next step -- for my DH to talk to her DH. I worried about going "over her head," but her head might need going over right now. I feel terrible for her. I don't think she did this on purpose in any way, and that this is probably linked psychologically to her stillbirths. I can't imagine how painful it must've been to her to have a friend get actually pregnant right after her pseudocyesis began.

I feel like the worst case scenario here (other than the crazy one I've concocted where she's a secret killer!) is for my DH to contact hers, and then suddenly for there to be an actual baby produced in a few weeks or a month. After all, if they're not taking steps to prevent pregnancy, she could always have gotten pregnant any time during this past year. Then it'd be a loss of friendship all around as she claims she was right all along and just pregnant forever, and he rallies around her. But I guess if that's the kind of people they are, perhaps we're better off knowing?

SummerRain Tue 17-May-16 17:26:31

I agree with the others... this isn't for you to deal with. Her husband needs to get a grip and help her.

Hopefully in the weeks since you've last heard he has done so and she's receiving help but might be no harm to get your husband to contact his friend and check on things.

I don't think you're overreacting to be concerned btw.... even if she's not dangerous I doubt being around you and your baby is the best thing for her mental health right now... contact from you could be quite damaging to her atm so best to stay out of direct contact until she's well again.

Myinlawsdidthisthebastards Tue 17-May-16 17:29:11

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

Woodenmouse Tue 17-May-16 17:29:52

Can you or your dh talk to her dh? He might need some support.

StuRedman Tue 17-May-16 17:32:24

Blimey what a tricky situation. Can your Dh talk to her Dh? What's his take on it?

MadamDeathstare Tue 17-May-16 17:33:00

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

WreckingBallsInsideMyHead Tue 17-May-16 17:34:00

She sounds like she needs help, and I expect her husband and children do too right now. If they're "off the grid" and she wasn't under the care of a midwife then she or her husband will need to be more proactive about seeking that help now. And thst may not be in line with their beliefs about how to live their lives. I think your husband talking to hers is a good idea, as they're friends too. He may appreciate having someone to talk to but your DH needs to be prepared that he may get rejected on his attempts to help.

Yanbu to stay away yourself with the baby, I don't know enough to say whether she's a danger to you both or not, but I can't imagine how seeing you with your baby would make her feel.

WombOfOnesOwn Tue 17-May-16 17:34:37

Looks like there's a consensus, then. I'll definitely talk to my husband about talking to hers. I feel so defeated by this in some ways -- I thought I'd have a friend nearby with a baby the same age to commiserate with, and now am stuck in an ugly situation that feels no-win instead.

Hassled Tue 17-May-16 17:39:37

I think you're making a bit of a leap from "she has serious mental health issues" to "me and my baby are at risk from her". And I can understand why you've made that leap, absolutely - but presumably most women with pseudocyesis are not a risk to anyone else's child. I think the suggestion that your DH takes over in the making of contact is a good one - you obviously like and care about this woman, you need to know how she is but contact with someone who has just had a baby successfully will be hard for her.

Leeds2 Tue 17-May-16 17:40:13

Did she talk about her "pregnancy" in front of her DH? Just wondering if he knew what she was saying. And had she put any weight on?

steff13 Tue 17-May-16 17:43:44

Agree with PPs, either you or your husband should talk to her husband. She needs some serious help.

Congratulations on your baby!

leghoul Tue 17-May-16 17:48:08

I think you should reply and ask how she's doing.

Don't mention babies/pregnancies for the time being. But while it may seem alien and scary, it sounds like she's been through some significant traumas and actually, what might help her is having a friend.

Maybe she needs to talk about her stillborn daughters, their names, etc - maybe your DH could suggest to her DH IF the time came up the details of a helpline or support service that could be of benefit to her. It would be nice if you could still be her friend after all of this as she sounds very isolated. Break the ice, and get DH to call hers, that's what I'd do..

SeaEagleFeather Tue 17-May-16 17:49:06

I think the chances of anything happening are extraordinarily remote; but I also think that talking to your husband about chatting to her husband is the best you can do.

I know it's very disappointing and you don't want to lose her as a friend especially as you are isolated, but I think you have to face that possibility. Most foreseeable results now arent that good; either she'll be very let down by you, or she'll be saying 'i was right all along!" and that will be hard to grit your teeth through, or she will dislike you.

If there's a way back to this friendship where both of you are happy, it's probably going to take some time.

Btw the gf of my husband's father says she had a 13 month and a 15 month pregnancy. (But then she's a very odd person. I don't know why but my hackles rise around her and I won't leave my children alone with her; that could be my issue though)

nobilityobliges Tue 17-May-16 17:52:11

Errr. I would presume that her husband is aware that she is not pregnant. I think that "having your husband talking to her husband about sorting her out" sounds at best misguided and naïve and at worst incredibly creepy and patriarchal (let the rational men step in and control the dangerous and crazy woman). I think you either need to reach out to her as a friend -- you don't need to have her round her child if you don't feel comfortable with that, but I fail to see how sending her a sympathetic email asking how she is is going to put you in danger of your life -- or leave the couple to it. FWIW I would agree that it's a warning flag if she has serious mental health issues and won't see a doctor because of ideological reasons, and I might well distance myself from a friend in this situation if it meant I didn't feel comfortable around them.

JinRamen Tue 17-May-16 17:53:34

Hopefully the dh's talking will get your friend the help she needs.

Congrats on your baby.

nobilityobliges Tue 17-May-16 17:54:29

Sorry, if I didn't make it clear but my view is that if you want to talk to her about her health, you must talk/email HER and not her husband. Anything else is really patronising and undermining of her autonomy. Think about how you would like it if your friends were getting their menfolk to tell your husband how to "handle" your health. It's just not appropriate. At all. I'm wondering if you're living in some corner of the States where deferring to men is normal.

MiddleClassProblem Tue 17-May-16 17:56:14

I think she just needs her DH (prompted by yours) to take her to a doctor for the "pregnancy". I would get DH to suggest it wasn't real but just that it's taking so long there might be something not right and it's worth just checking if they're healthy. As you said she might be pregnant by now anyway.

nobilityobliges Tue 17-May-16 17:59:50

I also find the claim that pregnant women are killed this way every year vastly unbelievable. I found two cases from the last decade in a cursory google search. Are you sure that you don't have anxieties that are magnifying your perception of this situation?

MummyBex1985 Tue 17-May-16 17:59:54

Gosh. Possibly the first time I've been lost for words.

Huge congratulations on your much longed for baby though flowers

leghoul Tue 17-May-16 18:00:13

yes it would be better coming from you directly
I was thinking as her DH/yours are good friends then their continuing friendship might help, but I do think you should reach out to her yourself and see what happens
I'd be more inclined to feel concerned for her than concerned about her
you might get nothing back, of course, but think it would be kind to try

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