I have a twin! I discovered my twin quite by accident. She lives on the other side of the world and we’re not identical in looks, but we are identical in fertility and in our thoughts on fertility. Stacey is somebody who totally “gets” and can relate to my thoughts and feelings on infertility, mostly because our journey’s have been almost identical. So this week, I’ve been doing a series of postings on my blog about my thoughts and feelings and needs in terms of coping with me when I’m pregnant and coping with me when I miscarry. Stacey did this fantastic post on announcing a pregnancy to somebody who’s battled infertility and RPLand I figured I’d include it on my blog as her thoughts are identical to mine.
“I’ve been having a lot of thoughts lately about the topic of pregnancy announcements. I feel like I say this a lot on my blog, but please understand that I don’t write anything here to try to take a stab at some particular person who might be reading. I don’t write to make anyone feel guilty about how they might have handled a certain situation. I write here to share my feelings about all aspects of living with infertility and miscarriage. When I write about a topic like this one today, I hope to open up some dialogue between people on different sides of the issue. So, with that disclaimer out of the way, here goes.
The fact is that for most people in my situation, hearing pregnancy announcements is hard. As much as I don’t want that to be true, it is. I wish I could explain just how much I wish it didn’t have to be an issue at all. I remember way back when it wasn’t, and I long for that day to come again. How the news is delivered actually does make a difference, I believe. Trust me when I tell you that in 8 years I have heard lots of pregnancy announcements. For organization’s sake, I’ll list out a few scenarios and comment on each individually.
1. The Surprise
This is the pregnancy announcement that comes totally out of the blue and is usually delivered in a group setting, at a party, at a restaurant, at a family reunion or holiday gathering, or wherever. I’m not saying there is anything wrong with gathering up your family and friends for your special announcement, but certainly if there’s someone in the crowd that you know has had difficulty with infertility or miscarriage, there is probably a better way to let them in on it. I can’t speak for everyone but I can tell you that being in my shoes and being blindsided with pregnancy info in a public place is hard. Keep in mind, I’m not upset that the couple is having a baby! I’m upset because I know that my feelings will be on display in this room full of people who know what I’m going through and are looking for my reaction. I know it’s not about me, but suddenly I feel put on the spot and I have to fight with myself to keep it together.
2. The Guessing Game
Oh, how I hate this one. I know that finding out that you’re pregnant is exciting. I know that you just got married two months ago and you “weren’t even trying,” and oops, this is totally an accident and you have no idea how it happened. I know that you just peed on a stick and saw two lines and haven’t been to the doctor yet but you just can’t wait to tell everybody. (Yes, I’m being snarky, but I really do understand that it’s their right to tell people whenever and however they want.) But seriously, if you want me to know that you’re pregnant, please don’t make me guess what the great news is. Don’t play around and send me an e-mail that says you’re really excited about something that will be happening on a date that is exactly 9 months from today. I’m not dumb enough to have absolutely no idea what that news could be. The bottom line here is that I’d rather just hear the news, plain and simple, no guessing games. I’m happy for you, but this game is not my idea of fun.
3. The Mass E-mail/text message
I actually don’t mind being told about a friend’s pregnancy by e-mail or even text message. I’ll tell you why: because I don’t have to worry about my reaction. I don’t have to be concerned about whether my voice sounds shaky or sincere. I hope that my friends know me well enough to know that I do rejoice in their good fortune. Even if I feel sad for me, I can feel happy for them. Particularly for friends who have had problems with pregnancy or conception, I’ve most likely been praying that it will happen for them! But it’s hard when, like I mentioned earlier, I feel put on the spot or feel like I have to make my enthusiasm over the news match their own. When the news comes by message, I can deal with it however I need to at that moment, and I can reply when I’m ready with my congratulations.
There is one downside to this mass text messaging business. Hearing the important news that you’re pregnant or that the baby was just born or things like that by text message is totally fine with me. I don’t, however, need a mass text message sent to my phone every single time you have an ultrasound or doctor’s appointment, felt the baby move, or had false labor pains. There really is such a thing as too much information! That’s not to say that I don’t want to be involved in a family member or close friend’s life, but that kind of info is hard to hear constantly when you’ve been through painful experiences with pregnancy.
4. The “This Isn’t a Big Deal”
Yes, it’s a bit hard to get through a pregnancy announcement where the person is absolutely overjoyed and goes on and on about how awesome their life is. But I kinda get that. I understand in a way. I’ve been pregnant before, and yes, I even remember what it was like when I didn’t have the dark cloud of recurrent miscarriage following me around. I know full well that finding out you’re expecting a baby is a joyful time. But sometimes I get reactions that go the other way and I never know what to do with that. To tell you the truth, it’s weird to get a ho-hum-I-guess-I’m-pregnant-it’s-no-big-deal announcement. I’ll have people casually ask me, “Oh, did you hear we might be pregnant?” They just shrug it off like it’s not anything to get excited over. I get the feeling that this is perhaps to cushion the blow or protect my feelings. As much as I think those people are well-intentioned, I would rather if they would just be authentic with me. It’s ok that you’re excited. You don’t have to pretend that you aren’t!
5. The “Wait, I Didn’t Tell You?”
As hard as the pregnancy announcement might be to someone who has been waiting for years and years for their own baby, the non-announcement can be just as painful. There have been many times where my husband and I are the last people on the planet to hear the news from a friend. If it’s someone we don’t see often, sometimes we don’t ever hear about the pregnancy until the child is born! Of course, I know that people lose touch, but I can’t help but get the feeling that the friend didn’t know what to say, so they chose to say nothing. To be honest, leaving us in the dark for that long makes us feel like our friendship is not important, or that you think we don’t care when in fact we do. I’ll never forget going to church one day when all of my girlfriends were talking about the cute baby announcement they’d gotten in the mail from one of our friends who had moved away. I hadn’t gotten one. I blamed it on the mail being slow, but it never came.
Really, the bottom line is that everyone is certainly allowed to announce their pregnancy in any way they choose. If, however, you have a friend in my situation, she will be grateful if you consider her feelings when sharing your news the next time around. Maybe you feel like the list above leaves you with no options! Now I’d love to share some ways that I feel people have done it very well.
1. Be honest & real.
These are my two favorite characteristics in people! I love it when my friends are straightforward. They have some news to tell me, so they call me up or send me a message and they deliver the news in a direct and heartfelt way. They know that I love them and care about them, and that I’m happy about their news and wish them the best. They don’t feel the need to apologize about their pregnancy, and they don’t push me to share my deepest feelings about my situation in that moment.
2. Be sensitive.
I’m not saying you have to get emotional or feel sad for me when you have happy news. Friendship is about give and take. It’s about being there for every step along the way, for all the ups and downs that will come in life. I remember when a friend called to tell me she was having her second baby while my first loss was still very fresh. She cried with me and said that she wished we could have shared the experience together. I knew that in her joy she was still sad for me, and she knew that in my sorrow I was still happy for her. That’s what friendship is. No, you don’t have to cry if that’s not what you’re feeling. Being authentic and sincere, though, is definitely the way to go. The overall attitude of the person sharing the news can make or break the whole experience, I think.
3. Be forthcoming.
Recently I got an e-mail from a friend asking if we could get together for lunch so she could share some big news with me in person. Of course you know what was going through my head. A little while later she sent me another message telling me that it was work-related so I wouldn’t be wondering what it was. I loved that. How refreshing! It felt good to let my guard down and enjoy lunch with my girlfriend without wondering what was about to happen or how I might react. I didn’t feel like I was being set up for any ambush either. Had she been announcing a pregnancy, though, I have to say that I would have wanted to hear about it in a straightforward way right then in the e-mail. Making an appointment to talk about it one-on-one would make me pretty uncomfortable right now and can be very overwhelming.
One of the greatest things is when those rare friendships come along that will have the same comfortable, easy feeling no matter what life throws at us. I treasure my dear friends who have managed to not allow pregnancy or motherhood or anything else to change what we have. They teach me things about parenting year after year – the joys as well as the struggles. It’s good to have friends who are great parents to their children, and I value that. Unfortunately there are some friendships that don’t hold up through extended times of grief for whatever reason, and I find that very sad.
Whew, even after such a long post I feel like there is more to be said on this topic. I also want to talk about announcements within the infertility community as well, but that’s for another post and another day (very soon). The last thing in the world that I want here is to come across as whiny and selfish. I think being honest about these feelings is good, and I encourage you to let me know whether you agree or disagree with any of these points. I don’t claim to speak for any one group of people – I know that every single person has their own feelings and opinions about this, so please share!”