I hate to make everything seem to be an analysis, but I and my husband are in a unique position to conduct our own social anthropological study on people’s general reactions to a pregnancy announcement. I say “unique” because, of course, we each had our turns of being labeled infertile separately and together – unbeknownst to most family and friends.
So it’s been interesting, to say the least, to see the different levels of reactions. Those who have been through miscarriages or infertility themselves are not unsurprised by your cautious optimism, and wish you simply the best. They make no extraneous commentary, full aware of the minefield of inappropriate things to say. They are just simply really happy for you and there to support you.
Then there are those who know about your difficulties but it’s still such a foreign concept to them that they try to say what they think is helpful but in reality isn’t. Take my mother’s response, for instance. She was overjoyed, for sure, and very happy for us. I told her that I didn’t even know I was pregnant, that we had started picking up the pieces from the miscarriage and thinking about alternatives like no-children or adoption. And that prompted her to say, “See, it happens when you don’t think about it… when you relax.” Well, I’d say that month was anything but relaxing, as I was coming to terms with trying to believe you could still make a significant valuable contribution to the world without having children. In fact I felt more like I had given up than I had stopped thinking about it. As “what-not-to-say” comments go, this one stings a little but is meant from a supportive place.
And then there are those who really should know better. Like my stepfather. Who is super excited. But who sometimes makes jokes when you really shouldn’t. The summer we got married we were at a bbq at my parent’s house, and my stepdad handed me one of his friends’ babies to babysit. “Here,” he said, “Start practicing.” That was five years ago. So it wasn’t an unlikely scenario to have him say, “It’s about freaking time!” when I told him the news. But it did go a little too far when he followed with, “I was about to have a chat with your husband to make sure he knew what he was doing, I mean, jeez! What’s the holdup?!” That make it super fun to transition into my unicornuate explanation – which I realize is a highly uncomfortable discussion for men in the first place. And he redeemed himself – just a little – with his supportive comments to that part of the news. “Having gone through this, as you know, four times [with my four stepsiblings], I am a firm believer that if it’s meant to be, it’s meant to be, and whatever happens is what was meant to happen.”
My husband, I suspect, is having an easier time with this. He’s told only a few people at his job who absolutely need to know (since he’s been leaving for doctor’s appointments), and although he tells me they congratulate him, I just keep picturing the guys giving him high-fives, as if he’s achieved a milestone on the road to ultimate manhood. Like something tantamount to owning a motorcycle. Meanwhile, the rest of us women are left to stare down at our pooches and wonder just how much the little
parasite bundle of joy will take over and if our bodies, minds, and lives will ever return to normal.