Monday, January 12, 2009

Announcements (Part One)

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!


Alicia said...

I too am so thankful for those friendships durring this time that are just totaly comfortable no matter what happens. Good post!

Dan & Hillary and little Russell said...

I had to warn a (non IF) friend recently of this very thing: avoiding another IF friend and hoping I would tell her myself. I really appreciate this post and I myself have learned a lot about this in the last few years. The pain doesn't lessen even if you do have a little one:-(

Anonymous said...

I just want to say that I agree wholeheartedly with the diffuculty of announcements especially in a large group. I actually had to deal with this last night at a party two days after getting yet another negative while we've been trying for 7 years. It's not good to start bawling at a party

Lauren said...

Thank you so much for sharing this! This has been something that I must confess I've fumbled on several times, so I appreciate your candor and advice. As always. :o)

Amy said...

Wow, Stacey. I don't know if you read my blog today, but this could not have come at a more appropriate time for me. I feel like the only way I find out about friend's pregnancies anymore is through their facebook status, of all things. Yes, I am glad that it isn't always face to face so I can have time to adjust, but I feel like it is an announcement/non-announcement. Like they are just throwing it up there on their wall, and letting whoever wants to comment do so.

I read on facebook two nights ago about a friend who is pregnant with their fourth baby. I was pretty down about it then. But I saw her tonight and before she could even say anything, I told her congratulations. She said, "How did you know? I wanted to tell you myself." I said, "Um, facebook, nerd."

But then she told me how her cousin was pregnant the same timing as her, and just miscarried, and that made her think of me and that she was praying for me yesterday. That one thing just made it so much more sensitive. That we could be happy for her, but that she still was praying for me...that was special.

Thanks for sharing, Stacey. You speak for so many of us so well. :)

Tanner's said...

What a great post Stace, I think you did a great job...I just love you! I miss you and will write you soon with updates,
lots of love,

Stacey said...

You guys are so awesome. Thanks for the support you always give here. I was unsure about posting this because of how it might come across. I thought about going back to edit some stuff out but I'm leaving it how it is because it's how I really felt. Thanks for understanding. I know that so many of you have been there.

Amy, no I haven't read your post and now I'm really wondering why my feedreader hasn't updated! I'll check it out asap. I'm glad you mentioned Facebook. Sometimes those status messages kill me too. :(

Teresa said...

Thank you. always seem to know what I need to hear. I just went through maybe the hardest pg announcement over the weekend. That was a fantastic post once again Stacey!

Anonymous said...

I love u! I love u! I love u! I swear, you and I are twins Stacey! I absolutley agree with EVERY SINGLE point you've made, hope you don't mind, but I'm going to use this posting on my blog later this week seen as I'm doing a whole series of postings about what I need from my friends when I get pregnant, when I miscarry and now I can tell them how to announce a pregnancy to me. Many of them seem to think that the face to face announcement is better and for me its awful. Like you I also prefer the mass mailer to text, that way I don't have to hide my pain!

Sunny said...

all of these points are TRUE!!! as much as I hate knowing someone else has the pain that comes with IF, it is comforting to know that you aren't alone.

prayerfuljourney said...

That was a great blog. I agree. Pregnancy announcements are tough. I had a friend (I've known since birth) who was pregnant and she did not tell me (we don't live near or see each other anymore). I found out through gossip right after I had talked to her on the phone a few days before. I called her and asked her about the gossip and she said "I didn't want to tell you because of your situation." I was livid! Did she think I was going to have a mental breakdown or something? Whatever!
I find Christmas is a time for getting pregnancy announcements. We don't talk to our "friends" anymore due to the fact that they all have children and we don't. We just get a Christmas card from them usually with family pictures and announcements. I've always looked forward to our own "announcement" at Christmas but that has not come.
We've also gotten birth announcements and pictures in the mail and did not even know this couple was pregnant! Basically, people think they are being sensitive which in their own way, they are. Infertility is uncomfortable. It is what it is. Life goes on. For me, I just try not to think about it. What else can I do? My husband gets a little hurt when his friends announce that they were in our "neck of the woods" and they did not call us or stop by for a quick visit. Infertility does make people stay away. Sad, huh?

andrea_jennine said...

Great post. Oh, how I dislike bad announcements style 1 & 5. And what's even worse than #4 is the complaining announcement ("I didn't want to be pregnant, I hate that I'm going to gain weight, this is a bad time, yada yada yada."). I don't expect everyone's pregnancy to be a bed of roses, and I want to hear about the challenges from my close friends. But when you know my struggles and STILL indulge in a litany of grumbling... SO WRONG!

Andrea said...

I agree with your thoughts on each of these pregnancy announcements. I tried so hard to be considerate of my IF blogger friends when announcing mine. I hope I did a good job. When I announce it to people I know IRL I also want to try to be considerate just in case someone I know is going through something they haven't told me about. Thanks for being honest, as always I think it helps so many other people because they can relate to you and know they aren't alone!

Life In Mazes said...

What a wonderful post. I have experienced all of the above. The most hurtful one was finding out about a dear friend's 3rd pregnancy on her myspace account. I was so sad and cried. She said she tried to call to make the announcements to us, but the one person she called before us on the list told her that she was miscarrying her child at the time. She did not have it in heart to go any further. We are now that little boy's godparents and are so thankful that God shared him with his family and with us. We were there when he was born and I was only a few weeks from having my second surgery with Dr. Hilgers, so it was not a time of sadness for me. I held him when he was first born and nothing could change the love I have for him.

garlands said...

hey stace!
just wanted to let you know that i'm keeping up with you. i love your blog b/c it's so enlightening and informative about IF and the best way to handle situations. i know it's got to take a lot of guts to write every post but hopefully you're encouraged by the amount of people you are reaching in this ministry. you are such an amazing person and one of my favorite people in the whole world. love you a whole boat full of gravy!! :)

Anonymous said...

Thank you for sharing this - this is something I have wondered about and it is really good to hear your perspective. You have a good way of explaining things!

'Murgdan' said...

Excellent post. I might frame it and mail it out to my sisters...who can't seem to stop getting pregnant. The last two announcements...1. The public method. 2. The NEVER EVEN told me method.


The Hanlins said...

LOVE this post. I have gone through IF and was blessed to have triplets, BUT still find myself wanting to cry everytime I hear "I'm pregnant" from someone else that didn't have to go through IF. Many people who haven't gone through it don't get it! I have given full permisson to another woman I know who has stopped IF and was unable to conceive that I fully understand feelings when I told her I was pregnant and any feelings the continue to this day. Sorry to ramble, bottom line..GREAT POST!

Erin said...

I've just discovered your blog through Stirrup Queens, and in reading though all of your posts I feeling so relieved. I can't tell you how good it feels to read others talking about things that I feel. Thank you again for sharing. I'm going to mark you down as one of favorites to read. I wish I could send everyone I know here to read this post and learn about how the IF world works.

I Believe in Miracles said...

This is such a great post. I've been thinking a lot about this lately. I think I've become more sensitive to PG announcements as time has gone on and this really makes me think about what I should do to tell people. It's hard because things I used to think were great (like a FB status) are things that bug me like crazy now. I've got to think about this some more. Thanks for bringing it up and being open and honest about it.

Chuck said...

I hear you Nity. Facebook stati in general have gotten really annoying. I'm getting really sick of political jabs, sappy newlyweds, and narcissistic statements.