Many would agree that finding out you are pregnant is an exciting and special thing. For those planned and much yearned for pregnancies, the joy is immediate. On the other hand, there are plenty of people whose pregnancies come as an unplanned surprise, and in those cases, the overriding emotion can be one of sheer terror.
Whatever your feelings – “yes, finally!” or “omg what have I done?!” – one thing you’ll have to steel yourself for is other people’s reactions.
Here are 5 reactions I encountered when sharing my first-time baby news and how I dealt with them.
1. Unrestrained elation – “I’m sooooooooo happy for you!!”
Whether it’s a first-time grandparent-to-be (in my case, my mother who went out into the street whooping and dancing) or a friend who has been dying for you to join her mummy tribe for years, there may be some people who are more excited than you are that you are pregnant, and aren’t afraid to show it!
If their uncontainable joy matches your own, great! Someone else to discuss your nursery plans, baby gear purchases and name ideas with. But if, like me, the idea of being pregnant has taken some getting used to, the excitement of others can be a little overwhelming.
My advice: don’t tell people until you are ready. It took until I was around 10 weeks before I felt comfortable with the idea of being pregnant, so only then did we tell my parents. If I’d told them a couple of weeks earlier, I certainly wouldn’t have been able to cope with their over-the-top emotional reaction, when I myself was feeling numb.
Whether you are delighted or not to be pregnant, the majority of people will tend to regard your pregnancy as “fantastic news”. So just be prepared for that, if it doesn’t match your own feelings.
2. Shock and betrayal – “But… I thought you didn’t want kids?!”
Obviously if you have always wanted a baby or talked openly about starting a family, you’re unlikely to experience this reaction. No, this reaction is reserved for those who have been on the fence or previously expressed their preference for a child-free life.
My own friend group is pretty evenly split between those who have or are planning to have children and those who have made the conscious decision never to do so. I was always somewhere in between. Yet over the years I had many a conversation about my aversion to child-rearing – usually over a few glasses of wine with my childless friends, as we revelled in our carefree lifestyles and discussed our next holidays.
“Ugh, imagine if we had kids,” we would say. “We wouldn’t be able to do this,” as we necked the last of the third bottle of prosecco. Smug and childless, that’s what we were.
So imagine telling those same friends, out of the blue, that you are pregnant.
“Oh my god, I don’t know what to say,” said one friend, with disappointment in her eyes.
“I’m not going to lie, I feel like I have lost you now,” said another.
Harsh as those reactions sound, I confess I had been guilty of them previously myself, inwardly feeling that I had “lost another one to motherhood” whenever a friend told me she was pregnant, so I was sympathetic to their fears. After all, motherhood does change you (apparently).
But I was able to reassure them that, when the time is right, I will need my girly prosecco nights more than ever before, and that seemed to help.
3. Smug and all-knowing – “Ohhh, you’ve got this all to come… mwah ha ha!”
An annoying colleague or a smug sister-in-law perhaps, this is the reaction of those who have been there and done that (or perhaps are still doing it, hence finding some sadistic joy in knowing that someone else is about to experience the hell they have been through).
The labour pains, the vomit, the crying, the sleepless nights, the tantrums… they can’t wait to tell you about it all. They pounce on your optimism, and quash it with their own tales of reality.
“At least I’ll be able to take some time off work,” I say.
“Ohhhh, you’ll know what work really is once you’ve raised a baby,” was the reply.
“I’ve been a bit tired in the last few weeks,” I tell a colleague during my first trimester.
“Ohhhhh, you just wait. You don’t know what tiredness is until you’ve had a baby.
I don’t think these people are being purposefully malicious. More that their experience of child-rearing is still recent and the horrors are fresh in their mind. And perhaps they genuinely just don’t want you to be under the misapprehension (as if you would be) that this is going to be easy.
Whether well-intentioned or not, I find the best way to deal with these people is to smile sweetly, and say that you are keeping an open mind about what the experience is going to be like.
4. Unapologetic disinterest – “…”
Some people have no interest in babies whatsoever. Hell, I was one of those people.
You might expect a token “congratulations” from these people, out of politeness, if nothing else. But even that may be stretching it too far for them.
In my case, it was my brother who could not disguise his downright apathy to my news. Perhaps as siblings we’ve learnt to be too honest with one another.
Hopefully, regardless of their lack of interest in babies, those close to you are interested enough in you to be happy for you. But just be prepared that your news to some people will barely register.
No matter, their apathy will generally be outweighed by the unbridled joy of others.
5. The gushing contradictions – “it’s awful but great!”
“It’s tough and challenging, but the love you feel is incredible.”
All I hear is “tough and challenging”.
“I can honestly say it’s the hardest thing I’ve ever done, but truly the most wonderful.”
All I hear is “hardest thing”.
“It’s changed me in ways I never thought possible, but I wouldn’t have it any other way.”
Huh? But, I don’t wanna change!
Unlike the mwah haha group, the gushing contradictions think they are actually telling you things you want to hear. They think they are extolling the virtues of parenthood in a positive, affirming way. But what they are actually doing is putting the fear of god into you.
I get it… having a baby is a big deal! But I don’t want to think about that in my first trimester thank you very much. I have only just got used to the idea of being pregnant… don’t make me think about actually having a baby, and definitely don’t project a grown child or teenager on to me.
Being pregnant, especially with your first child, can be extremely daunting, so you don’t need people injecting further fear into you by talking about the enormity of it. That said, at least these people are well-intentioned, so the best way to deal with it is to focus on the positive half of their statements, and not the knee-trembling ones!