For some people, announcing a pregnancy is a happy, exciting time. Many soon-to-be mothers experience joyous reactions, hugs, happy tears, high-fives, and other loving, encouraging responses. Others are not so fortunate, and it seems that an etiquette guide is in order.
I am a single parent, and although I was 23 and had a good job at a library, most of the responses I received when I told people I was pregnant were insensitive and inconsiderate. It appeared that the main focus was that I was unmarried, not that I would be giving birth to a real live human in a few months. Instead of “Congratulations!” I heard, “Are you going to keep it?” Instead of, “Wow, you’re going to be a great mom!” I got, “This is not what you needed!” Instead of happy tears, there were tears of disappointment and sadness. There were a few people who were wonderfully supportive, but overall I felt a lot more anxiety than joy at telling people.
I know other moms who have gotten negative remarks too. One of my single mama friends heard, “How will you afford a child?” when she announced her first pregnancy, and three years later upon announcing her second pregnancy (although she is now partnered, working, and happy) she promptly heard, “How will you afford two children?” I have friends with multiple children who get questions like, “This will be your last, right?” or, “You know what causes this, don’t you?” I have other single-parent friends who received similar reactions as I did, with people suggesting they are making a mistake, rather than offering support.
It’s natural to worry about friends and family, and bringing a child into the world is an incredible responsibility. But take a moment to ask yourself: are your words actually helping? A pregnancy announcement is not the right time to offer criticism or concern, whether the mom is a teen, or an older mother, or a single parent, or a low-income person, or a mother of multiple children, or a gay parent, or any variation of that.
It is not the time to ask how they’re going to afford it. It is not the time to ask if they were using condoms. It’s not the time to show shock or sadness. It’s not the time to chastise or insult or worry. It’s not the time to pry or project. It is simply not the time to be negative.
There are some helpful, encouraging things to say instead of negative opinions. Try something like this:
You are going to be an amazing mother!
What can I do to help?
Is there anything you need?
You are glowing!
How are you feeling?
You are going to rock this!
I’m so excited for you!
I can’t wait to knit you organic rainbow baby booties!
If you take the time to judge a soon-to-be mother before asking her how you can help, you might want to take a moment to check your priorities. At the end of that pregnancy announcement is a mother who needs love and strength to be her best self, and a baby who is a real human being and deserves respect and care. And guess what? The ol’ cliché is true: My son is the best thing that has ever happened to me. He changed my life and revolutionized my world. He made me a stronger, more powerful woman, artist, writer, and activist. He gave my life purpose that it previously lacked. With the right attitude, resources, and support, what has been deemed a negative situation can become the best thing ever.
In the spirit of support, here is an excellent idea for helping out a soon-to-be or recently postpartum mom: Feeding New Moms