My first impression is that the early weeks of a pregnancy are a funny old time.
At first there is a strong element of disbelief. You’re not quite sure how you should react to this apparent news – or quite what you should be feeling. It feels like the weight of evidence that you have been presented with (an innocuous looking piece of plastic) is entirely insufficient given the implications of what it’s indicating.
For several weeks the pregnancy remains a secret. Just about. There are countless moments when it almost pops out in a flurry of confession, but, like a sparkler that you’re trying to light on a damp November evening, you don’t want to start waving it in people’s faces until you’re absolutely sure that it’s actually lit.
12 weeks down the line, you find yourself in a room full of secret-carriers, each waiting to be ushered into a dark room to gaze in wonder at a simple black and white image that emphatically confirms that there is most definitely something going on in there.
I’ll happily admit to being a little uncomfortable as we walked into the waiting room of the Centre for Women’s Health. I found myself frantically scanning the room to make sure that I didn’t know anybody. My wife had no such concerns – we’d been waiting for almost 15 minutes when she realised that she was sitting next to a work colleague. Love is blind, but apparently so is the first trimester.
And then, just like that, it’s time to start telling people that we’re pregnant.
My family have always had an unusual way of sharing news. For some unspoken reason we try and deliver announcements in the most surprising way possible. We preface good news by pretending that it’s bad news, and big announcements by pretending that they’re insignificant. My forty-something aunt once came round for dinner and told us that she was adopting a little girl. A few moments later it transpired (perhaps not as quickly as it should have) that she was adopting a rescue dog.
At first we tried to be as creative as possible. My wife found a variety of brilliant ways to do this and I practiced putting on a face like death so that I could pretend to delivering an unimaginably dreadful message. Within a few days, though, we quickly defaulted to something along the lines of “have you heard our good news?” which seemed to do the trick perfectly well.
I also experienced a surprising feeling of loss when we started telling people that we were pregnant. For months you’ve been keeping this huge, wonderful, profound secret – and although pregnancy is an inherently uncertain time you feel as though by controlling who knows about it you’re able to exert a measure of control over the pregnancy itself. Which is nice.
What I quickly started to realise, however, was that one of the most intriguing things about breaking the news was people’s reactions. Seeing how people react when finding out we’re pregnant has been great fun.
The first conclusion that I came to was that it is almost impossible to predict how people will respond when you tell them that you’re pregnant. In fact, quite a few people reacted in the exact opposite way to that which I would have expected. My work colleagues, for example, have been incredibly supportive and are clearly very excited for me – which was certainly not guaranteed given that I’m a twenty-something working in a commercial law firm.
My second conclusion is that you can every reaction broadly falls into one of the following 6 categories. I’ve found that it’s almost impossible to predict how a given person will react, but so far I’ve experienced the following responses:
6 Ways People Reacted When Finding Out We’re Pregnant
1. The Questioner
It transpires that some people just want to ask as many questions as possible! “When’s it due?”, “Boy or Girl?”, “Will you find out?”, “Please tell me you’re not going to find out?” – I think the only thing I haven’t yet been asked about is breast feeding.
It can feel a little strange to be asked so many personal questions – particularly when I don’t know the person that well – but then again I have just told them that we’re having a baby, which as personal confessions go is quite a big one.
2. The Overwhelmingly Excited
Now I’m quite an understated soul, but some people are a whole lot more excited than I am – which changes the dynamic quite dramatically! There have been some really great moments – some of our family and work colleagues have been almost unable to contain their excitement.
The only slight problem I’ve encountered when breaking the news to The Overwhelmingly Excited is that I seem horribly sarcastic in response. Whenever somebody tells me that I must be incredibly excited I invariably default to my best Alan Partridge and trot out “yes, I’m really excited” in response.
I am excited though. Really excited.
3. The Doom Merchant
Some people react to what is ostensibly good news by taking it upon themselves to bring a little doom and gloom into the equation. After all, I will never sleep again, I will never have free time again, my hobbies will consist of creating a Pantone chart to help me assess the contents of nappies and this is, of course, the beginning of the end of my life as I know it.
Forewarned is forearmed and all that.
4. The Prophet
Little did we know it, but some of the people we know have remarkable powers of foresight. If my wife had a pound for every time somebody told her “I knew you were pregnant!” then she’d have at least £12.
One of my favourite responses when telling people we’re pregnant was the lady who told my wife that she knew she was pregnant back in January (she wasn’t).
5. The Underwhelmed
In contrast to The Overwhelmingly Excited, The Underwhelmed have tended to respond in a more measured way. They say things like “oh” and “okay”. I think one person literally managed to change the subject within 15 seconds.
We all take news differently and we’ve had to appreciate that just because somebody’s first reaction isn’t a big one doesn’t mean that they aren’t really pleased for us. I’ve noticed that for all their initial understatement The Underwhelmed tend to build in excitement/anticipation as time goes by – we’ve had quite a number of very thoughtful cards from people whose initial reactions suggested that they really weren’t interested.
6. The Crier
There’s only been one, and she’s also pregnant (and therefore forgiven).
We are English after all.