Though much has been relayed about the inappropriateness of asking a woman — whether single, betrothed, or married — when she’s going to have a baby, few talk about the inadvertent shaming that sometimes still comes following an announcement of pregnancy, and it can all be summed up in one word: “Finally!”
That’s the word that struck a not-so-nice chord with a Facebook friend of mine when she recently posted that she and her husband were expecting. Everyone was, of course, excited for their news and felt the joy that naturally comes along with the thought of a newborn baby, but in the midst of that some still had to impose their own beliefs about her procreation timeline on her Facebook timeline, and in turn damper the moment.
Responses like that were just one of the reasons my friend was hesitant to make her news public, even though she and her husband haven’t even been married quite two years. That was a fact that immediately sparked irritation in my mind as I thought of people rushing her into parenthood when the newlywed phase of her union had barely subsided. But the other reason my friend was hesitant to share the news is that she’d miscarried before, twice, and the thought of having to tell everyone she’d lost another baby after “finally” becoming pregnant in their eyes, was a scary one. It was also a thought that made the f-word so hurtful and inappropriate at the time.
Women talk a lot about having control over their reproductive lives — and in many ways we do, thanks to contraception, artificial insemination, in vitro fertilization, and the right to choose — but sometimes no amount of medical intervention or healthy living can alter our reproductive course. When people use words like “finally,” they’re expressing a sentiment that implies the man and woman absolutely chose to have a child for the first time at this point in their lives and that may not be the case.
Of course it very well may be, and that decision shouldn’t be criticized either because no one knows better when they’re ready to bring a child into this world than the ones who are going to raise him or her. But for women who’ve suffered the loss of an embryo or tried for years to get an egg to implant to know avail, or have partners with low sperm count or erectile issues, “finally” can be a painful trigger word. It’s a reminder of their long road to pregnancy and can make expectant parents feel like their inability to conceive was their fault. It can even heighten fears that this time may be just like all the rest and they’ll never see a baby “finally” come to full term and realize their dreams of being parents.
While all the pomp and circumstance that surrounds pregnancy announcements makes this time in a couple’s life seem like a very public one, matters of fertility are actually quite private and sometimes painful. Most of us will never know what it took for a pair to get to the point of becoming parents, be it emotional, financial, or physical barriers that led to their expectancy coming about at a particular point in time. But what I do know is “finally” simply isn’t the word to convey excitement over the new life coming into the world. Congratulations is.