The day I found out I was pregnant, one of my oldest friends came over and sat with me. She didn’t cluck disapprovingly, or give me a run-down of every fear and “what if” scenario playing in her head. We just shook our heads at each other from opposite ends of the kitchen table, like, “Is this really happening? Is this real life?” She told me it would be okay, but wasn’t so cheerful and peppy about my confusing predicament that I wanted to punch her in the throat. She calmly sat with me. And that was nice.
Not everyone had such a positive reaction. Looking back, the hardest part of the entire pregnancy might have been breaking the news (still among the most awkward, anxiety-spiking conversations I’ve ever had), and then digesting the reactions of those I told. Because when you’re young or unmarried or unprepared (in my case, all three), people feel entitled to unleash their reactions and opinions on you — nevermind my own swirling insecurities and tangled-up emotions, or the fact I was the one growing an entire human being in my body. I heard disappointed sighs from all pockets of my life. People didn’t seem to know how to arrange their faces. Should they be happy? Congratulate me, or express how sorry they were for me? I remember their hesitation. It stayed with me.
If you’re on the other side of the “I’m pregnant” bombshell, I do get it. It’s not easy to be hit with this news, especially about someone you love. It’s only normal that you’d be worried — you only want what’s best for her. You also might have other worries creeping in, like how this will change your relationship. But think how she felt having to tell you. She might have been dreading it for days, even weeks. She might have been terrified to see the disappointment in your eyes, to see her own fears mirrored back in your reaction.
And here’s the thing: She’s pregnant. No matter how hard you rub your temples, how furiously you hang up the phone, or how many “Well did you think about…” lectures you have in your back pocket, she’s still going to be pregnant. You can think she made a stupid mistake, and that she has no idea how difficult it is to raise a child — but that doesn’t mean you should share those thoughts with her. They will only hurt her, and they’re based more in fear than truth. Plus, she has enough on her mind right now; she doesn’t need to assuage your fears, too.
Here’s a run-down of unnecessary, rude, or otherwise hurtful reactions that you really should avoid, if another friend or family member ever comes to you with her beating heart in her hand and says, “I’m pregnant.”
1. The Awkward Silence
OH MY GOD, SAY SOMETHING.
2. The Crazy Dramatic Freak-Out
Apparently panic attacks are contagious. Calm down already; you’re not the one facing labor in 9 months. Chill.
3. The Denial
Just because you say it isn’t happening, doesn’t actually make it real. She’s pregnant.
4. The Debbie Downer
If your sentence starts with, “Well whattarya gonna do about [fill in stressful scenario]...” keep it to yourself. She’s got the stressful thoughts covered.
5. The Angry Outburst
If you need to vent, do it in the driveway.
6. The Apology
“I’m so sorry” is not an appropriate pregnancy response, not ever. “That sucks” doesn’t work, either.
7. The Immediate Interrogation
You have questions, I get it. Was it planned? Is she getting married? Is she considering abortion? Adoption? Doesn’t she know how condoms work? You may be super close to her, and these questions feel natural and expected. Even so, consider this: Maaaaaaybe it’s none of your damn business. Not now, at least. Let her figure out her answers before grilling her with questions.
8. The Instant Gossip
It’s not your news to tell. Put down the mass text and just be there for her.
9. The All-About-Me Rant
Psst — this is not about you.
10. The Sermon
You might think that nothing is more important than her education, or that abortion is a sin, or that she needs to get married for the sake of her unborn child, but now more than ever, keep your opinions to yourself. She doesn’t need to hear what she has to do, and moralizing won’t help her in the least. In fact, she doesn’t need you to fix or solve a single thing; it’s already happening.
Here’s all you have to do. It’s simple, but radical: Be with her. Support her. Tell her, “It’s okay, you’ll be great.” Put your own worries and projected fears to the side, at least until you’re alone, and find some courage. That’s what she really needs — some bravery to lean on. Believe in her and she’ll be able to believe in herself. And it’s not enough to just say she can do it, that she’s capable and strong, that she can pull herself through the toughest situations; you’ll actually need to believe it. Deep down in your gut, remember that this experience — which, yes, will be exhausting and expensive and, at times, quite painful — has the power to make her stronger and better. Because she will figure it out. She will be fine, more than fine! She’s about to experience the soul-rocking, perspective-altering love of her baby, and no one — not even you — can possibly know how that will and won’t change her.
Images: Nikki Addimando; Giphy (10)