I make it a point to respond carefully whenever someone tells me they're pregnant. Pregnancy isn't always "a blessing," and those who feel anxious or ambivalent deserve to have their feelings validated. However, I'll go out on a limb here and venture that, more likely that not, if someone is announcing their pregnancy to you, they're probably happy about it. In these instances, your instructions are simple: smile, say congratulations, and be (or pretend to be) happy. I talked recently with some moms who told me the worst thing they heard after announcing their pregnancy. You may be surprised to learn that not everyone is familiar with the "shut up and look happy" rule.
I mean, really, this isn't rocket science, people. This isn't even the kind of science you do in a 5th grade after-school enrichment program where you make a vinegar and baking soda volcano. It's even simpler than that. This is very basic, Human Interaction 101. If someone tells you something and they are smiling, or they have revealed their news in well-thought-out, over-the-top manner that can be shared on social media to the delight of all, then return their enthusiasm in-kind and to the best of your ability. Everyone, incidentally, is able to smile and say "congratulations."
Here are some things not to say, in case anyone is in need of a refresher course. Sadly, we know not to say them because someone already did (in-laws and co-workers seem to be the worst offenders) and it didn't go over well. Like, at all.
"'What about your career?' And then 5 minutes later across the room making the weighing scales motion with her hands."
"'Didn't you JUST get married? You know your position here is not guaranteed, right?' [This was] from a school district superintendent. I was a tenured teacher in our district's magnet academy, and I'd been married 3 years. (What she meant is that my position at magnet wasn't guaranteed, I could be reassigned to another building. It was basically a threat. Joke ended up on her: I resigned to be a SAHM.)"
After some issues getting pregnant out of the gate I think the most hurtful comments that I heard were, 'Oh you must've used fertility treatments,' and 'Maybe this one will stick,' as if the blame was on me for prior pregnancies not working out.
"After telling my grandmother she said, 'Is it because your cousin had a baby?' Um, no."
"'Congrats! You're in a new position, right? You have no leave-time built up. I guess you'll either take a really short maternity leave or have to go unpaid. That sucks.' Literally right after I said I was expecting. All true, of course, but thanks for the buzzkill, Captain Obvious. It's my job to worry about that and yours to congratulate me."
Jenn & Kelli
"'Was it on purpose?' How about none of your damn business, with a side dish of what the hell does that matter, anyway? Very rude."
"'Was this planned?' Does it matter? Or are you just looking to rubberneck the accident?"
"My grandmother asked, 'Did you forget to take your pill?"'
"'Wow, your other children are so much older; someone had an oopsie!' My answer: 'No this is the first planned one.'"
My sister-in-law said to my husband 'Are you sure this is what you want?' Umm, yes! And if he wasn't sure then what?
"My mother-in-law didn't take it well. She refused to show the ultrasound to my father-in-law and threw it back at me while saying, 'This doesn't look like anything!' She also refused to speak to anyone during the family dinner that followed."
"My mother-in-law and her mom sat me down and said, 'Oh my God, how could you let this happen to you again? What were you thinking? What are you going to do?' I laughed and walked away."
My mother-in-law said, 'Oh thank God, I had given up hope of ever being a grandmother!'"
"What are you thinking? You are 40 years old!"
My program director asked, 'Do you need a few days off to take care of it?'
"My best friend wasn't happy, though he did try to fake it at first. When I eventually said that the pregnancy was a 'happy surprise' he scoffed. 'How can it be a surprise? I hate that. That's like having sex without a condom and being surprised when you get an STD,' to which I replied. 'Did you just compare my pregnancy to an STD?' He then seemed to realize he was being kind of obnoxious."