In a world infected by Facebook (queue Hans Zimmer) it’s difficult to keep a secret and I’ve never held a more difficult secret than my wife’s pregnancy. It’s commonplace to tell friends and family of the expected pregnancy after the baby is 12 weeks old, but I never gave this much thought. The news is life-changing for the couple involved and then charged for 12 weeks before exploding on the general public. However, while ideally it’s a shock to the folks you tell, their reaction cannot exceed the charge you believe you’ve built up. 10 years ago you could tell separate groups of people the news without fear that the news would bleed into separate groups before being told directly. With Facebook there is now one group, the Facebook group, and when one person congratulates your wife on her wall, the surprise has leaked.
The challenge is to tell as many people as possible the news in person, on the phone or via email before they find out either through word-of-mouth, or Facebook. We unrealistically tried to pack this into one single weekend but with everyone’s busy schedules it’s virtually impossible. While I’m sure our friends and family would chose to see us to hear the news in person it needs to be approached as if it’s a regular get-together else suspicions rise. We could tell everyone we have bad news, like our parachute had a hole in it, but that wouldn’t look pretty on our Facebook wall either. Many people already knew anyways since the to-be mother was refusing alcohol even in a time when only a celebratory slip was required.
If you do manage to get face-to-face with someone to tell them this news I found it best to just come out with it. If a happy couple starts a sentence with “We have news…”, there’s really only one possible announcement. If you leave a pause before the reveal, the recipient is likely to say “you’re pregnant!?!?!”, stealing the punch line right out from under you. It turns the glorious “we’re having a baby” to a lack-luster response of “yup”. They don’t deserve the thunder they just stole, and can’t give it back. The response of “I already knew/guessed” steals the thunder as if the referenced storm took place years ago, questioning why it’s even being spoken about again. Those 2 situations didn’t really happen as harshly as I described. They’re just something I’ve been thinking about which segues nicely into the next paragraph titled…
Grumpy Old Man Section: The term “congratulations” is thrown around like an MTV Teen Mom’s self-righteousness (or more simply, an MTV Teen Mom). I’m fine with it being used for marriages, career goals, college grads etc, but it’s not really applicable to distribute “congrats” for something that often happens accidentally. I feel the same way for High School grads where congratulations aren’t really applicable. Virtually everyone graduates from High School and why should someone be congratulated for essentially letting time pass successfully. I prefer the response of “that’s good news”.
There’s no true advice here, I realize. I think it’s best to just tell as many people who are willing to listen as quickly as possible. Everyone will learn from Facebook soon enough, though their reactions may not be straight out of an 80s sitcom like you imagined (well, except for my mom).