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Those April Fool's Jokes

Anna Hornbostel

More than likely you've seen a meme imploring some variation of  "Pregnancy is no joke! Please be kind on April 1" floating around on social media. “So?” you may ask yourself, “What’s the big deal? It’s just a harmless prank, right?”  Or maybe “Well, they just shouldn’t BE hurt by something that’s just a joke!” NOT being hurt is impossible.  Those struggling with infertility and loss ALREADY hurt because of what they have gone through, and the announcement- be it real or fake- just serves to highlight or spotlight what they long for and do not have.

    Infertility is a disease of the reproductive system. It impacts millions. Estimates are 1 in 8 couples suffer from it. 1 in 4 confirmed pregnancies will end in loss. The odds are very high that everyone knows someone who has been impacted by infertility and/or loss. When a pregnancy announcement or sonogram photo is posted on social media, those millions – those 1 in 4 and 1 in 8- go through a different reaction process than others do. They think of the baby they lost and how old he/she would be right now, and what they might be doing. They think of how quiet and empty their homes feel to them. They think of how much money they have spent on IVF, or how long their profile has been with the adoption agency, and yet they have empty arms. They think of the baby they fostered who was reunited with their birth family, which was beautiful and painful all at once. They think of how much they long to give their only child a sibling but have not been able to. They think of a hundred hurts and losses. And then, often times, they sit up straight and decide to offer congratulations and support, because they believe that pregnancies and babies are wonderful and that the infertility club is full enough and hallelujah, here’s one less member.

   So they go through all of this… and then it’s fake. It’s a joke. All of those feelings that were brought up? They now don’t have anywhere positive to go, because there’s no friend to be happy for, no family member to support. There’s just…. Hurt. And it doesn’t feel right to hurt because it was a joke… but it hurts all the same.  It hurts because all of what they’ve gone through was shoved aside and the thing that they long for most is being casually thrown around as a joke.

    So- does this mean no one should ever post a picture of a pregnancy announcement? Of course not! But..., be aware that people are hurting and decide if there is a way to proceed with kindness. Decide if that prank is really worth making, or if perhaps there might be a better joke to play. Decide if that person you know is hurting might need a little TLC as you announce your TRUE pregnancy.  When my sister in law was preparing to announce her pregnancy, she sent me a kind and considerate email, giving me time to process my feelings privately before being bombarded by Facebook. What touched my heart was that she took the time to UNDERSTAND that I would hurt and gave me permission to hurt. Her empathy and care took time and effort on her part, and it’s something I will never, ever forget. It didn’t heal the hurt I felt, but it bolstered my strength and courage. Because she took the time to love me enough to validate rather than minimize my pain and losses, I was able to rejoice with her. THAT kind of care and support is what the infertile and loss communities are asking for when they say “please don’t post fake pregnancy announcements or sonograms” -either on April Fool’s or any other day.