Week 10: To Tell or Not to Tell

The thing about being pregnant is that sooner or later, you’ve got to tell people. I mean, who was Jennifer Garner fooling when she suddenly started walking around in flowy shirts that covered her normally taut – and exposed – midriff? Sooner or later, it’s gonna come out. (The news, and also the baby. But let’s not think about that part just yet.)

Now I realize there are legitimate reasons to wait until you’re out of your first trimester to tell people. The possibility of miscarriage drops, and you’re feeling better all around. Plus, it’s probably taken you that long just to wrap your addled little brain around the fact that you’re really, actually, genuinely “with child.”

There were plenty of days in the first couple months when I still didn’t believe it – despite two positive home pregnancy tests, a blood test, and a sonogram. I had a sneaking suspicion it was all just an elaborate prank being pulled on me by the rest of the world. At any minute, I half-expected Ashton Kutcher to jump out from under the exam table and declare I’d been “punk’d.” (I should mention my husband is a huge fan of practical jokes.) After all, there were plenty of other reasons why I might feel ravenous, irritable, exhausted, and constipated all the time, right? Well, aside from PMS, which I’d ruled out by this point, probably not.

Of course, there are other people who can’t wait to spread the good news of their pregnancy to their families, friends, coworkers, grocer, mailman, and the guy who waits on them at Blockbuster. I wasn’t one of those people. I soon learned that who to tell and when is a slippery issue.

The first person I told was my friend S. Mostly, because she’s the mother of two small children and very knowledgeable about procreation. Second, because I’d recently been over at her house complaining that my boobs hurt and wouldn’t it be hysterical if I were actually pregnant? I mean, the chances were so slim in my mind that I was slightly embarrassed to even voice this thought aloud. Everyone knows it can take women over 30 a long time to get pregnant, right? Apparently not always.

So now I felt compelled to tell S. that, guess what, the joke’s on me. I also thought that she, with her maternal wisdom, might reassure me that I was nuts. Instead, she said that while she’d heard of false negatives with home pregnancy tests, she thought a false positive was pretty rare. Gulp.

I saw the double line the night before I was setting off for a weekend trip with some girlfriends to visit a friend who’d recently moved to the West Coast. C. and I debated whether to keep the news a secret or not. Surely I could explain away my avoidance of alcohol by saying I was on antibiotics for a recent illness. Except one of my friends was a nurse and might ask, “What kind of antibiotics?” And the only old prescription bottles we had lying around the house had C.’s name on them. My friends aren’t that dumb.

I decided I’d just play it by ear. Who knew? Maybe the alcohol issue wouldn’t even come up. Yeah, right. I realize that it may sound ridiculous – and possibly as if my friends and I should be checking ourselves into the Betty Ford clinic – if someone’s choice of beverage at dinner is the first tip-off that she might be pregnant. But what can I say? My friends enjoy their wine. And beer. And Cosmopolitans.

So we had barely arrived at my friend E.’s apartment when she rattled off the itinerary for the weekend: we’d start with a coffee tasting at a local beanery (I could no longer stomach even the smell of coffee, let alone the caffeine), then we’d have dinner at her favorite microbrewery. The next day, we’d tour a winery and one of the only places in the U.S. that makes sake. I was screwed. So I told my friends the big news, and they were thrilled. The rest of the weekend passed with numerous discussions about baby names and growing bellies. I drank a lot of lemonade.

Back home, though, I felt guilty about telling some of my friends but not the rest. At least I should wait until after my first doctor’s appointment in two weeks, I figured. Then my husband started in with, “If you can tell your friends, why can’t I tell mine?” Grasping for a reason, I said, “I had to tell my friends. We’re not telling anybody else until our families know.” I mean, I had to at least tell my mom next, right?

I called my parents to share the news. They squealed with delight – their first grandchild, at last! “It’s your news, so I won’t tell anyone until you tell me it’s OK,” said my mom, before adding, “I do wish you would call your grandfather, though. He’s having such a tough time these days, the news would just warm his heart. And of course you have to tell Aunt Ann. And you know, your Aunt Dee is recovering from a neck operation and this might be just the thing to cheer her up.” My dad chimed in, “Of course you’re going to tell your brother, right?”

Two days later, my brother and his wife were coming to dinner, so yes, I had planned to tell them. Although C. was still griping at me about how unreasonable it was that I could tell my family but not his family. “Can you just wait one more friggin’ week until I have my doctor’s appointment?” I said through gritted teeth. I even considered holding off on telling my brother. But that plan was shattered when my sister-in-law (SIL) announced that her best friend was expecting a baby. “She’s my first close friend to have a baby,” SIL said excitedly, “so in a way, it’s like I’ll have my own baby.” OK, how was I going to let that pass?

“Well…” I began, while frantically trying to catch C.’s eye to get the silent OK. He was too ensconced in the football game to notice. In the span of that meaningful glance, SIL caught on. I swear, women have some kind of radar for these things. “You?! You’re not … Oh, my god!” she squealed, as she teared up and ran over to give me a hug. My brother looked up from the game, confused. “Wha…? What’d I miss?” he asked. SIL filled him in. “Really? Wow,” he said, eyes widening. Then he turned back to the TV.

At that point, everything started to snowball. We told my in-laws, C.’s four siblings, his five best friends, and the rest of my friends. I told my grandfather, who told my aunt. I started getting congratulatory e-mails from my friends’ coworkers. I began to feel guilty about all those who had to hear it through the grapevine and would pout about why they weren’t on the first-to-know list. But I still hadn’t had my damn doctor’s appointment!

What if the stupid plastic stick was wrong? What if I showed up and the doctor said, “Pregnant? Hardly. You just have indigestion. Have you been drinking a lot of lemonade lately?” Until I see my waistline expand – or at least an image on the sonogram that doesn’t look like a fuzzy lima bean – I will believe nothing. But that hasn’t stopped me from telling my UPS guy.

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