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Just Me?

What do you think of Carolyn Hax’s recent advice on giving a pregnancy announcement to someone experiencing difficulty conceiving?

I agreed with her up to a point, but I think how a person delivers the announcement truly makes a difference.  If the woman calls up the person and pretends nothing is wrong and chirps, “I have GREAT news,” that doesn’t honour or acknowledge anyone beyond herself.  And it’s one thing if she doesn’t know there’s a problem — we can’t be held responsible for gaffes we inadvertently make.  But she knows there is a problem (and it sounds like this woman is being berated for going along with the message which is sent to all women which is — if you want to have a baby, you just have sex, and 9 months later you end up with a live baby, no problem — by talking openly about her desire to build her family), so to give her announcement without any nod towards that seems a tad cruel.

Just me?


I am struggling with dragging myself to mid-term election voting as well as the guilt I receive when I consider (okay, when I admit aloud) not voting.  Please let me explain my newly-acquired apolitical nature.

There is a fairly simply umbrella reason: when I get to the end of my life, I am going to be happier that I spent that half hour swimming in the river with my kids than I will be ensuring that someone else gets to do a job.  When Josh says, “you could do both!” it’s not really true.  I can’t be in the river and voting at the same time.  I may be able to do both activities in one day, but if I am voting, I am not in the river.

And if I died tomorrow, I would really kick myself that I made myself do one more thing I didn’t really want to do which took me away from something I really did want to do.  Such as swimming in the river.  There are enough dental appointments to keep and dishes to wash and laundry to do and meals to cook that are necessary and keep me away from doing fun things.  I don’t need to add voting to the mix as well.

The other reason, perhaps one that is more important, is that I am incredibly turned off by the concept of campaigning.  I hate receiving piles of junk mail daily that go straight into the trash without a glance.  I hate people knocking on my door to tell me about someone that wouldn’t represent me well at all.  I hate receiving countless phone calls from campaign helpers, and I hate cleaning the answering machine of countless hang-ups because I never answer the phone during election season.

This is what I want — a simple handout that tells me where the candidate stands on a handful of issues.  Something prepared by a non-partisan group who can list all the places on public record where the candidate has stood behind their words with actions.  Where they take the claims made by each candidate, research them carefully, and prepare a booklet for all voters to read prior to voting.

I am sick of people begging for my vote — trying to get me to vote for them not by being the best person for the job, but because they are the loudest or the most obnoxious or have the most money to spend on handouts.  I want to vote for someone whose campaign is simple and straightforward, stating where they stand and letting their words and actions be their audition for the part.  But I can’t find any candidates I’d want to support since they’ve all practiced this most obnoxious behaviour — because they must practice this obnoxious behaviour in order to stay in the game.

I wish voters would take a stand and say, “stop.”  We’re not going to vote if you’re going to waste money.  We’re not going to vote if you call us at home and leave leaflets on our doors and flood our mailboxes with glossy, non-recyclable handouts.  We are simply not going to vote, and when zero votes come in on election day, demand real election reform so that it doesn’t come down to money or energy.  It comes down to taking a clear stance on issues, while  honestly projecting the work you’ll do in the future.

I get really worked up about this because at the end of the day, candidates are just would-be senators and congresspeople begging for a job.  And while it’s an honour to get to choose the people who will represent you and do this work for you, for every other job in this world, we turn in a resume or we show expertise.  We quietly send an essay or fill out a form or complete an audition and then we sit back and hope our words or actions were enough to convey how well we’d fill the part.

We don’t apply for a job at the bank and then stand outside the bank waving signs and calling the bank every 10 minutes to ask if we’re getting the position or leaving leaflets on the bank’s front door.  And we shouldn’t conduct campaigns this way either.

One piece of paper — a booklet compiled by a non-partisan group that everyone can read and know the candidates — that’s all we need.

Of course, not voting doesn’t really create change.  But it’s sort of like attending a dinner party where the host has treated you like shit.  I feel like the candidates have treated me like shit by making me throw out their rubbishy campaign flyers and tied up my phone line, and the last thing I want to do is go attend their figurative party by going out to vote.

Such political crankiness from such a kumbaya-loving girl, but I really am fed up with the way campaigns are run.  More energy is put toward getting elected than actually doing the work once in office.  And I hate the guilt I feel when I consider not voting so I can get on the road and do something I really enjoy that — at the end of the day — matters more to the people I love.  Whether this democrat or that democrat represents me is sort of beside the point when I don’t even know in all honesty why I should vote for one over the other.  They talk a lot, but say very little.

Again, just me?


1 Mrs. X { 09.14.10 at 3:15 pm }

I always did find Carolyn Hax to be a little harsh, like a brillo pad used to clean a comforter. I’ve been on the receiving end of that phone call and my friend did it the best way she possibly could. She just told me – spared me the great news part – and let me have at it. I was really proud of myself, though. I congratulated her – and I genuinely meant it.

In the end, a lot of how you tell depends upon your friend and how they receive bad (to them) news. I think Carolyn should have focused on that instead.

2 Courtney { 09.14.10 at 3:15 pm }

Carolyn sounded really condescending towards this woman’s friend for being “hubris” and “prattling on” about planning a family. No one goes into TTC thinking they’re going to be infertile. If those are her personal thoughts, I’m glad she’s not my friend.

3 Cherish { 09.14.10 at 3:37 pm }

I agree – the presentation is important.

4 Amy/Anat { 09.14.10 at 3:44 pm }

That is why Oregon is so great – Ballots by mail! You get them at home, fill out the ballot and can mail it in or drop it off at your local library.

This isn’t as easy as 1-2-3, but it’s not more than 1-6. The League of Women Voters is a national non-partisan group that for years has pulled together well-respected voters’ guides:

5 Katie { 09.14.10 at 3:51 pm }

Harsh. Extremely harsh. I especially despise the line, “Your friend naively boxed herself into a rigid, prefabricated version of her married life.” Mostly because that was me. But like Courtney said, no one goes into this thinking they will be unable to conceive. I react more kindly to a straightforward, “I’m pregnant.” No, “good news” or any other fake, condescending intro. I agree: how the person giving the information presents it is the most important part. Tone of voice and word selection are everything here.

I hope that, no matter how she chose to tell her friend, her friend handles it the best way she possibly can. Learning that someone you are close to is pregnant when you’ve been trying for so long is difficult. I hope that they two can remain friends despite the awkward and painful situation for the woman who is struggling to have a baby.

6 Rachel { 09.14.10 at 3:52 pm }

“More energy is put toward getting elected than actually doing the work once in office.” Sad but absolutely true, especially when this country needs work to be done most.

7 Such A Good Egg { 09.14.10 at 3:56 pm }

Yuck. I think this is insensitive and lacks compassion. A happy “I have great news” is a totally unnecessary dagger in an already painful conversation. I’m all for honesty and directness, but some compassion is in order here, and that means in choosing sensitive wording, tone of voice, timing of the conversation, etc. I’m repulsed by Carolyn’s advice!

8 Sharon { 09.14.10 at 3:58 pm }

Having been on the receiving end of this type of news from a few friends since learning we are infertile, I think Carolyn’s advice is a little harsh. (But as others have said, in keeping with her usual style.)

I very much appreciate the sensitivity with which my friends who knew about our struggles shared their news, and it didn’t include saying “I have GREAT news.” IMO, a sensitive friend wouldn’t tell her infertile friend “I have great news–I’m pregnant!”

It likely goes without saying that this is great news, so I think simply telling your friend you are pregnant, in a gentle way that allows her to process the information in her own way and her own time, should suffice.

As for the voting thing. . . . I can relate. I’m a blue girl stuck in the middle of a very red district in a red state, so voting some likes an exercise in futility to me most of the time these days.

9 a { 09.14.10 at 4:08 pm }

Regarding Carolyn Hax’s message, I agree – straightforward is best. But her delivery style is…um…from the perspective of someone without experience on either end, it would seem. From the “great news!” part to the stabs at the poor girl whose plans went awry, Hax is a bit misguided. However, the parts about being straightforward and about expecting the bad (not to be taken personally) along with the good – that’s good and important information. I give it 2.5 stars on a 5 scale.

Voting is still important, but oh, how the campaigning is annoying! It requires me to do actual work to sift through all the detritus thrown around with campaign ads and news stories. I don’t really want to have to work that hard to decide all of these issues – we frequently have to vote in 20+ issues. That’s a lot of due diligence and I’ve got better things to do. Sometimes, even inspecting the records and resumes doesn’t even help. Sigh… But I’ll vote anyway, even if I have to choose randomly.

10 Heather { 09.14.10 at 4:47 pm }

Delivery is very important. My dear friend from college who has known about our entire TTC journey told me months before TTC herself (she is a teacher and planning her pregnancy around the school year – sigh, if only to be so lucky to plan it out) so it wasn’t so hard when she told me she was pregnant after their second month trying. She told me with such love and kindness- and understanding that any sadness on my part had nothing to do with how happy I truly am for her. I wish everyone who announced pregnancies to me were as kind as her.

Most of my experiences have come from people at church who don’t know my story and just see me with K. They gush and are excited and I am happy for them – truly. But it is still like jumping into icy water every time – takes my breath away and takes me a few seconds to get my wits about me again. The shock is something I am never prepared for unfortunately.

11 Nelly { 09.14.10 at 4:53 pm }

“Your friend naively boxed herself into a rigid, prefabricated version of her married life. It will take courage and strength for her, and for you, to avoid repeating that mistake with your friendship.”

So my dreams and discussions with my friends on having kids after I get married make me naive? whaat? Stupid article – bad advice. I’d rather someone just be straight with it. It’s great news!! But they have to be understanding that I don’t want to hear them whine about morning sickness or kankles.

12 N { 09.14.10 at 5:15 pm }

Not just you on either count, that’s for sure.

13 Sarah { 09.14.10 at 5:46 pm }

I think her comments about the friend were a bit harsh. And no, it didn’t sound like she had any experience whatsoever on either side of that equation – maybe she’s never even known an infertile woman?
At least the women was thinking about how to tell the friend without hurting her, though, unlike our friends who just uncovered the u/s photo on the fridge and then stood there grinning like idiots waiting for us to react. I would have much preferred a phone call…

14 Amanda { 09.14.10 at 6:15 pm }

Honestly, I think the best approach is to skip the phone call altogether & send an email or note (sensitively written of course) so that the woman having trouble can digest it in her own time & even cry & sob for some time then in her time she can call the friend with her congratulations. I also think the article gave pretty good advice but was overly harsh. =(

15 Rebecca { 09.14.10 at 6:49 pm }

I agree with all of the above. Sensitivity is key and I found Hax’s description of the friend’s naivete to be offensive. I definitely agree with Amanda — I’d much rather get a private note and be able to process the information privately. Then, by the time I see/speak to the person, I’m able to be honestly happy for them (or at least put on a good show).

16 Justine { 09.14.10 at 9:09 pm }

I think old-fashioned handwritten letters are underrated … there’s something even more personal, and intimate, sometimes, about them than a phone call.

And I haven’t met a political candidate yet who has made me feel warm and fuzzy by robocalling me.

17 Kristin { 09.14.10 at 10:19 pm }

Definitely not just you. Hax irritated me a bunch and I’ve been losing my patience with politics lately.

18 Annie { 09.14.10 at 11:15 pm }

I happened to read the Carolyn Hax advice in the newspaper the other day. While I was at my IVF clinic. Right before I got even more bad news about my situation. *sigh* It’s horrible advice . I prefer a simple matter-of-fact “I just wanted to let you know I’m pregnant” rather than a gleeful announcement of the “GREAT NEWS” which feels so “ha! in your face!”.

As for voting, I consider it a civic duty and always do it BUT it’s a good thing my polling place is literally right by my house. None of these clowns running for office inspires my confidence or hope. I totally understand why you rather be doing something else with your time!

19 S.I.F. { 09.15.10 at 1:09 am }

My cousin sent me a seperate e-mail just for me when she got pregnant; about a week before she announced it to the rest of the family. She said she wanted me to have the time to process it in private, and she wanted me to know she loved me and understood it would be hard for me.

It was all so incredibly sweet and thoughtful – and because I found out on my own, I didn’t have to feel too guilty about my tears.

Still… I felt like such a jack-hole that she would even need to go to those extra lengths for me when she should have been celebrating for her. I was happy she did it, but it still bummed me out that she had to…

20 Guera! { 09.15.10 at 7:36 am }

I have been on the receiving end of pregnancy announcements and a quick “I’m pregnant” is the best. It’s like jumping into a cold pool at once instead of starting with the big toe. Not quite but the point is just get it over with and save the fluff. One friend actually had personalized candy bars made that she passed out as her announcement…not a birth announcement but a pregnancy announcement. Which maybe was perfect because I could then binge on that instead of stopping at the store on the way home.
If Obama only had to show a resume and prove experience the guy wouldn’t have been elected.

21 Kristen { 09.15.10 at 10:49 am }

“Your friend naively boxed herself into a rigid, prefabricated version of her married life”. WHAT? how is having a dream or a goal for the future and choosing to share that being naive and rigid? I thought the whole vibe of the article was condescending and rude. The woman should not have to feel bad that she’s pregnant, but she can show some compassion by acknowledging that her friend is struggling to achieve the very thing that came easily for her.

As for voting – totally agree that there should be far less time and money spent campaigning and more time actually doing the job you were elected to do. Like you, I just want a straight-forward list of where you stand on the issues.

22 Lacie { 09.15.10 at 11:24 am }

This is such a tricky one. I really do feel for my friends and family. I KNOW that they agonize over telling me when someone (whether it’s the person herself, or someone else) is expecting. According to a conversation that my brother and cousin had (when my SIL was newly expecting and said cousin was as well), they talked about how each would tell me. They were really upset and wanted to “protect my feelings.” This makes me feel grateful.

I could go on, but I’ll do a post on this. What a great topic.

Did anyone else find the cartoon in the article a tad irritating?

23 Heather { 09.15.10 at 11:41 am }

I think you should be the President.

24 Denver Laura { 09.15.10 at 11:45 am }

She should have also offered that the pregnant friend refrain from complaining or griping about the pregnancy to her infertile friend.

25 Cheryllookingforward { 09.15.10 at 12:36 pm }

I usually want to blow kisses to Carolyn Hax, so I was surprised to see her response. I think I’ve read her discussions where she’s dealt with this situation in a perfect way, or at least others chimed in with the right response. This made me wonder if someone else wrote this.

And I wanted to second the League of Women Voters – their guide comes in our local flier every year and I sit down with my sample ballot. I feel that I wouldn’t vote if it wasn’t for their work.

26 Erica { 09.15.10 at 12:39 pm }

Too harsh for me, too. I really balked at the point where Hax mentioned that the friend might need forgiveness (instead of say, empathy or understanding) for not being immediately happy about the news. The idea that it’s wrong for the friend not to gush right away over something that hurts her just seemed so…privileged.

I’m cranky about the energy that goes into getting re-elected, especially. As a government employee myself, I’d like my representatives and senators spend more time, well, working.

27 Alexicographer { 09.15.10 at 1:21 pm }

I don’t know. Hax’s advice does rub me the wrong way, sort of, for the reasons others have mentioned, but it also seems to focus on a particular woman who’s (presumably) having trouble conceiving who had (previously) mapped out the timing of the arrival of each child, etc., etc. I personally am all kinds of sympathetic, empathetic, etc., for someone in that situation but I get the point Hax makes more generally in that reply, that we are far less in control than we (often) think we are (note that she raises the risk of miscarriage on the part of the pregnant friend toward the end of the reply) and would do well to realize that. Haven’t many of us infertiles thought that planning the timing of a child’s arrival reeks of hubris? So somewhat harsh on the one hand (and I’d certainly advocate steering clear of the “I have great news!” approach — maybe, at most, “I have news I’m really happy about!”) but does also I think touch on, well, aspects of reality (which, let’s face it, can be beyond harsh).

As for campaigning/voting, eh. Fling the fliers, get the LoWV materials, vote. Yes, there’s plenty in our system that’s annoying; lots of democracies restrict the start time of campaigns, the use of media, the spending of money and so forth. Our government’s ruled we can’t have those limits because they would violate the first amendment, something of which I’d bet many of us are fans. So, it’s not all good (and I’m not actually defending US democracy as “better” than others, lest that be misread) but there are important principles underpinning many of even its annoying features and really, what are the alternatives (I mean to a governmental system in which we have to vote for our leaders).

28 Kir { 09.15.10 at 2:02 pm }

wow, I totally agree with you on the voting and I have a degree in Government. See how I’m not using it??? because I hate politics and everything they stand for..you said it better than I ever could, but yes I’ve thought about it like that many times…

you beg and beg to get in and then you DO NOTHING. Promises for what???

as for the Hex article, I actually liked that she took the infertile friend into consideration..while some people would say things like ..well it’s not YOUR fault she’s infertile and she should be bigger and better etc, than that. I agree that the presentation of said GREAT NEWS should be kept to “I have news that might hurt, that might need us to talk about it…but in light of that…..”

you know when we got PG there were 2 couples in our REAL LIFE world that were still (and still are struggling) and I actually asked John not to tell some friends until we could tell these mutual friends in our time and way…in a way that wouldn’t rip open a wound. I don’t know if we did it the right way, but I do know that I was extra sensitive (and still am) to how I send them pictures or news or whatever about the boys, because I know ..even after an IF has children, that hurt never really goes away.

Great post Mel.

29 Bea { 09.15.10 at 5:55 pm }

Politicians are the same the world over. That said, you should probably vote. (I am a supporter of our compulsory voting laws. Actually, it would probably lessen your irritation because by turning up you’re not somehow supporting the campaign process, you’re just following the law. Also, it protects the value of the votes of individuals within certain demographics in a way that voluntary voting cannot, but that is a whole separate argument.)

Caroline Hax should have mentioned tone of voice. The words, “Good news, I’m pregnant,” are entirely appropriate (although I would re-punctuate to remove the exclamation mark), however they should be said gently as if the speaker understands that this may not be the type of “good news” the listener wants to hear.

She was harsh on the infertile friend for her “naivety”. There is nothing wrong with being naive, nor is it necessarily naive to make plans you know you can’t control. And whether you tell people about these plans or not is a personal choice with various pros and cons, rather than some sort of childish prattling. So those are my two criticisms.

But I do agree it is important to avoid elaborate speeches about how *terrible* the pregnant person feels in conveying this news to the infertile person. This is not the time to steal sympathy away from the person who needs it most in the conversation, or to make them feel unreasonable or monstrous for having a moment of confusion or jealousy.


30 Kathleen { 09.21.10 at 9:03 am }

I love this post. I have never given too much thought to this yet, as we’re still struggling to conceive. I have always felt that this is a very personal choice and no one should really tell anyone else what to do. A person just doesn’t understand the history of another and therefore shouldn’t judge. You have a fantastic way of writing that makes this very clear and one is left to say, but of course!

(c) 2006 Melissa S. Ford
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