Yesterday I started seeing the “Remember this April Fools that for those struggling with infertility or pregnancy loss, pregnancy is not a joke,” graphics making their rounds. I have complicated feelings about this.
First and foremost, fake pregnancy is an incredibly stupid joke. Few people fall for it, and it’s very publicly embarrassing for those that do (because honestly, you should know better). The faker is literally the only person who thinks it’s funny.
My other feelings aren’t quite as straightforward. Stupidity aside, yes, it’s unkind. But the reason why it’s unkind is far more complex than simply “it makes those struggling feel sad.” Because in reality, actual pregnancies are just as hurtful as fake ones to those struggling with infertility or loss.
Before I go any further, I should say that I had the bad luck to be pregnant while a family member was struggling with infertility and loss. More recently I’ve had the bad luck to be in that exclusive reproductive club where things aren’t going as planned.
When I was pregnant while that family member was not, I felt a lot of guilt for causing her to feel sad. She was nothing but kind to me about it, but I hated that she was sad, and I hated feeling guilty. My husband can assure you I was a delightful bundle of hormonal emotions.
I’ve been on the other side now, and I do feel a twinge of jealousy and sadness when friends or family are pregnant while I am not. But I also sincerely hope they don’t feel guilty, because I also know how awful that feels.
It’s been a long road coming to a place where I recognize that I do, unavoidably, influence how others feel, but I don’t have ownership of their feelings. My choices (good choices!) caused that family member to feel sad, but I didn’t own her sadness any more than she owned my guilt. We alone choose to express our feelings, suppress our feelings, or change our feelings. They are ours alone and no one can make us feel anything without our permission.
But that doesn’t exempt us from being wise in our actions. Actions that are purposely intended to make someone feel uncomfortable are inexcusable.
You see, refraining from a dumb fake pregnancy just because it hurts those struggling with infertility and loss sort of misses the mark. It’s wrong because the “joke” is engineered to deceive or embarrass people we like. And that in itself is hurtful.
April Fools is a holiday I can never get behind. I feel there is already enough deceit and cruelty in the world without a holiday dedicated to it. But of course, to each his own. Just remember before you go to great lengths to “pull one over”: