"In just eighteen words, my aunt managed to steal my thunder, reveal sensitive information, undercut my life choices, and deliver a back-handed compliment."
mom looking at phone illo
Credit: Uyen Cao

Four years ago, I learned that I was pregnant with my fourth child. I felt a jumble of clashing emotions.

Joy. We wanted this baby so badly.

Relief. We'd been trying a long time and I'd begun to wonder if I could still get pregnant.

Apprehension. I'd already suffered two miscarriages, and I was 37 years old. What if I lost this baby too?

But within a few days, excitement won out, and I told my mom about the pregnancy. I told her that we weren't sharing the news outside of our family yet, so she felt safe telling her sister. My aunt, who never seemed to understand a single social moré, announced my pregnancy on Facebook.

"My niece Nicole is pregnant!! I think she's crazy since this is her fourth baby. Enough kids! But congratulations!"

Come to think of it, "announced" is a euphemistic way of describing it. In just eighteen words, my aunt managed to steal my thunder, reveal sensitive information, undercut my life choices, and deliver a back-handed compliment.

That's a lot of punch for eighteen words. I might've been impressed had my frontal lobe been in charge. Instead, my brain was off hyperventilating in a corner while my hormones surged into a panicky version of the Kubler Ross Stages of Grief.

Denial: How many people have seen this so far? Probably not many. Nobody pays attention to her Facebook posts, right?

Anger: What kind of idiot announces someone else's pregnancy? And I'm crazy for having four kids? At least I'm not a simpleton with a 3-year-old's understanding of etiquette.

Bargaining: Maybe I can get her to take it down before anybody else sees it! 

Depression: Another aunt and two cousins have already "liked" it. Soon they'll tell others, and everyone will know. I'm going to lose this baby, aren't I? I won't survive if I lose another baby.


...Actually, I never did reach acceptance. I hiked up my big girl pants, dried the sweat from my back, and PM'ed my Aunt. 

"Hey, Aunt Jo! I'm actually not ready to announce my pregnancy on Facebook yet. It's still pretty early and I'm nervous because of my past miscarriages. Could you please take your status down?"

"Sure honey," she replied.

Whew! That wasn't so bad. I sipped my herbal antioxidant tea and relaxed in front of the computer screen, waiting on that "announcement" to disappear from my feed.

An hour later, the status was still up. My back sweat had returned along with frayed nerves and a full bladder.

"Hey, Aunt Jo," I wrote again. "The status is still there. Do you need help taking it down? You click on the little arrow thing in the top right corner and then choose "Delete" from the drop-down."

"OK, honey. Thanks," she wrote back.

Another hour passed. My back now inhabited its own swampy ecosystem, but the Facebook status was still there. I slammed my fifth herbal tea and reminded myself that I really must do kegels.

You know how your eyes feel just before dusk when the sun is low in the sky and its UV rays are boring through your pupils? That's how my eyes felt staring at that computer screen with its offending Facebook status STILL RIGHT THERE FOR THE ENTIRE WORLD TO SEE.

"Aunt Jo, I would really appreciate it if you could take the status down RIGHT NOW," I begged in her messages once again. "Please. Whatever it is you're doing, drop it now and delete your status OR I WILL LITERALLY DIE."

(OK, I didn't actually say that last part. I only felt it in my loins.)

I realize that my reaction may seem a tad histrionic to some. Perhaps it was. After all, she'd told everyone I was pregnant, not that I'd taken up classical kazoo. Maybe I should've just let it be and enjoyed the congratulations as they came pouring in.

But this is about more than just me and my aunt's Facebook status. Expectant mothers deserve to announce their pregnancies on their own terms. There are all sorts of legitimate reasons that a woman might not want the world to know she's pregnant just yet.

Perhaps, like me, she's worried about the possibility of miscarriage. I'm happy to say that the pregnancy my aunt announced on Facebook ended with a healthy birth. But I've lived through the utter misery of loss. I know what it's like to proudly inform your friends and family that you're expecting a baby, only to deliver crushing news later.

"Hey, how are you feeling?" they say each time you bump into someone you know. "Any morning sickness yet?"

"No, I lost the baby."

It feels like humiliation piled on top of your grief. And you relive it over and over again with each acquaintance who knew you were pregnant.

Perhaps she's concerned about pregnancy discrimination in her job. This is a reality for many women. The EEOC receives thousands of complaints of pregnancy discrimination each year.

Maybe she has certain people whom she'd like to share the news with personally before others find out.

Perhaps she just wants to enjoy her excitement alone, with her husband, before letting the world in on their personal, secret joy.

Regardless of her reason, it is her news to share. Not her mother's. Not her aunt's. And I'd argue, not even her husband's. Sure, he should contribute to the discussion of when and how to announce. But she's the one growing a human being with her body.

She'll deal with wrenching nausea; sciatica; gas; heartburn; tender, leaking breasts; and the inability to smell garlic without projectile vomiting. That's all before the birth and the awful postpartum healing process. If there's going to be a fun part, like making a cute little announcement to display on social media, or watching the look on relatives' faces when they hear the good news, she should get to have that too.