“Unideal” Congratulations

When we find out we’re expecting baby, how do we expect people to react? My husband and I had been married a year and half (previously dated 4 years before with a year long engagement) so total we knew each other five and a half years before we got pregnant with our first baby.  We were very lucky that everyone in our family (to our knowledge) was thrilled.  Even though it was confirmation that my husband and I had indeed had sex, our parents were ecstatic about becoming grandparents. “Congratulations you guys!” We were lucky.

But what about those couples, or mothers, who don’t experience the “Congratulations”?

Every circumstance is different; the teenage mother, the unmarried mother, the “not sure who the baby’s dad is” mother, etc..  How is society supposed to react to these “unideal” parenting situations?

My family has been in an “unideal” situation.  I come from a very conservative, and extremely traditional family – you graduate high school, get a college degree, get married, and then maybe have kids. How was I supposed to react? “Congratulations” sure didn’t seem like an appropriate term of endearment in the circumstance.

In reality, I somehow felt I was encouraging the situation by giving a literal “Congratulations”  and in some way making them feel their “unideal” pregnancy was acceptable.  What a horrible thought right? Of course there were other extenuating circumstances that prevented me from being able to verbalize “Congratulations” and the ever present family dynamics.  But what is the appropriate way to react?

During a recent trip to Wal-Mart I was scoping out the baby section and noticed a very young couple browsing baby clothes – I swear the girl couldn’t have been older than 15.  I wondered to myself, “why on earth are high schoolers looking in the baby section?” Then my answer.  Another couple from their school greeted them and asked them why they were looking at baby clothes. The young giddy girl answered … “Oh we just found out we are pregnant and we couldn’t help but look at stuff.  We are so excited!” The other couple seemed shocked and asked when she was due. “We just found out so we’re only about 8 weeks along.” The couple answered “Geez Congratulations.”
I wanted to run over and say … “Don’t buy anything! Save your money! Kids are expensive! You need to go to college! AHHHH!” I kept thinking, this girl has her whole life ahead of her and this is the decision she is making.  

Again, what a horrible thought right?  

I suddenly felt this rush of guilt. Who am I to judge what someone else?

I don’t think anyone is ever truly ready for kids; so sometimes the perfect arrangement can be unideal.  Every situation, every person, every pregnancy is different – so maybe our reactions should reflect this. Does a woman who decides to have a baby out of wedlock warrant the same “Congratulations” as an expecting married couple?  All I know is that my mom has always said, “treat others as you want to be treated”.  So no matter how hard it is to conjure up an unideal “Congratulations”, the right thing to do is show your feelings through a card, a gift, or a smile.  Sometimes your reactions and actions are the ones that are most remembered. And let’s face it, no one has ever lost sleep over being too nice.

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