On further outing (nothing bad has happened yet)

A couple of days ago I was commuting to work, as one does. My route takes me through an extremely large and busy train station, and as I was trotting along the main concourse, I walked smack into my mother.

Which surprised me, as I thought she was still on holiday.

‘Oh, no, we got back last night,’ she said, kissing me. ‘We’re in town to do some shopping and speak to business people. How are you, my darling? You look well. Is there any news?’

With great presence of mind, as I am trained like one of Pavlov’s dogs to never lie to my mother (it’s a bit of an affliction, to be honest), I said: ‘We can have a proper chat later.’

‘Oh, that would be lovely! Lets have tea together! What time do you finish work tonight?’


So I spent half the day panicking about How To Tell My Mother. In the event, panic wasted, as her business meetings overran by hours, and we agreed tea was to be postponed to another day. Of course, then H and spent the next few days twitching every time the phone rang, in case it was her. But she is very busy, and so far it hasn’t been. This will not last.

As for my Dad (my parents are divorced, and live at opposite ends of the country), he is currently much preoccupied with his own serious health issues. However, he gets very peeved if he realises he’s the last to find out family news. If I tell Mum, I’ll have to tell him shortly afterwards. And yet, I do not want to enfretulate him. He has a heart condition, after all. God damn it.

And then there’s H’s parents, about whom I am feeling complicated and prickly. I started miscarrying in a slow, dreary, tedious way on their sofa-bed once, Christmas 2009, and their response to that sorry event can be summed up here. I’ve never really quite got over that, and now that I think of it at length (instead of slamming the file shut whenever my mind strays over there), it has all put a bit of a crimp in our relationship. I don’t want to upset them, or be a source of grief to them, and I am very sad they haven’t had the grandchildren of their own that they want so much. But on the other hand, I’m not sure I care for their bland indifference to our, mine and H’s, actual physical and emotional suffering, coupled with tactless trampling on sensitive issues and moments of extreme awkwardness whenever the subject of childlessness comes up. And no, I don’t care for the business of educating them about ART. We’re all discussing the pros and cons of 3-day versus 5-day CGH-array embryo testing, and they’re all ‘have you read this article in the local newspaper about full-fat dairy products improving fertility?’ They mean well, obviously, but they are trailing about five or six years behind us in terms of getting their heads round our journey, and it drives me fucking nuts. This is your son, your family, your loved ones. Sack the fuck up and pay attention, for the love of Christ.

And therefore, I do not, absolutely not, no-how, want to tell them I am pregnant, have them all be happy, and then tell them I miscarried and have them all sail straight back onto their river-cruise in Egypt and make like it never happened. That would pretty much ruin our relationship for years to come.

H is in charge of telling his parents about our fertility issues, as I am in charge of telling mine. Both sets of parents are a few miscarriages short of the grand total (discussing the very early ones is just beyond me, to be honest. They are important medical information and cumulatively have done something ghastly to my psyche, but as individual events they’re all a bit ‘oh fuck not again,’ rather than soul-crushing). I think we missed a trick, not telling them the grand total earlier. I wish we’d also spent time telling them what is and isn’t supportive behaviour. But, to be fair, they have had Bad Sad Times of their own recently, and it never seemed the right moment, and now in this corner we are painted.

What to do, Gentle Readers? What to do? Keeping in mind that my Mum the Incurable Excitable Chatterbox talks regularly and gossipily to H’s parents, so if we tell her, we shall have to tell them within days. And I don’t know if I can keep this from Mum all the way until the scan, because she was trained by the KGB and also, they all know we were planning on doing IVF this summer. We communicated that much, at least.

(This is all very silly, isn’t it? What a cheeringly daft thing to have got my knickers in a knot about. TELLING FAMILY).


26 responses to “On further outing (nothing bad has happened yet)

  • bionicbrooklynite

    This is what singing telegrams were invented for.

    (Okay, maaaaayyybe not, but my brain is not coming up with anything helpful. Candygram, maybe?)

  • Melissa

    My very unhelpful suggestion is just to wait until they notice that you are pregnant and ask! I guess that just won’t do, will it? No help from this corner of the globe either, I am afraid. Sorry!

  • a

    I would not say anything to anyone and stop answering your phone! But I don’t generally like to talk to people anyway.

    Eh, don’t worry about it. If it comes out with your mother, you have your contingency plan in place. And perhaps she could be persuaded (via the guilt of “there are times when a girl really needs her mum and no one else will do”) to keep a secret for a little while.

  • L.

    Apologies in advance for the blog post of a comment…

    So, even if you tell your mother to not say anything to your in-laws, she’ll probably let something slip anyway? So it’s all (parents told) or nothing?

    I think I would avoid telling your mother, then, until you get further along. Unless she asks outright. Just to give yourself some space.

    Or, alternatively, if you cave once under the spotlights, tell everyone, but make H completely insulate you from your in-laws until a later date: don’t want to hear what they said, avoid visits, etc. And adroitly turn the conversation elsewhere if your mother starts telling you what they said. That is sort of my in-law technique; I do not like certain things about them, and I don’t particularly care about having a more than cordial relationship with them, so my husband negotiates it all and I try to stay out of it as much as possible.

    I will say, with both your in-laws and parents, it’s so not too late for you, or H., to say “The actual number was NINE” and “It is supportive to express empathy vs pretend this difficult thing never happened” and “I have been in significant physical pain for years” and “I have consulted x different specialists on this topic and we are way beyond diet modifications, ya asshole” and “I don’t want your advice on getting pregnant, I want your listening ear”. OK, maybe not the “ya asshole” part, but you know what? If you are already ticked off at them enough that you are dreading their reaction to how this pregnancy turns out, and how it could affect your relationship for years, they NEED to have some awkward moments. You should set some new, verbalized boundaries and expectations for behavior, because we do need to say these things out loud–it’s only fair. They, in turn, need to fulfill those expressed boundaries and expectations. If they don’t, the condition of the relationship is on them.

    We get one life, and it’s short, and you have, and will have, a lot of other pressing concerns that merit more attention. Regardless of where you are in nine months, this will be far from the last of Fraught situations you’ll need to negotiate with them. So I recommend lancing this boil and assessing where you stand afterward, so you don’t waste too much energy worrying about people who so far haven’t spent enough time thinking about your concerns. Best outcome, they are chastened and do their best and don’t piss you off so much. Worst outcome, they completely fail and then you take some steps back.

    Bottom line, you have suffered in spades to arrive at this pregnancy and you should take care of yourself by doing whatever is best for you, and don’t worry about being somewhat callous about people who cause you additional stress. Of course…so much easier said than done. As always.

    Here’s one easy thing: I think your news will be a very welcome distraction for your dad–on balance much more positive than a severe stressor. Even if things go south (and how I hope they continue to stay north), I think that is more an issue of sadness and disappointment than heart attacks.

  • Mina

    I agree with all who have commented so far. And let me repeat some of that in my own words, with CAPITALS: YOU can do whatever YOU want to do. Pregnancy is a very special time in your life, you have tried so hard to get here, YOU’D BETTER GET THE MOST out of this very expensive journey. Enjoying might be a bit of a stretch, I realise, but nevertheless, letting the thoughts of OTHERS spoil your mood and distract you from worrying about this and that?! NOT acceptable.
    As fas as ‘never lie to your mother’ adage, I do believe there are nuances to that, especially after a certain age. Think of it as training for when you have to explain stuff to your child, for example ‘spiders come through the window, but only when people sleep, when they are awake, they stay outside and let people get fresh air inside their rooms’ sort of ‘lie’. Some spiders are considerate and polite like that, but there is no reason to start pointing fingers and shame other spiders, who surely have other qualities, is there? So you should tell her when YOU feel comfortable, not when you are feeling pressured into telling.
    And I do agree with L above: why are you being so nice and protective of them? Why do you not tell them that after nine, NINE miscarriages, you know all there is to know about conception, and after what you and H have been through, they should JUST be there for you and NOT the fuck comment on ANYTHING, since this is the safest way to ensure you are not stressed? Keep in mind that the meddling in other people affairs and sharing unsolicited assvice increases exponentially after a child comes into the picture. When your child is here (because I absolutely refuse to think about any other possible outcome to this), they will feel entitled to do a lot of stupid shit, like give him or her (let’s go with her, I imagine you the mother of a little girl, May) a bit of chocolate icecream ‘because she craved it’ as we all know three month olds DO, or put her on her belly to sleep, because this is what they did with their children, or I don’t know, in general disregard everything you tell them to do when it comes to your child, because they had children before you, who turned out alright, and you are not the first one to have a child, and so on, bloody-blah. You should set things clear, this is a very, VERY much waited for and wanted child, you and H went through hell and back to get to where you are now, you went through physical ordeals no woman should in order to have a child, and you did not tell anything about it because it would have been added pressure keeping them in the loop and shit. But now that you ARE here, they should better respect your wishes and expectations (for them to sit back, shut up and smile) and give you a well deserved break, after all, it’s been a long fight and you are weary, after all you are growing a child in there. And when you feel able to address their many questions and queries, for they surely have loads of those, you will do so.
    I am sorry for this post I left instead of a comment. I get worked up easily, what can I say. I wish you DO get the most of it, you waited too bloody much and have been through too much heartache to get stressed by such trivial shit. You should only get stressed by major shit, like the BABY and GIVING BIRTH (still a bit until there though).
    Oh, and sorry for the profanity as well. They say people who use profanity are honest, and Stephen Fry did an experiement, and saying FUCK helped him keep his hand in iced water for longer than when he didn’t. So there. This is me, keeping a hand in iced water, and writing with the other. 🙂

    • Anonymous

      Oh, I think I agree with Mina too.

      Managing the difficult ways of parents and in-laws is so much easier said than done, mind you… Still, you are not obliged to say anything yet.

      In three months’ time you can announce your pregnancy and say it happened naturally. You were thinking about IVF but then got preggers. What a miracle. Whatever is easier and more hassle-free. Only you know what that might be.

      It never ceases to amaze me how munch stress and sadness parents can cause their adult children; how much managing they need.

      It’s a universal problem but you really don’t need it. You and H have been through enough.

      That’s all.

      K x

  • Amy P

    You know me, May–I’m a lot like you. I’ll avoid a topic until the cows come home (actually, until the chickens come to roost would be a better metaphor if I weren’t looking at plans to convert that not-a-greenhouse into a coop–we’re not zoned for cows to come home *silly* ). But I’d say to listen to L. and Mina, if it wouldn’t make me into a big hypocrite, seeing as the *only* reason I’ve not asked Tom to keep contact with his parents strictly to himself (if not cut off entirely, but they’ve not done anything horrid enough for that) is that they are the girls’ only grandparents, and have been so since 2005 (lost my dad in 1997, shortly before the wedding, lost my mom in 2000, lost my stepdad in 2005–my stepmom became my ex-stepmom in 1990, years before Dad became ill, though she’s still alive and we’ve had an amicable relationship since we refound each other. She’d be a wonderful grandma, and my girls would be her only grandkids (and the girls would have a couple cool aunts) if my head would just wrap around the idea (Actually, I take that back–don’t know if her husband has grandkids or not)… Mom and my stepdad were still happily married when she died, so my head’s fine with that,,,

    I will now go and soak my head for making this about me, here.

  • Robyn

    I’m now in a position of advanced years and can perhaps, present a viewpoint, developed in front of the long and dusty lens of experience. May knows, from previous commentary here and elsewhere, that her mum and mine might well have been separated at birth as regards the offer as dietary regimens and a bit of positive thinking as a cure for adeno/endo and it’s bitch minions of Pain, Vomiting and Suffering.

    Before we were married mum even told Life Partner’s parents be that my chiropractor had told her it was unlikely that I would ever be able to have children. Based on no solid evidence whatsoever. My relationships with my parents and parents-in-law were always tight and tense with unmet expectations on both sides. Now, they have all gone to their heavenly rewards, and can no longer offer unwanted advice or behave badly but I would gladly give up a year of my own life to spend a day with them and tell them how grateful we are and how much we miss them/. Because everything they did, said and interfered in, they did from a position of love. Our disappointment is because they didn’t do it the way we, being perfect and humble human beings and never wrong, would do it if we were them.

    Everyone’s coping skills under stress develop in order to bring the wild ride of life under some kind of control. They are worried, anxious and upset on your behalf. They don’t want to make things worse by appearing any of those things. So they put on a brave face, or change the subject or bumble into offering rubbish solutions. And then, when you are not there they fret and brainstorm solutions, and then agree that you are adults now and will work things out with (a) no interference from them OR (b) with constant stupid interference disguised as solutions from them.

    I tried to be the grown-up and make the best decisions for me, Life Partner and my own children. Ask those children now and they will catalogue my failings in extensive detail. But they had wonderful, strong relationships with both sets of grandparents because once I was able to look at my first son as an infant and imagine how I would like my far distant daughter in law to treat him and me, it was easy to translate that image into my actual behaviour towards them. I forgave them their multiple failings, not to let them off the hook, but entirely for me. Forgiveness gave me the insight and strength to be a role model for my children. And the terrific memories over the years of their growing up with grandparents who adored them but had their own unique way of showing it were completely worth it.

    You never truly understand why other people do what they do. Hell, I often don’t understand why I do what I do. Trying to work out the WHY? of it just drives you mad. Try taking your hands off the steering wheel of life and going in an unexpected direction. Tell or don’t tell. The news might make things easier for your Dad to give up. Or not. You cannot know. Do what would feel right to you if the position was reversed. Then don’t look back. Go forward into the future with as much joy and optimism you can muster. Because that is the very best that we can each hope for.

    • Robyn

      PS: I meant your Dad’s bad habits. Not just give up more generally which is how it reads.

      • Mina

        Good point, as fair is fair, main family interference comes from love. But it is also fair that the road to hell is paved with good intentions, so there has got to be a middle way. Given that it might be a tad too late in the game to enlighten them gradually, help them towards the fountain of understanding as it were, one must uproot them from their stumbling in the dark and just put them on the sunny side of the road. Does it sound harsh? Well, not only, but it IS. Nevertheless, it might help for them to see where May is coming from. They are clueless. Not by their fault, entirely, but ignorance does not blunt the pain. So I stick by my first long assvice. I did part of what I preach (different life journey and obstacles) and I still think it helped improve my relations with my inlaws.

  • Chickenpig

    I made a point with the two pregnancies that stayed to not say a thing until past the first trimester. I was almost there with the last one, but I had to tell my mother because I had to be brought to the hospital for a D & C. Her and my sister’s reaction still colors our relationships in a bad way. My MIL once got fall down drunk and stabbed her wrists with a steak knife when she knew her grand children were coming to visit, so I don’t give a flying you-know-what about telling her ANYthing, let alone sensitive information of any sort.

    I never tell anyone when we are cycling, either, so there isn’t any “news” to share. It is a little late for you to say “News? what news?” To your mother, but could you put her off by saying that you are waiting for tests or something?

  • Sheila

    Lots of excellent advice above and I strongly agree with doing it when you’re ready. I told them after the 6.5week heartbeat scan as my GP said there was a high chance of getting to 12 weeks once a heartbeat had been seen. In laws – ugh – I’ve got the same problem – they’re just hideous in their attitude to IVF. I just avoid them like the plague now.

  • Melissa

    Sticky situation!!! Best of luck with it!

  • Bachelor's Button

    Oh I dont know… I’d maybe keep shtum (?sp) until your scan and then start to divulge… (But your mother will probably guess if she is anything like mine…) Oh and on the matter of in laws… a friend pointed out to me ‘They are just not your tribe’ when I was ‘discussing’ mine, and that thought makes me smirk and kind of helps every time that we have a mis-communication…. Hx

  • Twangy

    These comments are very interesting, are they not?

    If your mother cannot be told and silenced by means fair or foul, (I would try emotional blackmail of the “this is really, really important to me, PLEASE MOTHER, do not tell a soul” kind myself) and if said mater cannot either be held off, lied to, or avoided for some weeks, it sounds as though you’ll be outed. Sorry, May.

    In the case of the – eh – outage, I suppose damage limitation in the form of serious phone calls to remaining parents would be the way to go, appealing to all as you go to protect you from stress.

    BECAUSE, REALLY. NOT what you need, and they have to understand that.

  • carole

    Hmmm. Tricky. There was a 14 week gap between my family knowing and my in-law family knowing, but that was aided by them a) not speaking the same language and b) not living in the same country. I told my mother right after my second scan that established a heartbeat because it was her birthday. Otherwise I might have kept it quiet a bit longer as I was very, very jumpy about anyone being too happy about it. Or talking about it. Or referring to any future event.

    What about the timelapse idea recently used on Womb for Improvement’s blog? Could you tell your mother about starting to cycle etc etc as if it was just starting now? Nothing but the truth of actual events, but just leaving out direct references to when it happened. That does mean that you would actually have to reveal the pg within a few weeks, but at least that would tide you over the first scan or so before having to deal with it.

    Then I would swear your mother to secrecy re: in laws because H wants to tell them himself. How could she argue with that?

    • Emily Erin

      This was going to be my suggestion! I love the part about telling her that H really *SHOULD* be the one to tell his parents; that’s brilliant too!

  • Jo

    I really think both L. And Mina have given spot-on advice. As hard as it may be, it’s time the ‘rents were clued in as to how brutal of a journey this has been. And H. seems to be a fairly supportive chap- perhaps this is his time to step up and spell out in no uncertain terms the EXACT reaction you would like to have from them. All in all, I wish you all the luck and am keeping my fingers crossed that they’re reactions are more annoying than downright soul-crushing. Much love, my friend.

  • Betty M

    I am with L and also with Carole on the womb for improvement time lapse idea. If your mother is a (well meaning) blabber mouth then don’t risk it if telling h’s parents at the same time is not what you want.

    I don’t know what your scan schedule is with the clinic or indeed if you are still on the Lady Professor’s NHS books (she is a big believer in as many scans as you like for RPL people) but perhaps you can feel safe enough at 8w or 10 and tell then rather than at 12w. Can recommend totally excellent not for profit private scan outfit if you like.

    I was a no tell until 11 or 12 weeks person. And no tell at all about the miscarriages – at least to my family. I just couldn’t bear to talk about it or receive sympathy or worse still helpful suggestions. I’m very much on a need to know basis only and nearly all people don’t need.

  • Hairy Farmer Family

    The cat is already out of the bag to the tune of 3 flailing legs and a tail, by the sound of it!

    YMMV, of COURSE, but I don’t think fibs and/or concealment of hurt are often the way forward in any fraught situation involving functioning adults, particularly parents. Everyone has, ultimately, to paddle their own emotional canoe, be they parent or child, no matter how dys- or functional the parent-child relationship may be.

    And there is nothing sadder than someone who thinks they Get the whole ‘comfort in, dump out’ ring concept, but in practice (because of the way that family just ARE sometimes), gets it a bit switched about, and is just not the supportive prop they genuinely think they are. You can generally pick and choose your friends according to whether they meet your personal criteria of comfort/dump sufficiently – or not – but… God, family are hard. Occasionally deluded. As evidenced by the length of the comments here.

    My fourpennorth is that it is definitely, definitely not too late to spend time telling them all what is and isn’t supportive behaviour. They don’t require ART details to learn to avoid the cowpats. I don’t necessarily think that shielding your families from the knowledge that you wanted to carry this burden alone together BECAUSE IT FELT LIGHTER THAT WAY is helpful – to them. As parents they all do, presumably, _aspire_ to feel that their children can turn to them with their stresses and strains, and the fact that you have progressed this far without making an effort to involve them may send a sufficiently strong message of implied criticism to make them re-examine their ‘comfort-in, dump-out’ policies. Or, equally likely I suppose, they may simply retire, affronted, only to reappear some months later strongly expecting Grandchild Privileges and a clean emotional slate (I have known this happen).

    If they have, for whatever reason, not previously cottoned-on to what you have gone through, its debilitating effect, and failed to Parent Up Adequately – perhaps now is a good opportunity to be didactic. IVF is so well-enshrined in the public brain as being a stressful procedure, that they may, actually, pin back their ears to some details on What To Say, What Not To Do. It sounds like it’s going to be difficult for you, sadly, whatever course you choose (ANOTHER difficult thing that you thoroughly deserve to have easy), but maybe gathering yourselves to deliver some clear emotional messages may be helpful.

    (Personally, I was brutally forthright about the fact that any additional pressure to successfully reproduce, given my disastrous circs, would be met with a merciless brickbat. My mother was scared to even ask how I was feeling, I think; which was, really, exactly how I wanted it. It was like grief: I wanted to be in charge of whether to start the conversation, or not, and on what terms.)

    I hope you get what you need from your families, I really do. As you say, they mean well. They just may need a little nudging to DO well.

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