If you’re the type of person who loves getting a good laugh, April Fools’ Day might be your favorite day of the year. But if your big prank for April Fools’ Day this year is announcing a fake pregnancy, don’t be surprised if not everyone is laughing.
In this age of viral videos, it’s obvious that pregnancy announcements get a lot of attention, the more creative, the better. So it’s easy to see how posting a fake pregnancy announcement as an April Fools’ prank seems like a good idea, since some of them draw thousands of clicks, likes and shares. But while there are things in life that are universally funny to everyone — like hearing someone talk after inhaling helium or seeing a dachshund dressed in a hot dog costume — lying about being pregnant isn’t one of them, especially to someone who’s coping with infertility.
Full disclosure: I’m not really big on pranks. Even as a child, I never saw the appeal of putting a rubber band on the sink nozzle so the next person who turned it one got sprayed or putting plastic wrap over the toilet bowl. As an adult when I saw “I’m pregnant!” announcements on Facebook that posted on April first, I rolled my eyes and moved on. I thought these pranks were silly, and a bit attention-seeking, but quickly forgot about them.
I forgot, that is, until the year that I found out I had serious fertility issues.
I had just started to think about trying to get pregnant when I found out having a baby was going to be impossible for me without significant medical intervention, and even then the odds weren’t great. I first received my diagnosis in the fall, and throughout the winter I struggled with both accepting it and figuring out how or if I wanted to pursue trying to become a mother.
I didn’t tell many people about my infertility struggle outside of my closest friends and immediate family, and needless to say, I wasn’t really paying attention to the calendar when April Fools’ Day came around. So on April 1 when I noticed a recently married friend post a vague status about “big news in nine months,” I was more jealous than suspicious. Another old friend posted that she too was expecting. And then my own cousin, almost four years my junior and recently back together with her on-again, off-again boyfriend, posted that she too was pregnant.
You’d think that I would have quickly figured out that these women were playing a prank, but here’s the thing about infertility: When you can’t have a baby that you so desperately want, it seems as though you’re surrounded by people who are getting pregnant. It’s like in those old cartoons where someone is starving and everything they see starts to look like food, except that it’s all your old sorority sisters who are having babies and when you rub your eyes they still have baby bumps, while the only thing living in your tummy is the burrito you had for lunch.
So no, I didn’t laugh it off and send my cousin a message telling her how funny she was. Instead I threw myself on my bed and sobbed with jealousy, self-pity and self-loathing over the fact that I couldn’t find it within myself to simply be happy for her. I wondered how I would handle seeing her at the holidays with one hand on her swollen belly, how I would get through her baby shower without crying. I called my mom in hysterics and we both wondered how she would take care of a baby and if we thought her relationship was strong enough to handle having a child.
That evening, when my cousin posted that the pregnancy was an April Fools’ prank, I was furious. I was mad at myself for not realizing that this could be a stupid prank, angry that I had wasted so much time and mental energy thinking about this and mad at her for believing a pregnancy was something to joke about.
I get that some might think my disdain for these pregnancy pranks is prissy, that I’m making a big deal about something that isn’t serious. But being pregnant is serious. Having a baby alters your life from the day you find out you’re expecting until the day you die. It’s exciting, it’s joyous, it’s scary and daunting. Finding out you’re going to be a parent is a lot of things, but a joke isn’t one of them.
The idea of shocking your partner or perhaps your parents with false news of an unexpected pregnancy may in fact be a hysterical April Fools’ prank that they will love, but when you play a pregnancy prank on social medial, you’re involving everyone you’re friends with online. One of the cardinal rules of comedy is “know your audience,” so unless you know for certain that no one in your online circles is struggling with infertility or perhaps a miscarriage, you have no way of knowing if your well-meaning prank will actually cause a lot of heartache.
The bottom line is: The whole point of an April Fools’ prank is that it’s supposed to be funny to everyone involved. People struggling to conceive already spend plenty of time thinking about babies that don’t exist. There’s no need to make your phantom April Fools’ baby one of them.
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