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Share the News or Privacy

I have a very guarded tongue.  I have trained myself to keep quiet about the issues my friends share with me.  They deserve the privacy and the respect when they seek my help.  But this respect of their privacy is not limited to “clinical” advice seeking.

When a friend tells me she is pregnant, I congratulate her and let her continue to tell the people she wants to know.  I do not put her on prayer lists, share the news with a small group or talk about it with other friends at church or on Facebook. On the one hand it is gossip, but on the other hand it steals the joy my friend will have in sharing the news.

Steals the joy?  Yes, its true.  I remember arriving at church one day to the smiling face of someone I sort of new.  Through her big smiled she asked if I had heard our mutual friend was pregnant again.  I smiled and said yes, thanked her and walked away promising myself I would never share information with her.

Here are the things that went through my mind, and the reasons I encourage all women to keep other families news quiet. What if my friend hadn’t gotten in touch with me yet and I did not know?  I could have felt hurt that my friend didn’t tell me and our friendship could have been damaged.  Even if the friendship had not been damaged, the exciting conversation about the upcoming baby would have been stolen.

What if she hadn’t been a close friend of mine, should I be informed of everyone’s personal business just because I attend their church? If I don’t know them well enough to talk to them, should anyone be concerned that I am not informed they are having a baby?

I avoid gossip, and it has frustrated several friends.  When I am asked if a family is pregnant and I respond, “oh, you should ask them.” I get glares.  When I am asked about someone’s birth story and I respond, “You should really ask her, I bet she would love to tell you about it.” I get frowns.  My favorite was the time I told someone to ask the mother herself and the woman actually told me she didn’t really know the mother and so wouldn’t be asking her.  I quietly replied that if she didn’t know the mother enough to ask her about it, she probably should not have asked me.

Am I extreme?  Probably. When my sister called to say she was pregnant I got excited with her, then passed the phone around the room so each of my children and my husband could hear the news straight from her.

I know the joy of sharing this exciting news with friends and acquaintances and I would never want to steal it from anyone. I also accept there is a fine line between what a normal friend would be told and what women are willing to share with me.  If I expect to maintain their respect as a woman they can safely gather information from, I need to respect their privacy.

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Jennifer Vanderlaan CNM MPH is the author of the BirthingNaturally.net website. She has been working with expectant families since 2000, training doulas and childbirth educators, and midwives. She has worked with midwives in Central America and Sub-Saharan Africa. Her interest in public health grew in 2010, and she is now a PhD student in a nursing program learning to become a producer of knowledge.

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