Through the years of being part of our Life Without Baby community, I really thought I’d heard every possible horror story. But recently a friend told me about her nightmare experience at a baby shower, and I am aghast. At that gathering, the hostess introduced a new game: A bag is passed around the room, and each guest pulls out a pregnancy test. (I could not make this up.) When everyone has one, they all look, and the woman holding a positive test announces to the room “I’M PREGNANT!” and wins a prize.
Apparently it’s the hot new trend at baby showers.
It got even worse for my friend. When the bag came to her, she tried to let it pass, but the woman sitting next to her insisted she play. “I’ve taken plenty of pregnancy tests, and they’ve all been negative,” my friend said quietly. “I don’t need to go through this again.” At which point her neighbor took this as an invitation to loudly out my friend as a childless woman and offer advice: “You should try IVF! A friend of a friend had a miracle baby in her late 40s! You could always adopt!”
My friend, who is a much stronger person than I am, managed to laugh it off. Weeks after hearing her tale, my blood is still boiling. I put myself in her shoes and wondered how I would have reacted in that situation. Part of me hopes I would have turned to the intrusive and insensitive stranger and said something like, “F— you and the horse you rode in on,” which would have been inappropriate and rude, but might have made me feel better in the moment.
But the reality is I probably would have just sat there and taken the abuse, while shutting a part of myself down in an attempt to get through the party without dissolving into a sobbing puddle and amplifying an already grotesque public humiliation. Sigh.
Next time—because there will be ladies luncheons, holiday parties, family get-togethers, and other events that will turn sour—what I really hope I will do is stand up and walk out. Period.
And it got me thinking that I could give myself permission to save myself. (This goes for you, too.) I don’t owe anyone any excuses. I don’t even need to say, “Excuse me” as I get up. I suppose I could say, “Where’s the restroom?” to make a graceful exit, but as soon as I am out of range, I could head straight out the door and to my car (and have my meltdown in private).
Would this cause a scene? Perhaps. Would it cause people to talk? Possibly, and maybe that’s a good thing. Maybe my walking out and calling attention to how horribly hurtful something is would get people to think and have some compassion. And at the very least, I might hang on to a shred of my dignity, and that’s worth a lot.
I hope you’ll keep this in mind the next time you’re caught off guard by someone else’s poor choices. I hope you’ll remember that I have given you permission to take care of and stand up for yourself.
We don’t have to take abuse from anyone.