"How many bedrooms do you have? Was this an 'oopsie' baby?"
I asked parents if they’d ever had a pregnancy announcement met with disappointment and disapproval instead of joy and celebration — and the stories came flooding in.
Somebody’s mother-in-law responded, “Well, I’m not babysitting.” That was for the second child. For the third, she didn’t respond at all.
Another woman announced her fifth child, and heard not “How wonderful!” but “How many bedrooms are in your house? Was this an ‘oopsie’ baby?”
One woman’s family was too busy worrying about the baby weight she hadn’t lost yet to be able to be happy for her.
More than one couple dreaded announcing the news to certain family members, and some hid their pregnancies for as long as possible, unwilling to deal with the cold response. Nothing takes the wind out of your sails like somebody who doesn’t want to share your joy.
The person responding always thinks there’s a good reason to have reservations. The parents are too young, or too old. The family has “too many kids already,” or their health is bad, or their finances, or their job security, or their living conditions … there are endless justifications for disapproval.
But let’s get one thing clear: Even when there’s a laundry list of problems, the baby isn’t one of them. A baby is a person, and a person is never just a problem.
Even when the baby wasn’t intentionally conceived, even when parents are scrambling to figure out how they’ll take care of a new child at such an inopportune time, that baby nevertheless deserves a joyful welcome — no matter what.
The circumstances of Jesus’ birth, after all, were pretty short of ideal. But you wouldn’t know it from the way the angels filled the sky.
Something Pope Benedict wrote ought to guide our response when a baby is conceived, and we are tempted to mourn:
Man is that strange creature that needs not just physical birth but also appreciation if he is to subsist … If an individual is to accept himself, someone must say to him: “It is good that you exist” – must say it, not with words, but with that act of the entire being that we call love.
Every person deserves to hear that message: It is good that you exist. It doesn’t mean his parents — or anyone else — need to feel peaceful, or prepared, or even excited. But every person needs to be loved, and love begins with that simplest of foundations: It is good that you exist.
And after all, we can say, “Oh honey, I know this isn’t what you were expecting. Are you going to be okay? What help do you need?” and at the same time say, “It’s so good that your baby exists.” We can say, “I have to tell you, I’m so worried about your mental health and the burdens that this pregnancy is putting on you,” while we also say, “It is so good that your baby exists!”
We adults aren’t immune to being an impossible inconvenience to those around us. Our own problems can crop up at the worst possible times for those we love. We can burden our loved ones in countless terrible ways. And yet, it is still good — better than we could possibly know — that we exist. It’s time we start remembering that if we wouldn’t wish an adult out of existence, we shouldn’t do it to a baby, either.