Stillbirth, miscarriage and infertility is no April Fools' joke

 Photo: Getty Images

By 9am on April 1, I’d heard the great news from three friends: they were all expecting. By 9.05am, they’d all replied that I was no fun after I’d speedily replied with “Congratulations, we will enjoy our pregnancies together ... although I’m expecting quads.”

While I have fallen for the old "I'm pregnant - just kidding, April Fools'!" joke before, it was many, many years ago. It’s definitely a popular prank that gets trotted out every year. 

By lunch time this year however, the prank had managed to surprise me once more – not by someone posting their faux news, but by a related meme that was doing the rounds. It showed a photo of a baby, with a note that posting such jokes is insensitive to those who have suffered miscarriage, stillbirth, painful IVF procedures and infertility. 

The popular meme image.
The popular meme image. 

I have suffered a miscarriage, so I know how horrendous the experience is, but I just don’t find the prank offensive, or really related to my experience. While I’d find “I’m sorry to say I’ve lost my baby” a poor taste joke, I think that’s because it would be terrible news you wouldn’t wish on anyone. It's the difference between pranking someone with “Oooh, I won the lotto” and “My house burnt down and I lost everything”; one is a bit pointless, the other just mean spirited.

So while I don’t think the joke is especially funny, I don’t equate a faux announcement with my lost baby. And I have to wonder, does anyone?

But some people must, as the meme went viral pretty fast - and it wasn't just being shared by those rolling their eyes at the PC Police. 

Never one to be accused of having a closed mind, I posted a copy of the meme to my page and asked if anyone was upset by the April Fools' "I'm pregnant" posts. One friend responded that she finds them offensive and in poor taste because back when she was trying to conceive, she felt really sensitive, and after seeing yet another pregnancy announcement she wondered why everyone was getting pregnant except for her. Obviously she later learnt not everyone was pregnant, but for those few hours, the feelings were there and unpleasant, so it seemed like a mean thing to lie about. 

On the flipside, the popular site STFUparents posted a copy of the meme and requested opinions on the topic. Most felt the joke was passé, but certainly not insensitive. 

A comment that I wholeheartedly agreed with was: “If someone specifically makes a joke about YOUR inability to conceive or having lost a baby, that’s insensitive – an old hat joke that few people fall for that is not targeted at anyone in particular is not.”

Another commented on the PC police telling us what we can and can’t tell jokes about: “Let’s not post anything about the delicious dessert we just ate because someone who is diabetic might see it. Let's not complain about how hard it is to have teenagers in the house, because some people's children never lived to BE teenagers."

But really, I think the issue may lie in the delivery of the joke. We used to prank via text or in person, so we used to have more control over who we were trying to fool. Now we do it on Facebook. This way we don’t limit it to those we know who will be okay with it – and while 95 per cent of the people on our friends list may take it with the grain of salt intended, the remainder may simply find it rubbing salt into their wounds. 

Ultimately, I remained unconvinced by the meme’s impassioned plea. I understand firsthand the experience of pregnancy loss, but taking everything in life so personally (unless it is directed at you) is never going to give you a peaceful life. But then again, I certainly wouldn’t complain if you chose to instead trick me with something a little more original and a little less pointless. (I thought the Vegemite energy drink was definitely this year's Facebook winner for April Fools' jokes.)