Announcing your forthcoming baby should be a time of great joy and whooping celebration. Everyone pats you on the back, cries tears of happiness and cracks out the knitting needles. But what if your procreation refuses to stick to a convenient timescale and you find yourself playing a complicated game of pregnancy relay?
I am four and a half months pregnant with my second child. Because it was a bit of a shock, I didn't tell many people early on and then refrained from the usual social networking route (mainly out of boredom at having to handle the huge amount of messages such a thing brings) so I have kept fairly schtum, safe in the knowledge that I seem to have told most people who matter early on.
Apart from my (albeit not close) friend Sadie. Sadie has been pregnant for what feels like the last six months (in fact I think she's a few weeks more pregnant than I). She's been talking about it on every social networking site going, she's mentioned it in every email we've shared and every chance she gets she reminds people.
I am very pleased for her. It's great news but it also feels like she's cornered the market and now wouldn't be a good time to make my announcement. So I haven't told her. And now I'm a bit scared to. I don't want to steal her thunder and I don't want her to think I was deliberately not telling her. I've left it too late. If only I could have waited until she'd given birth.
I've known I was pregnant from pretty much day one. But we didn't want to tell our families until we were sure everything was OK. Between then and now, my sister-in-law's two sisters have announced their pregnancies, resulting in MUCH delight in the family but not a small amount of, "Eeek. We're going to be busy!" So we listened to the panic and delight and kept quiet, wondering when we would drop our own bombshell.
Then there's Susan. Susan has been trying for a baby for about three years. She tells me about it sometimes. When we talk I already feel immense guilt that I have one child anyway so I have yet to find the right moment to sit her down and announce that not only am I am having another one, I barely had to cough to get it.
I know am not alone in my timing dilemmas. Parenting forums are awash with requests for advice in such situations and almost all my friends have a story to tell. My pal Donna's friend had two miscarriages and an ectopic pregnancy before getting pregnant. During this time, Donna found out she was pregnant but was too scared to tell her for 12 weeks.
Donna laughs, "In the end she guessed, as it was my second child my stomach muscles weren't as good as they were and I couldn't really do my trousers up. I knew she'd be happy for me but part of me was also worried that she was so pleased to be pregnant and if I announced mine it would take the limelight off her too. In the end the children were born a couple of days apart."
An old friend Jane had been trying unsuccessfully for a second baby for nearly a year when she told her recently-married sister, with whom she has always had a troubled relationship. Her sister promptly reacted in a bizarre (but entirely expected) fashion, saying she couldn't believe she would even consider having a baby when she knew that her sister didn't even have her first yet.
Jane knew her sister was being unreasonable but still didn't want to upset the apple cart. Shortly after their argument, she discovered she was pregnant. "I couldn't believe it," says Jane, "and I was so scared of telling her and our mother that I left it until nearly four months." There was the inevitable fallout but eventually her sister came round to the idea.
But why do we worry so? Is it because apart from getting married, pregnancy is supposedly the most important thing to happen to us? After all, you wouldn't plan your wedding to coincide with a friend's would you?
But we (I) might be panicking too much. A friend Sally (who's suffered multiple miscarriages) warns, "I have been on the receiving end of so many awkward 'confessions' that it's become embarrassing. In actual fact I would rather my friends just got on with the task of enjoying their pregnancies.
"I have started to find it a little offensive that my so-called friends think I might not be happy for them or that their happiness might ruin my life. I'd rather just be kept in the loop like everybody else."