I wrote this for my blog at Psychology Today. I wasn’t going to share it here, because I didn’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings. I still don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings, but I am now convinced by the response to the Psychology Today piece that this really does need to be talked about.
“Don’t tell everyone just yet.”
“You haven’t really announced, though, right?”
“It’s so early!”
I was never going to keep from getting my hopes up. I was never going to keep from falling in love with my “baby” even when it was a ball of thirty-odd cells. Something immediately bothered me about the admonitions other women repeated to keep my pregnancy to myself. I tried to consider it.
Several scenarios played out in my imagination. One: I tell everyone as soon as I feel like it & have a healthy, happy pregnancy. The end. Two: I tell everyone “too soon,” have a miscarriage, and friends and family rally around me in support as I grieve. Three: I don’t tell anyone, have a miscarriage, and… what? Suffer in silence?
I have tried to understand the reason behind continuing this tradition where we all keep quiet until after the first trimester ends–just in case. I understand that miscarriage is not a comfy subject to talk about. I understand the fear that, while trying to recover, emotionally, you will have to answer someone’s innocent “So how are you feeling?” (not a single person who knows I am pregnant asks me “How are you?” any more–I find this custom endearing, though) with such terrible news.
Here’s the thing, though: I am terrible at hiding emotions. There is no way I would be able to keep from showing my grief on my face, all the time. I do not see how I could pretend that the pregnancy had not happened. And wouldn’t somebody wonder? I would hope that someone would notice the change in me.
What bothers me most about this tradition, however, is that its roots lie in a long history of shame. Women have long pretended that sexuality, pregnancy, birth and, of course, miscarriage, simply do not exist. For many women, a miscarriage feels like a huge failure. If it remains a secret, if women feel like terrible wives, or if we see it as some sort of “sign” that we aren’t good enough, we can’t give each other the chance to share the burden of grief.
I’m not suggesting that everyone announce every pregnancy the minute the test turns positive. Not every woman who has suffered a loss is going to want to discuss a miscarriage publicly. I would simply like to leave it up to each family.
And yet, I could not escape this advice: don’t go around telling everyone. Wait. The miscarriage rate is still too high. Obviously, I have to have told you if you are giving me this advice. Why didn’t you want to know? Why wouldn’t you want to know that I had lost this dearly wished-for baby? Why couldn’t I turn to you in this joy and, if the worst happened, turn to you in my grief?
I felt shamed. I felt pressure to hide my joy, lest it turn to grief. We did wait–sort of. We told immediate family, and very close friends. But after we saw our little “Bug” at our eight-ish weeks ultrasound, we told everyone. Yes, it’s different for a blogger. My readers were waiting for the news, because I had devoted my entire blog to my preconception journey.
Everything has worked out wonderfully, and everyone is so excited to hear all the news, now that I have begun the second trimester of this healthy pregnancy. And yet, I have trouble forgiving the women (it was always women) who responded to my “I’m pregnant!” with “Don’t tell too many people” and an implied “You might have a miscarriage.” I just cannot believe that that is an appropriate or helpful response. If a woman announces a pregnancy at four weeks, eight weeks or twenty weeks, she is still pregnant. If she feels joy in sharing that fact, no amount of risk to her fetus ought to dampen that joy.