July 27 – August 7: 6 Weeks 0 Days – 6 Weeks 6 Days.
I was already feeling guilty that I’d told the woman at the baby clothing store I was pregnant before I told Richard, but that was just the beginning of a long-standing trend. We would be visiting my family in Canada soon and seeing Richard’s dad in Northern California after that, so we agreed to wait until at least after we told our families in person to announce our pregnancy to the rest of the world. Of the friends I saw in person before we officially announced, it would be quicker to list who I didn’t tell than who I did tell. I can only think of two occasions that I mustered up the willpower to keep the secret. The only way I could resist telling people was to avoid seeing them face-to-face. Richard was annoyed with me because every day I would come home with stories about other people I’d told (my best friend from home, an acquaintance I met for tea, the woman down the hall I barely know), while he’d continued to keep the burning secret.
I hated keeping my pregnancy under wraps. Obviously everyone has different strategies and different coping mechanisms, but here are some reasons I may not even try to keep it a secret next time ’round:
- Guilt factor. There are already enough guilt-triggers during pregnancy. I’m supposed to eat leafy greens, but after I choke down one or two broccoli florets and a brussels sprout, my nausea kicks in and the rest of the veggies get pushed to the edge of my plate. I’m not supposed to take hot baths, but baths relieve my nausea and help me relax before bed. The last thing I need is to feel guilty for sharing my joy and excitement with others.
- Support if things go wrong. Women are told to keep their pregnancy a secret for the first trimester because the rate of miscarriage is higher during that time. What’s the underlying implication here? I can think of a couple possibilities, and I’m not really a fan them. Keep your pregnancy a secret because you might miscarry and…
- Miscarriages are shameful/your fault/something to be embarrassed about. I don’t want any part in perpetuating this weird stigma around miscarriage. I’m grateful for the stories people have shared with me about miscarriage because they help me accept that miscarriages are a real possibility, that they can happen to anyone, that life goes on, and that you can always try again.
- You don’t want to burden anyone with news of a miscarriage. If I miscarried, I would definitely reach out to people for support. I’ve never felt like I couldn’t handle hearing that someone miscarried. Just as I’m happy to have conversations with my friends about boyfriend woes, or a sick parent, or an injured back, I am more than happy to listen and support when the topic is miscarriage. Even if I don’t know the person well, I can give the generic response, “I’m so sorry to hear that. How are you doing?” I expect that most grown-ups can withstand the news of a miscarriage.
- It would be too awkward/painful to make a pregnancy announcement and then have to make a miscarriage announcement. Given that I would reach out to friends for support if I miscarried, I think it would be less awkward to text someone, “I miscarried. Can we get coffee?” than “I know you didn’t know I was pregnant, but I was, and now I miscarried. Can we get coffee?” I can see being uncomfortable to post a miscarriage status on Facebook, so I might avoid announcing online immediately. But I can’t help but think that the discomfort arises from the latent stigma and guilt associated with the previous two points. People post about break-ups, family member deaths, and personal illness (Does “Sick and tired of being sick and tired” sound familiar) all the time on social media. One friend recently chronicled the week-long death of her cat, and got oodles of love and support. What makes miscarriage different?
- Support if things go right: If you’re nauseated, fatigued, bloated, constipated, have hemorrhoids, and cry on a regular basis, things are going right. That doesn’t mean it’s easy. I appreciated and needed the friends who told me, “It get’s better in the second trimester!” and reminded me, “It’s totally worth the gift you get at the end.” Reaching out to broader networks sooner would have given me more access to mamas who have been there.
- Ability to use affirming language: Much of what’s wrong with pregnancy and childbirth in the North America is that they are considered a health problems that require medical intervention. Rather than reinforcing that idea in myself, it is important to me that I treat pregnancy and childbirth as normal, healthy, safe physiological processes. Unfortunately, the most obvious excuse to explain away intrusive first trimester symptoms is, “I’m sick.” I said this a couple times, and it felt awful to cast my pregnancy as something I needed to “get better” from. There were a couple days the nausea hit me pretty hard and I wanted to reach out to find last-minute subs for my yoga classes, but I couldn’t bring myself to put “I’m sick” into writing.
Satya, which means truthfulness in Sanskrit, has been a front-runner for our baby’s middle name if we have a daughter. With how much I’ve disliked keeping my pregnancy a secret, it’s feeling more right than ever!