Pregnancy, miscarriage, and the first trimester
Facebook floods me with the noise of every day life – who ate tacos and wore the salsa home, who got flowers from a loved one, and what went wrong today, yesterday, or even last month.
I know whose child is sick, and who is stressed at work. Social media lets others know when we are happy, hurting, or are in need.
But when it comes to the first months of pregnancy, and even the misfortune of miscarriage, we are quiet.
Very quiet — especially in the case of miscarriage. Women cry between the sheets, confide in very few, and tell themselves to “move on” as they mourn silently.
I have never personally suffered such a loss. But I have friends and family who have, and I am now once again waiting to see if it is going to happen to me.
Yes, I’m pregnant.
My husband and I are absolutely thrilled. But I know that if I miscarry this baby before sharing the news publicly, the fact is that those around me would never have known about my child’s precious life. To the world, it will be as if he/she never existed, and as if I have lost nothing.
Since I just can’t live with that thought, here I am, going against social norms and spilling the beans at 9 weeks along (and would have done so sooner, had I gotten around to writing this post).
By publicly acknowledging the baby I am carrying right now, I know that I will also have to publicly announce my loss if I should miscarry. Though this will be painful, I also know that it will help provide me with closure. It will mean that my child’s life will have been acknowledged and celebrated, even if only for a short time, and that my loss will be more real to my friends and family.
I will not have to plaster a smile on my face when my heart is aching, or pretend like nothing has happened to me. I hate that I could miscarry a baby and would then be expected to act like it never happened.
So I am proud to introduce each and every one of you to our unborn baby.
Most women choose not to publicly reveal their pregnancies until the miscarriage risk falls, after the end of the first trimester.
If someone spills the beans sooner than that, people say “but what if she miscarries?”
Yes, what if?
She will hurt. She will cry. There will be a loss to mourn. Every woman grieves differently, but almost none can escape the pain that comes from losing a life.
Everyone knows that there is a difference of opinion on when a fetus becomes a “person,” but whether you think life begins at conception or birth, it is not for you to decide what the child is to his/her mother, or how strongly she ought (or ought not) to feel its loss.
Most of my friends who miscarried did so in the first trimester. The loss being early on has not made it any less painful for them.
The dream of ten tiny toes, a sweet smile, and sleepy yawns begin when there is a little plus sign on a pregnancy test, not at some arbitrary point 12 weeks into a pregnancy. The pain of losing that dream is real and raw after a miscarriage is confirmed.
And at that moment, the chance to truly celebrate the baby’s life is over. The pain of loss would now taint any celebration.
I understand that some women prefer to mourn privately and would rather not talk about it, but many of those same women post about all of their other hardships.
I believe this is mainly caused by social pressure.
Why does the cultural norm for pregnancy imply that miscarriage is so much more private than the loss of a parent, pet, job, spouse? Why do we feel so awkward about the loss of an unborn baby, but know just what to say when someone loses his or her job, or is going through a divorce?
If we are to mourn for babies that are lost in miscarriage and truly be there to support the women going through such a painful time, we need to change the expectation placed upon mothers to conceal their pregnancies until after the first trimester.
I want us to celebrate the lives that we are secretly carrying, rather than pretending that they do not exist on the chance that they will be lost. And if they are lost, I want us to be able to mourn our babies openly if that’s what’s desired. I also want to end the shaming of women who are having a hard time “getting over” a miscarriage. Would you ever tell a mother to “get over” the death of a child she had already given birth to, or remind her that she can always have another one?
I already love the child that I am carrying, and my hopes are for a healthy pregnancy. My dreams are for my child to have a fulfilling life. Even at 9 weeks pregnant, I already have hopes and dreams for this baby, which means I will deeply mourn for my child if I have a miscarriage. And for me, that means that I will feel the need to share my pain openly.
So I invite you to celebrate with us, for however long I am able to carry this new life.
Celebrate for yourself if you are in the early stages of pregnancy, however you deem appropriate. Allow others to surround you and your new life with thoughts, prayers, and dreams of the future.
I’m not asking you to blast your news on Facebook, Instagram, etc. But if you are wanting and willing to tell, ignore the pressure to stay silent.
If your baby is later lost, or you have lost a baby before but never felt like you could share your pain with the world, allow yourself to mourn however you see fit. It’s never too late. Hold a funeral, release a balloon, give the baby a name. If you need privacy, or if you want an audience, it is up to you. Every woman should choose how she wants to handle the loss of a child, and not feel pressured to follow any set guidelines.
This post is not intended to make any woman feel guilty for not publicly announcing a pregnancy or miscarriage. It is only to open the door of communication in the future about early pregnancy and miscarriage, and to try and reduce the pressure on grieving mothers to mourn privately if that is not their desire.