The best-laid schemes o' mice an men

First Trimester Taboo

4 Comments

My secret is truly out of the bag at this point (7.5 weeks pregnant). It started with close friends, my sister, mother-in-law, mother, more friends, my hair dresser…once it’s out there’s no controlling the news. It got me thinking about how we treat the first trimester in our society, it’s unusual when someone is open and proud of their pregnancy before the ’12 week safety zone’, this goes against accepted convention.

I’m all for resisting accepted convention. My first two pregnancies ended with miscarriage, I only told two close friends I was pregnant and having their support during the miscarriages was invaluable. But what I found particularly difficult was breaking the miscarriage news to my sister, who hadn’t known I was pregnant in the first place. Dealing with the emotions of a miscarriage was something I couldn’t keep secret from her and she was upset that I hadn’t told her from the beginning. She wasn’t upset because I had kept a secret from her, she was upset because she loves me dearly and knew she would have been there for me if only she had known. What I experienced from those I told immediately, and in subsequent years, was empathy and more personal stories of loss. I went from feeling less of a woman to knowing I had joined the ranks of billions of women before me.

Some people love the secrecy and a big reveal, motivated by the joy of sharing private knowledge with their partner. And I guess if this pregnancy had been nausea free I might have held on to our secret a bit longer, but I like to talk things out. I can’t do the cover ups, or lying about why I can’t attend dinner or why I’m particularly tired and need to curl up on this couch here for a bit. When I google this topic most of what I could find were stories on ‘how to keep your pregnancy a secret’, there were scarce hits questioning if you should keep it a secret or why. Obviously the biggest why is because of how common miscarriage is in the first trimester…but that’s not the end of it to me. It doesn’t answer why, but raises the question of why then ought miscarriage be kept secret.

One reason I can think for keeping the first-trimester and therefore possible miscarriage a secret is so a person can choose to grieve privately. I’m sure this is a genuine desire for some, but after browsing thousands of forums and posts where people are desperate to share their loss and grief with total strangers I wonder if there’s more to it. I questioned my own hesitancy at how quickly our news got out, would I feel comfortable telling these people of a loss? With my knowledge of how common miscarriage is, my own previous experience and how comforting it was to hear the stories of other woman who had gone through it I realised to hide it would only perpetuate this veil of secrecy and shame. There is no shame in suffering a loss through miscarriage. Women shouldn’t feel guilty or embarrassed at having to let people know. I think if there were a cultural shift in how the first trimester is approached a lot of this shame can be avoided. I’m not saying women ‘should’ or ‘need to’ be open with their pregnancies from the beginning, just that we ought to question the obligation so many feel to silence. The choice should be motivated by joy and happiness, not guilt or shame.

 

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4 thoughts on “First Trimester Taboo

  1. Knowing a few that have suffered miscarriages, it seems they don’t tell anyone early because it hurts too much to be reminded of the miscarriage every time someone sends you their “sorry this happened” message, whether in person or by email/card/phone. Every condolence message is another stab to the heart, so it’s easier to minimize who knows in the first place.

    • I think you’re right. For many grief is a very private ordeal and I completely respect that. When I miscarried I felt like a failure as a woman, the thought of people knowing that failure was awful, but I feel so differently now…if only I had known then all the stories of loss I might not have gone so off the rails with my mixed up emotions. If miscarriage hadn’t been such a secretive silent issue. My sister experienced her miscarriage differently as a result. She had seen mine, experienced the heartbreaking pregnancy attempts of her sister-in-law and really had no illusions about it all. After her miscarriage she got on with life….tried again immediately after and is now blessed with twins. Perhaps it’s her pragmatic personality compared to mine, but all I know is my own motivations and they were from an implied shame about miscarriage, I didn’t want to indulge that in myself (just in case) so I’ve chosen to be open and comfortable in the knowledge that others may share my grief, I’m fine with that (but I’m also praying that will not need to be the case!).

  2. Hi there – it was a lovely read to understand your thoughts and coming to an understanding about miscarriage. Me too. I’ve been open to L and R about my journey to bring them into the world. Especially as, in my case, it was very medicalised via pregnancy assistance (my ‘egg-laying tablets’). I told L a few months back that he and R are 2 and 4. I think that surprised him – almost as much as I was the first time I had to answer a medical form that asked, “how many pregnancies have you had?” And the answer is four – but I have two children. Quite a moment. We should continue this conversation next time when I have a glass of wine, and not a cuppa, with you x

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