Superstitious expectant couples are compelled to conceal early pregnancy in case of miscarriage but do couples really believe in this superstition or are we actually encouraging this secrecy to avoid awkward conversations about miscarriage when it happens?
I am six weeks and five days pregnant. I have known I am pregnant for almost three weeks. As a planned pregnancy it was hard to keep me away from the early indicator pregnancy tests. I am just over halfway through the first trimester and struggling to cope with my fears and at a loss as to why, at such a time of change, that women and couples choose to go through a third of pregnancy in secrecy.
I would usually, when faced with anxiety rearing its ugly head, have a cigarette out of my kitchen window possibly with a gin and tonic or meet a friend for coffee… well, many coffees – but no, I am pregnant now and these activities, including confiding in friends, is unilaterally banned. My new, solitary, full time preoccupation is how to negotiate keeping my pregnancy going with only the information that there is nothing I can do/should have done/that will directly cause miscarriage. The repeated fact that there is nothing to be done strangely contradicts the ever growing list of banned foods, banned activities, essential supplements and healthy lifestyles choices I am inundated with. I diligently assess every mouthful I eat, have becomes an expert on essential pregnancy vitamins and superfoods, religiously take recommended supplements and follow health professional approved lifestyle rules… none of which enlighten me as to if and how I am really doing something that is good for the baby, for me or good to avoid miscarriage.
Having discovered you are pregnant you may have bought a book, an app or dared to google what happens next. Personally I have binge watched 6 series of One Born Every Minute so far and am feeling pretty powerful about labour. Even here though are stories such as the first baby being the fifth pregnancy. Horror stories of stillbirth and miscarriages may make meeting the new baby a real tear jerker but for the newly pregnant binge watchers this just multiplies the horror.
So I told my Mum and my Sister, my partner told his immediate family, we agreed that other than maybe his best friend we’d leave it at that for now. I have many friends, male and female, who are new parents, who know me well, who may have had miscarriages…. but as we don’t speak about this secret time who should I approach? My small home town would have banners printed by sun down so I have chosen not to send the good news home just yet. This means I feel isolated. I also feel unable to share my worries with my Mum or Sister so soon after sharing the ‘happy’ news.
Isolation has set in just as I have given up all my vices, guilty pleasures and favourite comforts. I feel like an alien in my own life and in my own body, I have started meticulously analysing every inch of my body while having hormonal changes that mean I can’t sleep and I cry over choosing a t shirt to wear. I have to deceive my work colleagues too… I’ve never been a very good liar and a round the clock charade of ‘it’s just a health kick’ and ‘can you lift it? I’ve got a bad back’ leaves me far from the empowered female I am used to being at work. I am a project manager, I’m a problem solver and a proactive person, my colleagues are awesome. This 12 week rule means I am getting completely stressed out with telling the best white lies I can think of. I can’t bear to just let on because I haven’t even told my Dad, extended family or closest friends yet.
I think the advice to keep schtum is also spoiling our new pregnancy for my partner. We have a great relationship so I have confided all of these feelings. He said he would be strong for me and to be positive and said all the right things. He said he hadn’t realised how difficult keeping a secret could be when combined with fatigue and hormone changes. I feel like I’ve completely bummed him out. Of course I wouldn’t dream of bottling it up with him but I’m disappointed I’ve ruined the happy vibe.
Most importantly very little of this wealth of miscarriage warnings say what to do if it happens, how you might feel, when to call the midwife and when to go to the hospital or how to physically and emotionally cope. How can suffering a miscarriage affect your relationship? What are people’s experiences of getting back on the horse? Medically is there a need to wait before trying again? – these questions are not asked or answered.
Are there women grieving miscarriages privately as a result of this? There must be! Given the statistics it seems impossible there aren’t. How has this norm established itself. I’m sure this is the time in a couple’s life and particularly a woman’s life that the most support is needed and they are stifled by convention which prevents reaching out to their usual support networks. This needs to change.