Decision (noun): The action or process of deciding something or of resolving a question
We all know the convention: when you’re pregnant, you’re supposed to wait until your baby is 12 weeks to share the happy news. My husband has always said that it’s because the risk of miscarriage in the first trimester is so high: 1 in 4 or 1 in 5, depending on your data source, so it’s best to wait until you start telling everyone.
I haven’t looked into it much (as I thought I’d explore my thoughts here first, before being skewed by further reading), but I believe there’s a movement of sorts to remove the unwritten “no-speak til 12 week” rule. From the little I’ve read, it seems to be based around the idea that waiting until the 12 week mark encourages the stigma/silence around baby loss.
It’s an interesting notion, and ultimately, it’s one that comes down to personal choice. For what it’s worth, here are my thoughts:
Reasons for dropping the 12 week rule:
1) Because you just became a mum. I’ve blogged previously about how I believe people are parents at the point of creating and carrying a child, not when birthing one. So why not celebrate and share that title promotion with loved ones, as soon as you find out?
2) To stop feeling like a liar! In case you haven’t gauged by now, I’m a pretty honest, heart-on-sleeve sort of person, so I always felt like such a liar when I was pregnant. I know they were only white lies (to hide the fact I wasn’t drinking alcohol, or eating my usual medium-rare steak), but it was much nicer when I was finally 12 weeks and could simply tell the truth about not drinking etc. (Anecdotally, it was also a lot cheaper! I had to buy a lot of rounds of drinks in the first trimester, so that I could buy myself a lemonade (which I don’t even like!) and ask the barman to make it look like a gin – I must admit, I did always enjoy the creativity around my deceptions, just not the act of verbally lying!)
3) To enjoy it while you can. It was always so nice to say it out loud: “I’m pregnant”, especially as mine never lasted for very long. It’s bittersweet to think how many waiters and bar staff were ‘in on it’, yet how many of our family and friends only got to hear “we’ve miscarried” and then “we’ve miscarried again”. It was years before we could finally make the normal “I’m pregnant” announcement to friends. Whether you make it to full-term or not, pregnancy doesn’t last forever, it’s finite. From what I’ve heard, the third trimester isn’t a lot of fun, so perhaps we should enjoy pregnancy while we can, any single moment, because these will become our memories. Having to hide the first trimester can rob you of those moments. I’ve got to that point now where I’ve forgotten what it’s like to be pregnant and I can be filled with regret, for all the times I didn’t allow myself to fully bask in my pregnant glory.
4) It would make life a lot easier. The first trimester can be difficult, it’s the one where you could do with saying “please cut me some slack, I’m pregnant”, yet it’s the one that women have to hide! I was always very lucky with my three – I had few symptoms to conceal (James always joked it was because I was “plenty hormonal” in everyday life, so pregnancy probably just balanced me out!) I was very rarely nauseous (except occasionally, when brushing my teeth with Summer), but I did get so exhausted, that really heavy-behind-the-eyes feeling. I’d get home from work and have to go straight to bed. Also, eating out was such a pain! Why can’t menus have a little “p” on them meaning “pregnancy friendly” or “pasteurised”? The number of times I had to discreetly google things at the dinner table, or just avoid things, which I later found out would have been fine to eat!
5) Lots of people guess anyway. The most annoying thing about going to the trouble of hiding a pregnancy is when people say “I guessed that anyway!” Grrr. All that effort, for nothing!
6) To encourage the conversation. When you’ve told people you’re pregnant, you’re forced to tell them when you no longer are. Although you may prefer not to, it certainly would highlight how prevalent first trimester baby loss is. I, for one, have been shocked by the number of people who have said “me too”. I never would have known. If we took steps towards becoming comfortable speaking about baby loss, perhaps in time, it would be easier for everyone to discuss these things. It would remove the silence around grief.
7) If it all goes wrong, you’ll need people. With all three of my pregnancies I told just two people pretty much straight away: my mum and my friend K. My reason was simple, I wanted them there in the good times, and I knew that they would be the ones there in the bad times too. I’m glad we had people along for the whole journey; the smooth as well as the bumpy.
Reasons for keeping the 12 week rule:
1) To maintain privacy. Miscarriage IS common. There’s no getting away from it, it’s not pretty, but it’s the bruth. Baby loss is a very personal significant life event. However you lose your baby, it’s painful in the retelling of it. Often we need time to process what’s happen. When you miscarry it’s all about self-preservation and doing whatever you need to do, to keep going. That may mean wanting to keep it private. Some people will never want to share what happened, and that’s ok.
2) It can be nice to have a secret for a while. Becoming parents is such a special time for couples; your secret club of two, just became three! There are also lots of funny stories which can come about, which can be fun to share later. When I was pregnant with My Baby, I went to some friend’s birthday drinks. Everyone was drinking alcohol, but I’d discreetly told the barmaid that I was pregnant, so she served me fancy-looking non-alcoholic cocktails all night, handing them over saying “coconut mojito for you!” When the bill came, she really went the extra mile and (of her own accord) logged my drinks as “miscellaneous entertainment” instead of coconut water. When the girls saw the bill they said “£32 for miscellaneous entertainment?! What’s that? Did they charge us £32 for cutting a cake?!” Not missing a beat, the barmaid swiftly stated that those were my drinks “cocktail of the day which we haven’t put on the system yet” – completely saving my bacon. I hugged that barmaid when I left, chuckled with James when I got home, and emailed the bar the next day to highlight their fantastic staff.
3) Medical reasons. Many pregnancies are not plain-sailing. It can be an anxious, painful, difficult time. Some parents may even discover something heart-breaking at their 12 week scan which may force them to have some difficult conversations or decisions. It may not be the celebratory event you always pictured. We learnt this with Summer. She was a difficult pregnancy and so every announcement unfortunately came with a caveat “I’m pregnant! But we’re being cautious because I’ve been bleeding every day since 10.5 weeks”. I didn’t even get around to telling my team at work. I kept waiting to have a “good week”. I got to just under 20 weeks before I told them, not that I was pregnant, but that I had lost the baby they never knew I had.
4) Your ‘baby reveal’ may require a scan photo: This is a superficial reason, especially in comparison to some of the previous points, but it’s still a consideration!
5) Not everyone wants to talk about their loss. Once it’s out there, people will either address it or they won’t – both will be painful. It’s an increased emotional burden: not only am I grieving my children, I’m grieving my friendships, as well as familial relationships. Lots of things have died here. The reason I’ve ended up starting a blog and talking about our losses, is because the cat was out of the bag – my hand was forced. We were 19 weeks with Summer, lots of people knew we were pregnant, so we then had to go about the difficult task of telling people that we no longer were. I felt so stupid for having told so many people. After the loss of BoC and My Baby, we only told close friends and family what had happened – a finite support network. When baby loss awareness week came around last year, I decided to speak out. This time around, I’ve needed and wanted to talk and to write. Having a blog means if I have to have a voice, at least I can control my message.
6) Moving forwards. Living with grief means having to take small steps in order to move forward. With the first two losses, it was ‘easier’ for me to be distracted and ignore my grief when fewer people knew about it. I could just be myself without feeling judged. Although I’ve now come to believe that ignoring my grief was not the best way for my personal healing, I know first-hand how keeping your experience private can be a very powerful coping mechanism.
So what’s the right decision here? In life, I tend to make my decisions based on what I would regret more. Would I regret not telling people I was pregnant again, or would I regret that I did? Upon reflection, I have listed more reasons to break the 12 week silence, than not to. Even still, if it were all to happen again, I think I’ll only be telling a handful of people.
It’s a very personal decision and there’s no right or wrong answer, but it’s worth having a think about. So please, if or when the time comes, just do what’s right for you, not what convention dictates.