Friday, March 4, 2011

A Discussion about Miscarriage

I'm very baffled by something and I'm wondering if anyone else is confused too. Where did the custom of keeping pregnancies a secret for 12 weeks originate? What's the purpose? I've given this a lot of thought, and here is what I've come up with:

Possible reasons for keeping it a secret:
1. In case you lose the baby, you don't have to have the conversation over and over, telling everyone that you are no longer pregnant.
2. One in 4 or 5 pregnancies doesn't make it past 12 weeks, so maybe by keeping it a secret you avoid getting your "hopes up" too early. It seems to be believed that a person who miscarries suffers less if they tried to ignore the pregnancy and tried to keep their "hopes" down. (what's the opposite of "hopes up"?)
3. Ummmm....that's all I can think of.

Things that seem weird about keeping it a secret:
1. It's usually very exciting! Both times I found out I was pregnant, I was totally elated. I wanted so badly to call my family and friends and share that excitement. What hidden pressure prevented me from doing that? Who cares if I was only 5 weeks pregnant?
2. We often feel like total garbage in the first trimester. It seems like such a ridiculous expectation to keep this huge exciting secret, yet throw up at work all morning and nap at our desks. I remember inventing a back injury so I wouldn't have to help unload heavy donations at work. Why do we let pregnancy turn us into giant liars?
3. So, let's say you do lose the baby. Is this something you really want to deal with privately too? Or do we feel like we should?
4. The last weird thing that I have discovered is...even though I did miscarry last June, I missed out on sharing the good part! Those 10 weeks were overflowing with hope and joy. Remind me again why we stifle this and try to conceal something so wonderful?

The truth is, it is different for everyone. I believe that some people would want to handle it privately if they were to experience pregnancy loss. For me, it was unbelievably painful and terrifying. Who was I protecting by trying to pretend I hadn't just experienced something so devastating?

I might even venture to guess that the custom of keeping miscarriage and early pregnancy a secret might be rooted in the attitude that "women's issues" are taboo and gross. "Don't you go botherin' the menfolk with yer woman problems."
I'm just speculating.

Would it be too sad for the world if we had to support and grieve with each other for every 1 in 4 or 5 pregnancies lost? Or maybe because it is so common, it's not worth making a big deal over. It really is a mixed message: "Don't worry, it's very common, you're not alone. Oh but don't talk about it though."

I admit that I did not have this attitude 2 years ago, I would be surprised when people told me that they were 6 weeks pregnant, and I'd wonder why they were telling people so early. But life has a way of teaching me things and making me less judgemental as I grow up : )

So the real point of my rambling is this: Each person should get to do what she really truly wants to do. If you want to share the entire journey of your pregnancy with the world, good for you, I hope you do so freely. If you want to keep it to yourself and have a fun secret from the world for as long as you want, also good for you. I just deeply wish for us all to do what we really want to, instead of letting obligation or tradition make the decision.
Keep the secret if it protects you. But don't keep it to protect anyone else.