With two boys under four terrorizing my home, I’m curious how our third child, due February 2018, will handle the madness. I don’t worry much about things falling into place because as a seasoned mother, I know I have absolutely no control over the future, and any concerns swirling in the jumbled soup of my brain are just taking up the space needed to remember each Paw Patrol pup’s special skill. I’ve come a long way in five years.
The first time I got pregnant, I immediately started walking around with my hand cradling my belly while choosing the perfect name for each gender. I had a miscarriage around the six-week mark, and was humiliated. How could I have been so stupid, to plan our lives around a baby that wasn’t real? Shouldn’t I have known, using my maternal instincts, that the pregnancy wasn’t viable? Women, and mothers in particular, are excellent at self-blame, and it took me a year — and one healthy baby — to come to terms with my reaction to loss.
With my third baby I no longer have time for prenatal websites warning me of horrible medical possibilities while giving cutesy updates like, “Your baby is the size of a lemon!” Yeah, well my belly looks like a pork butt, so that little fruit has quite the luxury apartment. That’s the thing about the third baby: there is no hiding. I’ve been visibly pregnant since I peed on the stick, and I’m so sick of parenting websites offering tips for keeping my pregnancy under wraps.
Having had a miscarriage, I didn’t exactly shout it from the rooftops since I knew the possibilities of losing this baby too, but I looked pregnant, what was I supposed to do? According to helpful articles emailed to me every day, I should lie to my friends about why I can’t drink — “I’m still hungover from yesterday!” — and wear muumuus to every event. Because you know, raising concerns about a serious drinking problem and poor fashion sense are preferable to people finding out you’re pregnant before the sacred Week Thirteen.
The only scenario where total secrecy seems necessary is a precarious job situation, where you don’t think you’ll get promoted if your boss finds out you’re knocked up, or you are concerned you’ll lose your job all together. Or perhaps if you’re a nun. Otherwise, if you’re pregnant, be pregnant.
I admit I’ve judged couples that announce on social media before their first doctor visit to confirm the pregnancy, but advocating lying to your drinking buddies and wearing bump camouflage? Let’s save that stress for other areas of our lives, like whether or not epidurals mask all the pain of labor or how we’re going to pay for baby’s college tuition.
The underlying message to women is hiding a new pregnancy is important because you might have a miscarriage, and that should be a dark and shameful secret. Becoming attached, hopeful, and optimistic before week thirteen is foolish, and you should be embarrassed for being naive. Don’t share your blessed news with anyone, for if your angel flies home too soon, the people you told will be burdened with your loss.
If it takes a village to raise a child, that same village should help you recover from losing one. If your child is in an accident or gets a deadly disease, are you forced to keep your grief private for fear of public shaming? (The answer is probably yes, because no matter what unavoidable thing happens to your child, it’ll be Mom’s fault somehow.)
Miscarriages happen to women of all ages, creeds, races, and socio-economic groups, and the insistence that your fetus be kept a secret perpetuates the feelings of shame we feel when loss comes knocking on our door. “I’ve lost my child, the baby that was growing in my womb, but at least I hadn’t told anyone I was pregnant yet! That would have been so awkward.”
If you, like so many women, miscarry at any point during your baby-making career, don’t be ashamed. It happens whether you tell people you’re pregnant, pick out a name, and paint the nursery, or keep it a secret from even your partner until the second trimester. And please, learn from my mistakes: get excited immediately, and love that baby like there’s no chance anything will even happen to him. Having had a miscarriage before my healthy pregnancies, I was afraid to plan, to get attached, to caress my little bump, even into my third trimester. Though there’s always a chance biology will step in and it won’t work out, there’s also a chance everything will be fine, and you will have wasted months keeping your elation at arm’s length for fear of getting hurt.
Loss isn’t shameful, but a society that recommends you hide your grief is. If you’re starting your second, third, or fourth pregnancy with a belly that enters a room two seconds before the rest of your body, there’s no need to wear a burlap sack and tell your best friend you’ve suddenly decided you hate sashimi. Your village will celebrate your highs and nurse you through your lows, and if they don’t? You need a new village.
Embrace every positive test as if there is no chance it’ll come crashing down in a few weeks time. That baby deserves all your fawning motherly love from the very start, even if you never get to meet him.