October in the Midwest brings cooler weather, football, and some of the most beautiful drives through fire-tinged foliage I’ve ever seen.
It also brings the National Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness month.
I am one of a very small minority of women in my group of friends who has not experienced pregnancy or infant loss. And while that makes me highly unqualified to talk about the pain they will experience for the rest of their lives, the grace and strength they’ve shown through their loss have taught me a lot about how we approach pregnancies, and especially how we handle early pregnancy losses and pregnancy announcements.
When I was pregnant with my first child, my husband and I decided to follow the cultural norm of waiting until we were in the “safe zone” of the second trimester to officially announce my pregnancy. We told our parents and siblings right away but to everyone else our life was seemingly business as usual.
That meant I hid my chronic fatigue and nausea, the 2-3 times a day I was vomiting. I claimed alcohol was giving me headaches or that certain foods were making me itchy. It felt as if my pregnancy was some big secret, something to be ashamed of. It all felt wrong.
And so I thought, having never experienced a loss, that if we were to ever have another child we would announce it to the world as soon as we got that positive pregnancy test. Because if we did end up losing our child, we would want to be able to grieve and not have to hide that part of our family too. We wouldn’t want to keep a child, regardless of when we lost them, a secret. I couldn’t understand why anyone would want to wait those long first trimester weeks to share this beautiful little life with the world.
But then one of my close friends miscarried around ten weeks. After telling the world about that beautiful new little life weeks before. And I watched her get question after question about how she was feeling and if the morning sickness was letting up, if her older child was getting excited about the baby, and asking her to remind them when her due date was. Person after person she and her husband had to tell and retell, picking at the wound that wasn’t even close to scabbing over yet. I watched her heart break a little more each and every time she had to tell someone.
I watched her tell only a few select people in their inner circle when she conceived again. I watched them try to find their footing, their new normal of being excited about new life, but also terrified of losing it again. I learned so much from watching them.
I don’t know how I will handle any future pregnancy announcements. But I know that watching the others around me navigate the murky waters of trying to move forward after a loss, and of handling pregnancy after loss, that I have a greater understanding for why some people choose to wait to announce their pregnancies.
As people who recognize personhood from conception, we need to stand ready to celebrate new life whenever a woman decides to announce – at four weeks, four months, or whenever she feels ready to share that news. We should welcome the news with no judgment about why she is announcing so early or so late. We shouldn’t ask prying questions or push our own expectations on her. Because at the end of it all, that child existed whether we knew about it or not. All we can do is create a community for families to share when they are ready and love them where they are at.