“Let’s shed the stigma all the more by bidding farewell to the notion of waiting to share pregnancy news until we are ‘out of the woods’”
-Dr. Jessica Zucker, creator of #ihadamiscarriage
As a woman who has been acutely aware of social media pregnancy announcements for as long as I have had social media (maybe 10 years?), there is a trend that prevails these announcements. A trend of shame, of stigma, of oppression. DO NOT share until you are in the second trimester. It’s an unspoken rule, but you see the evidence of it everywhere. Those who do share run the risk of humiliation and indignity. What happens if you lose the pregnancy? You don’t want to tell anyone you had a miscarriage, that’s shameful! I am here to say that is all false, and this trend is hurting women and hurting our culture’s view of pregnancy. It’s time we dismantle it.
I experienced this with my own pregnancy. I started showing, EARLY. I was in maternity clothes by 8 weeks, and even before then I was already out of jeans and wearing everything stretchy and loose. It took us some time to make the rounds and tell everyone we wanted to tell personally, and then at 9 weeks I started bleeding and we had no idea what was going on. We didn’t know if the pregnancy was aborting or what each day would bring. We wanted to share with the world, desperately. I had come in to contact with so many women over the years in the social media sphere who had experienced years of pain due to infertility, and also infertility coupled with pregnancy loss. I wanted to share that hope was possible. That we didn’t give up and look at where we were, pregnant with twins! We talked about it for weeks, and Ryan was very supportive about us sharing as soon as possible. We both agreed that we had nothing to be ashamed of, and with 1 in 4 pregnancies ending in loss, this was a natural part of parenthood.
We were so close to sharing, and then we received the news that our sons had lost their amniotic fluid. And then I didn’t feel like sharing. But looking back, I wish I would have. Because I have never felt more alone or isolated in my life. Truly. I was home, on bed rest, taking care of myself and our precious boys for about 7 weeks and virtually no one knew. Only family and close friends. I spend hours bored on social media and did not share a thing. So even though we had agreed that there was nothing to be ashed of, and there was nothing that we had done to cause this, and if the pregnancy ended, it ended and that was out of our control, I still did not share. Weeks went by and Ryan kept trying to get me out of the house to take pictures. I was SO tired, ALL the time. I think my body was fighting to keep the babies alive, but also working so much harder because they did not have any amniotic fluid. So I was exhausted. Most days I was lucky enough to even shower. Getting ready to take cute photos was the last thing on my mind. But eventually we discussed that we did not want to have any regrets.
Five days before I went in to preterm labor, we asked one of Ryan’s coworkers to take some photos of us one day when Ryan was done with work. I got up the courage to get ready, put some makeup on, do my hair, and drive to his office. That next day was my birthday, so for my birthday present, I shared our miracle with the world. We were so hopeful. We were almost at 20 weeks. I felt like 20 weeks was going to be an important milestone. And we were so close. We both felt like maybe this was actually going to happen, that even if they were born super early and had to be in the NICU for the first months of their lives, they would be in our arms soon as our precious sons here on earth.
Five days later, after coming home from the hospital with empty arms and broken hearts, we were still receiving comments of congratulations and well wishes on that post. I think it had over 500 likes. These special boys were truly a miracle and already having their impact on the world. So we had to let everyone know that they had left their earthly existence. It was awful.
I’m so glad we shared our announcement while I was still pregnant. I’m so glad people got to know that Lucas and Nicholas were our sons and that they are part of our family, and they got to see my pregnant belly, even if that’s all they will ever see of our boys. I don’t have any regrets, but I do wished I would have shared sooner. I did share, in private groups and forums, but not to those who could have come to our comfort and to our sides sooner. Because we needed them. I needed them. I yearned to be surrounded by powerful, mama energy during my pregnancy. I wanted to commune and ritual with all of the warrior mamas I had imagined who have come before me, who have walked in my shoes and survived. I needed that so badly. But I didn’t know where to find it, and I had no idea who to reach out to. So I stayed quiet and the deafening silence of the isolation was, at times, almost unbearable. I just kept my hand on my belly and talked to our boys all day long. That was how I spent the last 11 weeks of my pregnancy, since I started bed rest at 9 weeks.
This is what our culture is doing by shaming women to not speak up about their pregnancy. It’s keeping us disconnected and isolated. So I’m calling it out. This practice needs to stop. A woman is free to express her pregnancy in any way that she and her partner chooses, or any way that she chooses if she is not with a partner. And she doesn’t owe an explanation or an apology to anyone. A woman’s body is hers, so don’t ask, let her tell you.