When I found out I was pregnant the first time, I was equally terrified and excited and I wanted to scream my good news from the mountain tops. I was the first of my friends to get pregnant, and I didn’t really personally know many who had already experienced pregnancy, much less pregnancy loss or complications.
I was optimistic and a little naive.
We told our parents and grandparents around the six-week mark and announced to the rest of the world at 12 weeks (aka a Facebook post). Fortunately for us, my first pregnancy was smooth sailing. Beyond the normal first trimester nausea and A LOT of weight gain, there wasn’t anything remarkable to report.
So when I fell pregnant the second time, I was confident I knew how this whole thing worked. We again announced early to our parents and siblings. As Christmas drew near, I started to think of creative ways I could again share the news. In the years since I had my first born, creative Facebook announcements and gender reveal parties had become a thing. I, too, wanted to share in the excitement of a fun announcement. I thought and planned and came up with what I thought was an adorable announcement with little Christmas presents, each representing someone in our family. My brother took the pictures. Even though it was a little before the start of my second trimester, I proudly posted the news to Facebook Christmas morning.
Six days later on New Year’s Eve, I started bleeding. Just like that, I tumbled into the depths of pregnancy loss. Anyone who has traveled this road can probably relate to the strange paths your mind leads you down: grief, anger, disbelief, fear, guilt. You run the gamut.
What I Would Have Done Differently
Looking back, life would have been easier had I not had to “set the record straight” with Facebook. It was tough informing what felt like a nosy and knowing internet abyss about my loss. In the days before sad faces with tears, there was just silence. It hurt with an odd sense of embarrassment.
The mental shift from being pregnant to no longer being pregnant feels like a battle. You cope with the loss of a life you had already imagined while being besieged with other friends announcing their pregnancies. And every celebrity in the world seemingly shares the due date you will no longer enjoy. (Mine was the same as the Duchess of Cambridge.) All of those things are just happenstance, but in the middle of it, it can feel like the whole world is out to pour salt in your wounds.
That dark spring I learned the hard way definitions like “miscarriage” and “stillbirth.’ Pregnancy loss before 20 weeks is a “miscarriage” and after 20 weeks is a “stillbirth.”
Between 20 weeks and 24 weeks (the commonly accepted point of viability) is basically a no mans land. If you are before 20 weeks, most hospitals won’t even admit you. They might just wish you luck. But before 24 weeks, your chance of a positive outcome is still slim to none. ER nurses might “find a heartbeat” and set your mind at ease. Doctors can later tell you, “I’m sorry, she was mistaken.”
Dealing with Loss
Grief and the other emotions in times like these are real feelings that you need to consider and process. Giving you and your spouse time to experience those things privately at first is something worth considering.
I know putting off an announcement won’t protect you from loss.
And sometimes, you have to live in constant fear of another loss while you work slowly towards your full-term goal. It can even feel like the wall you build around your heart is depriving you of celebrating a new life, keeping your light under a basket. Whether you wait until the start of the second trimester, the 20 week ultrasound, the 24 week “viability” mark or birth, there are no guarantees. But there are better chances.
I often watch as people openly share the play by play of life. Sometimes, it’s a medical experience like surgery, an accident or illness on social media. Too many times, I have seen this seemingly innocent act follow down a path upon which the person cannot privately return. Interested parties question when the updates go silent. The person posting may feel obligated to provide those updates before they themselves have had time to process.
This is life in a digital age.
Being Pregnant in the Digital Age
For me, I found the final blow can come years later.
Having reached a point where your grief has subsided to intermittent passing thoughts rather than a constant state of pain, technology throws a punch in the form of an algorithm from Facebook-land. A little message pops up to remind you that “5 years ago today you… were just letting everyone know that you “won’t actually be having a baby in July, no heartbeat.””
And you will get to relive that grief all over again.
Many people argue that they choose to share early, knowing the risk. They say “they will need the support” if that happens. I understand that point of view and I certainly did need the support of my close family and friends.
Perhaps some people do need support from a much larger circle. Do what you think you need to do for you. But always protect your heart. No matter how you choose to share, allow yourself the privacy and space you might need to heal in case the unthinkable happens. Protect yourself from having to explain to an acquaintance you haven’t seen in months why “you are still looking so small.”
Don’t let the perceived pressure of todays “sharing is caring” society leave you vulnerable.