I am trying not to tell people about my pregnancy, as seems to be the expectation. I have friends who warn that I should keep it a secret in case “something happens.” They say it’s still “soooo early.” I find this incredibly upsetting. I’m pregnant! I’m psyched, I’m sick, I’m tired, I have to change my entire lifestyle and yet the way people talk about it, it’s not ”real” yet. It seems like I’m not allowed to even accept this pregnancy until I’ve had an amnio – which means about four whole months of living a lie! Will I really be risking anything by telling people now? – Closet Case
Dear Closet Case,
There’s no rule you have to keep pregnancy hush-hush. You should sing it to the mountains if that feels right to you. And from the sound of it, it does. But to answer your question about what you “risk” in telling people, we’ll lay out the reasoning behind telling and not telling. See what rings true to you.
Not talking to people gives you and your partner time to adjust to the news. Some couples really appreciate a little private buffer zone between non-pregnant and pregnant. After about four months, you have little choice in the matter — your pregnancy will likely be addressed regularly whether you’re in the mood to talk about it or not! So this time of keeping secrets can actually be a pleasant respite (especially in hindsight).
But the most common reason for keeping quiet is the increased risk of miscarriage in the first trimester. If you tell everyone you meet about the pregnancy, there’s the possible (though pretty unlikely) scenario of “untelling,” should things go wrong. It’s a terribly negative weighing of pros and cons, but the worry’s enough to inspire many to keep their mouths shut. Those who are at a high risk for miscarriage (or who have already experienced it) might feel like sharing the news could bring a lot more stress than support. Another reason not to tell relates to work; some women really want to move through pregnancy at work with as little fanfare as possible. This is not always due to the real and horrible injustices to pregnant employees, though they certainly do exist. It’s also because expectant mothers may want to find their footing with the pregnancy and even the idea of motherhood before sharing the news at the water cooler.
Luckily, these days, there are so many ways to quietly gather info and anonymously reach out to people (the internet), keeping the pregnancy on the DL can actually be done without sacrificing total access to information and support.
Now, onto some reasons to tell people. If you’re skulking around trying not to puke over the big slimy lox buffet at the morning meeting, you may feel like you’re living a double life. And not in an exciting way, but in a way that makes you feel like you’ve got something to hide. Maybe you fear people will assume other things: like you’re anemic or bulemic or addicted to oxycontin. Or maybe you worry your friends will take it personally that you’ve dropped off the social scene without a legitimate explanation. Or you may just feel really excited about the pregnancy and want to share your joy, various potentially awkward consequences be damned!
If not telling is a constant reminder of all the things that could go wrong, you may be stressing yourself out more than necessary. One of us told half the world about the pregnancy well before test results came back and still within the first trimester miscarriage risk zone. The reasoning: if one in four pregnancies ends in miscarriage, then why shouldn’t we be able to talk about any eventuality publicly? Maybe there would be less of a shameful element to miscarriage if we were encouraged to talk about it. (It’s crucial to note that the one of us who did this is very, very comfortable talking to everyone from her BFF to the new HR intern about highly personal matters. Not everyone is.)
Given your attitude about the pregnancy and the consequences of telling people (more support/more openness) you seem like a good candidate for spilling the beans in some capacity. Of course, there’s the hilarious solution arrived at by a woman we met while researching our book. She only told complete strangers she was sure she’d never see again.
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