Today is October 15, Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day. With that in mind, I thought I would share my story.
When people know you are a birth worker you often get the “I’m pregnant! call” before they ever tell anyone else. Often I get asked "When should I tell people that I'm pregnant?” I hear this too “I don’t want to tell everyone and then have a miscarriage.” Our society sets this standard that it’s not ok to tell before 12 weeks. I’ve asked around as to why people don’t want you to tell and the consensus seems to be that it’s better to just sweep that lost pregnancy under the rug because no one wants to talk about something unhappy like that and you shouldn’t want to either. I know a lot of women who planned to keep it a secret 12 weeks then end up grieving alone when they suffer a loss because no one even knew they were pregnant. That’s heartbreaking.
When I lost my baby I was just creeping toward my second trimester, I was a little over 10 weeks along. I had already told everyone. At the time I was a high school teacher, I had even told my students and they were making an educational bulletin board to follow the fetal development as my pregnancy progressed. It was a parenting class, how perfect! When I found out I was pregnant I was bursting at the seams to tell people! I was excited! There was no way I was keeping that secret. I’m no good at secrets anyway. Some people thought it was tacky or taboo to tell so soon but looking back I am so happy that I did. I was glad to have support during and I had people to grieve with when I lost the pregnancy.
When I realized I was miscarrying, I had to take a trip to the ER. My nurse was so wonderful and compassionate, I can’t remember her name but her face is still clear. I left the hospital feeling ok. I had opted not to have any medical procedures but to allow my body to naturally clear the remainder of the pregnancy from my body instead. That decision helped me emotionally; it made me feel in control and also reminded me that this was a natural process, much like birth. I took a few days off of work and during that time I received so much support! My husband, my parents, extended family, friends, co-workers, they were all so understanding and supportive as I worked through my grief. I received cards, flowers, hugs and phone calls. I even have a little keepsake box with mementos of my pregnancy and the support I received when I miscarried. When I started to share the news women in my life shared with me stories of their losses. It was very healing for me and also for those mommas that got to talk about their lost babies. I was shocked when I realized that some of them had never told anyone before. My husband experienced similar support. In the days following he was called into his boss’s office to talk about it. Apparently this man and his wife had also suffered a loss at some point and he shared that with my husband along with his sympathies. I can’t imagine leaving the hospital and pretending like I was fine. Never telling anyone and just sweeping it under the rug. The love and understanding surrounding us was monumental in our healing process.
So when I get that call and a very excited newly pregnant woman asks me when the right time to tell her family is, I share these few thoughts with her:
-Don't live in fear.
-Tell anyone you would tell if you had a miscarriage because you're going to tell them eventually either way. -There is no "safe zone" losses occur at different times for different pregnancies.
-If you do have an unfortunate loss you will need support.
-It's fun to share your joy and excitement with those closest to you! It's hard to keep a secret that wonderful!
-Don't miss out on celebrating the first weeks out of fear.
-You have to do what works for your situation and family. There's no "right way".
My heart goes out to all mothers who lose a pregnancy; I hate to think some grieve alone.
Tonight at 7PM Danielle and I will light candles in our homes in remembrance of all of the lost pregnancies and infants. Join us.
Shauna Rich, BS, LCCE
Co-Founder of Mother Rising Women's Studio