The hope that three might become four
January was a slog.
Google threw up the list of symptoms of Australian flu and I ticked all the boxes, on top of the joys of debilitating morning (relentless all day) sickness and exhaustion of those early knocked-up days.
Those weeks were lonely and frustrating. I was scared about a million things – as every newly expectant parent is, I guess – but for our own reasons. After Tim’s kidney transplant in 2015 more curveballs came his way and his recovery wasn’t straightforward. He ended up needing to take a drug that can cause birth defects, so we were advised it wasn’t safe for us to consider expanding our family for the foreseeable future.
Until that first scan, out of instinctive self-protection I just couldn’t find a way to allow myself to get too attached to the idea that this pregnancy might become a person. I tried to prepare (not that that’s possible) myself that whilst we’d been told it was safe, this might not have a positive outcome. The relief we felt when the sonographer showed us a healthy-looking 13 week baby was indescribable. It’s an important milestone. We’re hopeful and I’m trying to do everything possible to have a healthy and happy pregnancy. I feel VERY lucky.
I also had big plans for Mumbelievable in the New Year, but my ability to be productive over a toilet wasn’t too hot and January was a bit of a write off.
I decided to be honest with clients and when I had to cancel meetings from the get-go, because I felt like it would fly in the face of what Mumbelievable stands for if I didn’t tell the truth about why I wasn’t able to turn up to things I’d committed to.
It got me thinking about the many reasons why we might choose not to share news of pregnancy until 12 weeks or later. I started thinking about our society’s attitudes towards baby loss, miscarriage and grief.
I thought of all the millions of women who have and will experience that lonely time of wondering whether this pregnancy will make it. Whether everything will work out as you so desperately hope it will. How you’ll face the world if it doesn’t. How you’ll suppress the urge to dream about the life that could be. Trying to control the hope that, in our case, three might become four when for a long time you’ve wondered whether that will ever happen.
I thought about what it means to conceal a pregnancy in those early days and endure day after day of relentless sickness while looking after other children or at work, with no-one else knowing.
This is a deeply personal, complex and emotive subject. But I want to talk about it here because to me, like everything else we’ve begun to talk about in recent years, this is a part of becoming a family that doesn’t really get enough airtime.
Early pregnancy for me was complicated. It’s exciting and it’s miraculous. It was also lonely, terrifying and overwhelming. And yet even though we’re going through such a complex range of emotions (often in the same few minutes) so many of us do it alone, save for a few people. It’s such a personal decision to make to let more people in.
But to me it also says so much about our cultural expectation that if the worst happens, we will not only deal with it practically alone but we may face a future grieving alone for a baby that no-one knew existed as well.
Many more people are now thankfully and courageously talking about miscarriage and baby loss. But to me, the conversation should be pushed a little even earlier because there can’t be any shame. Should the possibility of loss silence us? Should it mean that we withhold our news from the rest of the world?
If we started routinely talking about pregnancy right from when we find out, would our collective attitude towards grief, loss and the other complex emotional situations we all find ourselves in change?
I’d like to start a conversation about this.
I’d really love to hear your views, if you feel able to share them. I know this is such a sensitive, personal and often painful topic. Did you go public with the news early? Have you felt lonely in those early days? Did you decide to keep the news private? What made you decide to? Would you do things differently?