A dear friend is in the early stages of pregnancy with her second (and third - twins!) child, and she's not sure when she should begin telling people. She really wants to start talking about it (because twins!), and she's starting to show (twins!), but she hasn't yet crossed that unofficially official threshold of when women are supposed to start talking about their pregnancies.
Most women wait until after the first trimester has ended—and the risk of miscarriage significantly drops—to begin telling people they're pregnant. Which means that women usually go two entire months keeping this huge, life-changing news secret. Of imagining, planning, hoping, and hiding it all. Of probably feeling a little (or a lot) sick and completely exhausted and not being able to explain it to colleagues, friends, or family members.
So why wait?
An early pregnancy is a tenuous thing, with up to one in four ending in miscarriage. But this is where I get confused. We aren't supposed to share that we're pregnant in case we miscarry, so that we won't have to tell anyone that we've miscarried? And if we miscarry, the expectation is that we go through this major, often traumatic, life event, without speaking of it with anyone outside of our innermost circle. The two things that confuse me are: 1) why we aren't supposed to talk about miscarriage; and 2) why women agree to this whole arrangement in the first place.
We announced all of our pregnancies to our friends and family within a couple weeks of finding out, which meant around the middle of the first trimester. My thought was that I would tell someone about the pregnancy if I was equally willing to tell them about a miscarriage; I also knew that if I had a miscarriage, I'd want the support of everyone around me—I've never believed that it was something a woman or a couple should go through alone if they didn't want to. I didn't run around telling strangers about my pregnancies, but I didn't hide them either. (Though I really flubbed the announcement of my third pregnancy on this blog, where I hid it in a post about something else).
I do realize that we're lucky in never having suffered a miscarriage, so the whole previous paragraph is something of a thought experiment. (I did suffer a traumatic and life-threatening pregnancy loss nearly fifteen years ago, which I'll write about on Dear Sabrina in the coming months). I know so many women who have had miscarriages, some early in pregnancy and some quite late, but I don't know a single one who wishes she'd kept it a secret. Miscarriages are often difficult and traumatic, but they're also a fact of life. In my mind, if a woman wants to talk about a miscarriage, great; if she doesn't want to talk about a miscarriage, great. Her ability to talk about it should be determined only by her own willingness, not by a culture of silence, shame, or fear about women's health and experiences.
Pieces on this have been popping up all over the place. (See here, here, here, here, here, here (worth a read for the eye-opening woman-to-woman shaming), here, and here). Maybe we're moving into a time where the topic of miscarriage won't be such a taboo.
To help break the silence in some tiny way, I'd like to offer up Dear Sabrina as a place to tell stories of miscarriage, pregnancy loss, infertility, surrogacy, childbirth, and even the decision not to have children at all. I don't yet know how this will take form, but I want to hold public space for these kinds of stories, from both women and men. If you have a story you'd like to share, or you know someone who might like to share their story, please contact me. (If that link doesn't work, try me at hello [at] mydearsabrina.com). Stories of loss don't have to be spectacularly traumatic (though they can be), and stories of birth don't have to be gloriously all-natural (though they can be). I want to shine a light on all stories, from the everyday to the extraordinary.
Photo by me.