Every pregnancy, we have announced to the world at slightly different times. Our first we kept under wraps until 16 weeks, when we were able to announce we were expecting a boy! Our second, we tried to kept secret too until hospitalisation at 9 weeks for Hyperemesis gave the game away! With number 3, the possibility of hyperemesis striking again was in our minds, so we told immediate friends and family but kept the general announcement until the 12 week scan. This pregnancy, we decided to be honest about the pregnancy at 7 weeks, following an early scan which showed a little bean with a heartbeat. No special reason for the decision this time around, just no desire to keep it a secret from the world.
Different pregnancies, different experiences, different choices.
There isn’t a right or a wrong time to make your announcement, it is whatever feels right to you in your individual circumstances and perspective. What is interesting is that these days most people seem to feel there is an expectation to wait until 12 weeks. Some women I have spoken to even feel judged if they announce before this point, as they have felt that others will see them as taking a ‘risk’ in doing so and may ‘jinx’ their pregnancy, and it is more ‘appropriate’ to wait for the nod from the medical establishment.
There does seem to be this strong cultural norm around the first trimester being one of secrecy. A whole third of the pregnancy to be kept under wraps. A suggestion by society that early pregnancy symptoms should be dealt with quietly, potentially minimising or underestimating how tough they can be. That pregnancy is not to be acknowledged as an experience until the risk for miscarriage has dramatically dropped. For some women, for various reasons, early pregnancy can be the most challenging part of the whole experience, yet they may feel like they ‘should’ suffer in silence.
From personal experience, in all my pregnancies, I have experienced sickness to some degree. Without doubt, it was hardest to manage in the first two pregnancies when we were keeping our news a secret. There was less support, less understanding. I look back to struggling with hyperemsis during my second pregnancy and reflect on how better support might have helped the situation, how our plan to keep quiet until an arbitrary date was not really a conscious decision based on our circumstances, more a habitual fulfilling of what we ‘should’ do.
Regardless of all the monumental physical changes which take place in early pregnancy, there are also a host of emotional ones as we come to terms for what our news means for us. Many parents will know that early pregnancy can also be a time of mixed feelings, and those of anxiety or worry are just as normal as well as the more ‘positive’ emotions.
It also means that women who suffer from one of the most difficult physical and emotional experiences in these early days, that of loss, often do so without the support and understanding of those closest to them.
Im not superstitious.Miscarriage and loss is a tragic occurrence which happens to some women through absolutely no fault of their own. Anything which suggests it is something that the woman should have done differently is very damaging, and just not true on any level. I sometimes wonder whether our general societal difficulty in dealing with grief and loss plays a role here, the widespread feeling of not knowing what to say or how to act, and that there is a subconscious part which feels it is easier to not know or have to deal with.
Of course, if a woman/family feel that a miscarriage will be easier to cope with less people knowing about it, then this is of course completely understandable and privacy the right thing for them. For women who have had previous difficulties in early pregnancy, or are going through rounds of IVF treatment, then they may also want that privacy.This isn’t about labeling how people experiencing different pregnancy journeys ‘should’ feel, or an expectation that in a bid for antenatal liberation that all women ‘should’ want to announce earlier than 12 weeks. This is about empowerment, getting rid of expectation and judgment, and supporting individual and mindful choice.
I am a dreamer, I know. But I would like to see a world where women and their families feel empowered to manage their pregnancies from the very start in the way which is in THEIR best interests, and this includes more freedom in deciding when is right for them to share the news. The way we make that a reality, is by changing how women and their families who choose a different time to announce their news are viewed. The first trimester does not have to be a burden carried in silence because it is more ‘ladylike’ or ‘appropriate’. For those who want to let people know their news, we should join them in celebrating their news and offering our support not our judgment. For those who would prefer more privacy, then equally 12 weeks is not a magic marker point for when an announcement ‘should’ be made, and it is nobody’s business but their own when someone feels they wish to share their news.
There should be no ‘should’.
When did you announce your pregnancy, and what do you think affected your decision?
Steph is co-founder of antenatal & parenting programmes MummyNatal, BabyNatal and DaddyNatal, alongside her husband Dean.