This is a guest post from Ava user Jill Miller. Jill’s rainbow baby was born in April 2018.
Yes, I chose to make my pregnancy announcement early. And I know what you’re thinking.
I was seven weeks pregnant when my husband and I found ourselves laughing together in the bathroom, seeing those two parallel lines with joy and disbelief. I was already further along than I had been when we’d miscarried more than a year before.
“Do we tell them?” I asked, my voice suddenly hushed, as though someone might be listening with an eager ear pressed to the door. My family—Mom, Dad, Grandpa, brother, sister-in-law, and nephews—were all visiting our ranch for the late summer weekend. It was a sunny Sunday morning, and we were preparing for church in the park.
“Do you want to?” my husband replied.
I thought for half a second before answering, “Yes.”
We told my family around the campfire that night, and our news was met with undisguised joy. We asked them to keep it under wraps until we made the announcement to some close friends and our church family, and then when we posted to social media to make it “official,” they could sing like canaries about Baby Miller’s impending arrival.
At seven weeks, both our families knew; at eight weeks, our close friends had all received the call; and then at nine weeks, we announced at church on Sunday morning, and I posted on Instagram and Facebook that night. The world was aware that Baby Miller was on the way, and we hadn’t hit the magic twelve week mark yet.
Our Early Pregnancy Announcement
The decision to announce our second pregnancy right away wasn’t a simple one, in retrospect. It was born of the excruciating disappointment of an early miscarriage, or what’s often referred to in medical terms as a “chemical” pregnancy. In April of 2016, we found out we were expecting via faint parallel lines on a cheap off-brand pregnancy test. Husband and I planned to tell a few close friends, but otherwise keep it to ourselves until we could see the doctor and hit that end-of-the-first-trimester milestone.
But then I started spotting.
Which progressed to bleeding.
And quickly turned to nausea and cramping, the kind of pain I had experienced with my period, back when my endometriosis was as yet untreated.
Blood draws confirmed my worst fear: the pregnancy that we’d hardly had time to acknowledge was over.
Suddenly, I was faced with the difficulty of telling my dearest friends, in one breath, that the pregnancy we had so long been praying and hoping for had ended before it really even begun.
I was crushed.
It was so much harder than I could have imagined—telling my mom that I’d had a miscarriage, when we had both wanted so long for me to be able to say I was pregnant.
And there was the sense of shame I felt over the loss—crippling, overwhelming shame. I believe strongly that shame is not a feeling that should be associated with losing a pregnancy, but it somehow seems to be a prevalent, nearly inherent emotional response. Prominent author and shame researcher Brene Brown defines shame in a way that resonates with me: she says that shame leads us to believe that we are flawed in some inescapable way, and that something we’ve done or has happened to us has made us unworthy or unlovable. My sense of shame was acute, and left me unwilling to tell many people around me about our loss. It set my husband and me adrift on a sea of overwhelming grief and loneliness. I had never felt so alone or miserable in my whole life, and almost no one knew it. In the week after my miscarriage, I remember walking around work, talking about all the normal work things, all the while wondering how everyone was functioning so normally when my baby had just died. The answer, looking back, is simple: they had no idea anything had happened.
It wasn’t until I chose to start opening up to others about my miscarriage that I started to feel some relief from all that. In fact, I came to realize that the burden of this kind of experience begged to be shared with others. As my grandma would say, “Many hands make light work.”
I like to think that many hearts make burdens easier to bear.
Why I Don’t Regret My Early Pregnancy Announcement
Now, almost two years and a second pregnancy later, I’ve come to more fully appreciate the respite of sharing of burdens. My eventual conclusion was this: making an early pregnancy announcement (announcing before twelve weeks) meant allowing others to share in my joy and anxiety, and to offer the kind of support I wanted if the worst should happen again. If the people we loved knew about our baby, then they would be able to offer support and prayers. Then the journey—whether it end up being happy or sad—wouldn’t be secret or lonely.
I found that sharing the news with others made my life easier in a lot of ways. My coworkers knew the reason I was so bone-crushingly tired rather than energetic, without having to whisper or speculate. They were kind and helpful and excited for me. Our friends were sweet, offering congratulations and excitement over the news. And it added a few more weeks to the relatively short time I got to revel in the glow, warmth, and attention that is a first pregnancy.
Sharing my pregnancy announcement sooner allowed me to bask in the joy of the news, rather than giving me opportunity to wallow in fear and anxiety. Instead of carrying my baby as a secret that I was obsessively worrying about (something I am prone to do in everyday life anyway), having others know helped me carry my baby as a source of joy that everyone shared in, and that joy was contagious. It pulled me out of myself and my compulsive anxiety and helped me focus on the bright possibility of a child, rather than the dark terror of another loss.
I hope you can hear my heart in this: I’m not saying than an early pregnancy announcement is for everyone, or that if you wait to announce until the end of the first trimester that means you are a neurotic bundle of anxious fear. The journey is so different for everyone. But I do believe that sharing our stories helps to empower each other: we might give voice to feelings we’d as yet been unable to articulate, or maybe discover a perspective we’d not considered, or even take action when we’d not been brave enough before.
After all, many hearts make burdens easier to bear.