Monday, September 8, 2014

Why we need to stop praising the early pregnancy announcement.

Have you heard the news? One of the infamous Duggar kids, from the show "19 Kids & Counting," has announced her pregnancy early, before the typical 12-week wait.

In general, people seem quite proud of her. Some pro-lifers have declared that she is making a bold step toward recognizing the life of a fetus as a real human and not just a ball of cells. Some have simply lauded her ability to be optimistic and enjoy the pregnancy.

In the face of all this praise, I feel like it might be appropriate to talk about the other side.

When I was in my first trimester of my current pregnancy and had only announced my pregnancy to family, a dear family member told me about a friend of hers who had always announced her pregnancies right away because she didn't want to diminish her own joy by being pessimistic. This family member meant well by this story, I'm sure, and she didn't outright say that my husband and I were doing the wrong thing to wait, but I was a little hurt by the implication that announcing early is better.

The fact is, miscarriage is real and extremely common; it's estimated that a third of pregnancies end in miscarriage. A third. I know many, many women who have suffered miscarriages. If you can't think of anyone you know who has had a miscarriage, they probably just haven't told you about it.

Of course, we all hope for the best. Of course, we all believe as hard as we can that the pregnancy will work out. But we can't know for sure--and pretending that miscarriage can't happen to you is not going to make any difference.

Some people seem to believe that worrying about a miscarriage will make it happen, or that refusing to think about the possibility of miscarriage will eliminate, or at least lower, the risk. This just isn't true. (From what I've read, there is evidence that extreme stress could negatively affect a pregnancy, but it would have to be much more than just normal anxiety over the possibility of miscarriage.)

I had a miscarriage almost a year ago. At the time, I had not told anyone about my pregnancy except for my parents and my husband's parents. It was painful to me that the people surrounding me didn't know what I was going through--but I always knew that it would be ten times more painful if they all knew. I'm sure some people would have said the right things and would have helped me, but many people don't understand miscarriage. Many of them might have felt uncomfortable knowing about my miscarriage simply because they didn't know me well enough, and I would have felt uncomfortable knowing that they knew. I didn't want everyone to know. As painful as it was to feel alone, it was better than being the center of attention and the object of pity.

And if I had announced my pregnancy to the world via a Facebook picture of my still-dripping positive pregnancy test the day we found out, I would have had to deal with all that. Instead of having this year to figure things out, come to terms with my miscarriage, and come to a point where I felt comfortable talking about that difficult time in my life, I would have had to announce my bad news right away to all those random Facebook friends who maybe haven't seen me in five years or more. I'm not the most private person in the world, but even for me, that would be horrible.

When you say that announcing early is so much better because it's so positive and so joyful, you're ignoring the reality that I, and so many others like me, went through. By waiting to announce, expectant mothers aren't just being worry warts--they're being mindfully aware of the tragedy that others have gone through, and they're realistically acknowledging the possibilities. Don't act like this precaution is needless, foolish, or pessimistic. It's just realistic.

Please don't misunderstand--I'm not saying that anyone is wrong to announce early. Everyone needs to make that decision for herself. Some women honestly feel that if they were to miscarry, they would want to have the whole world's support, and I absolutely respect that. But all pregnant women need to think about what they would want if a miscarriage were to happen, and to adapt their announcement plans to that.

In light of the high rate of miscarriage, I would ask you to please not encourage people to pretend that miscarriage does not happen. It does, no matter how optimistic you are. Again, it's totally fine for women to announce early if they want to, but they don't need to be held up as shining paragons that we should all follow--there is no right or wrong way. When we wait, it's for a good reason.

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