A friend recently confided in me that she’s knocked up, but that I’m one of a chosen few she has shared this little piece of info with, and to keep my mouth shut about the big secret. (Stop trying to guess who it is, you don’t know her and even you did, my lips are sealed!!!) Why? Well surely you remember back to when you got pregnant, and if you were anything like me, you kept it a secret for the first few weeks. The reasons may have been different or the same, either way deciding not to go public with the news makes an already challenging first trimester even more stressful. Let’s take a walk (okay, waddle) down memory lane, shall we?
If you’ve been trying to get pregnant, the feeling of pure joy and excitement at seeing that little “plus sign” on the pee stick is amazing. But euphoria is soon commingled with anxiety (many women have their first panic attacks during their first trimester of pregnancy) and fear: Will my baby be okay? What if I miscarry? When should I tell people? The inner dialogue spins out of control, The first trimester is the hardest, hands down.
There are so many physical and emotional challenges to contend with that you really need to lean on family and friends at this time, but can’t for a host of reasons. Yes, there are some women who tell the world they are pregnant right away, but most of us are more cautious and keep it a secret during the first trimester. Why? Well I hate to even mention it, but the reality is that not all pregnancies make it to term, and if there’s a problem it will usually be discovered in the first 3-4 months (20% of all first time pregnancies end in miscarriage.) Genetic testing, amniocentesis, and other tests usually take place at this time and we hold our breath hoping for the best that everything will be okay. Miscarriages also tend to occur at this point in time as well, so if you make it to month 3 you can exhale and be pretty much assured you’re out of the woods, at least statistically. And THAT’S why most women don’t tell anyone (except Partner or Hubby and Parents) about the pregnancy until month 4. There’s also the superstitious component, that we keep our lips sealed about the big news fearing some jealous or malicious acquaintance will give the evil eye and curse us and our baby, or that even mentioning the pregnancy is somehow tempting fate and will jinx the whole thing. Many of us even start carrying good luck charms and wearing “evil eye” jewelry to ward off toxic energy.
So this is how life changes after conceiving: no alcohol (or cigs – if you still smoke, what’s wrong with you!?); fatigue worse than anything you’ve ever experienced; for some, horrible nausea and puking; bloating and weight gain, and worse, the burden of having to come up with ridiculous excuses for all this since it’s all a big secret. It’s a crazy charade, but we do it because the idea of having to turn around and tell everyone that actually, “no, I won’t be having a baby because I miscarried” or “we decided to terminate because the fetus had a fatal defect” is more than we can bear.
We run around the office not telling our boss or colleagues, pretending we just fell off the diet wagon and indulged in too much conference room cake. Maybe if they knew about baby we’d be at the top of the list for the next round of recession layoffs. We skip the wine at dinner telling friends “Oh I got wasted last night and need to take it easy” or “I’m detoxing, my nutritionist said alcohol’s a no-no” or “I pulled a Cat Stevens and have discovered Islam in all it’s non-alcoholic glory.” We suddenly become hippie chicks, embracing the bohemian fashion trends of baby doll dresses, caftans and tunics with distracting prints and leggings 24/7. Goodbye Edie Sedgwick, hello Mrs. Roper.
Everything kind of turns upside down, inside out: munchies but not because you smoked a doobie; in bed by 7p but not to take a disco nap before hitting the town; falling asleep at work, but not because you were out the night before; snapping at everyone around you, but not because of PMS. Your hormones are raging and you KNOW everyone wants to have an intervention and ship you off to Bellevue, but you still stay mum, only a few more weeks…
So if a friend starts acting a little bizarre, puts on a little weight and stops making sense, please don’t corner her and try to make her admit she’s pregnant. Give her some space, respect that she’s decided to keep it to herself for now, and quietly be super pleased for her (you have my permission to plan a baby shower extravaganza, but only in your head). And if months come and go without any big announcement, again resist the urge to cross examine her and just be available; she will open up if and when she’s ready.
EDITORS NOTE: We want to know when you (Mommy’s and current Pregger Glamazons) told people about your impending nugget. Lettuce know (in the comments section below) what your process of telling folks looked like, and more importantly, how it felt. We bet this section could be very useful to certain expectant Mommy’s in our midst!
Diana Nikkhah Harfouche is a Mom of two boys in New York City.