People are advised to keep their pregnancy a secret for the first three months. Safety reasons. In case the pregnancy doesn’t work out, you don’t want to have to go back and announce to everyone that you’re now not pregnant anymore.
My first two pregnancies were easy and my little embryos grew to be healthy and happy babies. I waited for about 10 weeks before I made it public, but waiting was tough.
Why was it tough? The first three months of pregnancy are generally awful. You have to understand that you’re pregnant first. Then let it sink in. Then allow for your perspective of the world to slowly change, with your due date becoming the central point and the future baby turning into the main focus. You’re equally worried and excited. You’re also nauseated, irritable, exhausted – you’re not your normal self. You want to murder everyone, cry about it, lay down and sleep next to a toilet bowl.
Sounds overwhelming and exhausting? Wait, there’s more. While you’re dealing with all these newly discovered emotions AND physical discomfort, you have to keep it all a secret and pretend like everything’s fine (aka lie to everyone).
And then, in some cases, the pregnancy doesn’t work out. When that happens to you, your reality dramatically changes yet again, although no one is aware. You told no one that you were pregnant, you can’t tell anyone that you aren’t pregnant anymore. You’re angry, sad, confused, disappointed, lost, or all of it at once, depending on the time of the day. And still, you can’t mention it when people casually ask you how you’re doing. You’re left to deal with it all pretty much on your own.
In the eighth week of pregnancy, we found out that the embryo wasn’t developing properly. Since there was an indication of a heartbeat, it was difficult to make any definite statements. We were told to come back a week later for a checkup.
I barely survived the week. For seven neverending days, I was going back and forth between optimism and deep sadness, with a cloud of worry constantly blurring my mind. I couldn’t focus on anything else. I googled “eight weeks pregnant weak heartbeat”, “eight weeks pregnant embryo too small”, “late implementation”, “miscarriage”. I read every possible article I could find online. I desperately clung to the positive stories, even though, deep inside, I knew what the outcome of our next appointment was going to be.
A week later the ultrasound showed there was no heartbeat anymore. The embryo had stopped growing. I accepted the news calmly, focused on the formalities: What next? We decided to wait for my body to recognise the pregnancy as not viable and to reject the embryo. In other words, we were waiting for me to miscarry naturally.
That didn’t happen. My body had no idea what was going on. My breasts were still painful and growing. I was suffering from nausea. I gained weight. My belly looked pregnant. I found it mind-boggling how out of sync my brain and my body were.
My brain was trying to convince me that there was a positive side to the situation: “We’re about to move. Moving house will be so much easier without a newborn around” / “There are so many different projects to work on at moment, not being pregnant gives me more time” / “I’m able to drink again. I can use this time to go out with all of my friends” / …
All the while – my body still believed I was pregnant. It wasn’t letting go. This was, I found out, a missed miscarriage. My body missed the fact that it was supposed to miscarry.
Sixteen days after the last appointment, we scheduled a D&C, a surgical procedure. It was performed under a full anaesthesia so I was unaware of what was going on. I was brave (or numb?) before the procedure. I felt weak and confused upon waking up. I bled a lot and slept a lot for a couple of days. They told me to rest for two weeks. My brain told me to get up and go. Two days after the procedure, the bleeding almost stopped and I acted as if nothing had happened. I decided not to think about it anymore, now that it was all finished. No point in crying.
Blocking the sadness and trying to forget didn’t work, though. You can only force yourself to feel nothing for this long. About three weeks after my D&C, I broke down. Sadness and emptiness jumped at me and caught me off guard. I ended up sobbing loudly for a long time, equally confused and relieved at what I was (finally) feeling.
I realised I never allowed myself to mourn properly. And I needed to. Not only to mourn the baby who wasn’t meant to be but even more importantly, to mourn my happy, excited and pregnant self who lived in a different reality for a while and who seized to exist unexpectedly.
I would’ve been 16 weeks pregnant today and I’m allowing myself to recognise the sadness and the loss. Going through it left me feeling very lonely, more than anything. It wasn’t because I felt like I couldn’t / shouldn’t talk to anyone about it. It was because I had no idea how to talk about it. I also didn’t know how to cope on my own with this deeply personal and intimate pain.
I wish it wasn’t socially acceptable (and encouraged) to pretend in front of everyone, myself included, that everything is all right just to save us all from feeling uncomfortable for a bit. There are more women than you know going through exactly the same horror story and it would be amazing to be able to share and get support.
It would’ve been helpful for me to be able to tell people when they ask me how I was doing: “I’m feeling horrible. For a while I was pregnant and happy and excited and I’m not pregnant anymore” and for them just to nod and say “I’m sorry you had to go through it, that really sucks”. That would’ve been enough.