Ever since Jill Duggar announced her pregnancy seemingly just a few hours after she saw two stripes on a stick, there have been some hearty discussions about the timing of announcing a pregnancy.
When is it appropriate to announce a pregnancy? When is too soon? And is it presumptuous to announce too soon? Does it mean you’re naive to the dangers of the first trimester and the risks of conception? If you wait to make the announcement, does it mean you only believe in the sanctity of a viable pregnancy? If you wait to tell people, does it mean you don’t really believe you were carrying a human life?
I’ve listened to the discussions, and I haven’t weighed in because it’s admittedly a tender topic for me. But sometimes, the tender spots are the ones that need attention.
I’ve been pregnant four times.
I’ve given birth to two children.
I’ve had two miscarriages.
The first time I was pregnant, we told everybody, everywhere, right away. We were elated and ecstatic, so excited to have a baby due on Father’s Day. At nearly eleven weeks, we went in for our first ultrasound and learned that the baby had no heartbeat. My child had died a few days after conception, but my body had never realized it. My body operated as though she were nesting a baby, and I showed all the symptoms of a healthy pregnancy.
The doctor called my pregnancy a ‘missed miscarriage,’ or a ‘spontaneous abortion.’ I remember lying on the crumply paper of the exam table, arching my back and sobbing. I remember feeling Robb’s fingers in my hair and hearing his voice next to my ear.
In addition to our own sadness and a series of procedures to ‘remove the tissue’, we had the endless series of conversations and dozens of phone calls to make. Our families. His colleagues. The young couples in our community who were having their own babies, left and right. My teaching friends. Both of my kindergarten classes. That’s 59 six-year-olds.
Even after we thought that surely everyone who cares must know by now, I saw someone at the mall who congratulated me on the pregnancy. And then we were tangled in the mutual awkwardness of, “Actually…”
It seems like when you want to keep a secret, everyone will find out. When you want to spread the word, it seems like the line of communication keeps getting stalled.
That’s the story of the first baby.
When I was pregnant the second time, I didn’t want to tell anybody. In fact, I didn’t even tell my parents until I was showing symptoms of a second miscarriage. I remember weighing the words, “The good news is I’m pregnant. The bad news is I’m bleeding.”
We kept him a secret for as long as we could, until the bump made the announcement. I carried that baby full term, and that’s the story of Tucker.
When we were expecting again, we held hands as we watched the blinking white light of a heartbeat on the ultrasound screen. Less than a week later, we were in the ER. I looked at the water stains on the ceiling tiles while Robb studied the screen, hoping against hope for that blinking white light on a similar screen.
He was a dad three times over; he knew what he was looking for. There was only stillness. The technician said, “The doctor will give you the results soon,” and he left the room. And my husband said, “I’m sorry, sweetheart.” Because he knew.
When I was pregnant one more time, I held my breath and kept my mouth shut as I waited for the shoe to fall. Bad news never arrived. Instead, my sweet Tyler was born.
Every single one of those ‘positive tests’ is a child to me.
So if I may assert a different perspective, parents who don’t go public right away might not be making a statement about the value of life and the difference between a fetus and a baby.
It’s possible that they can only break their own hearts so many times.