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Stop telling women not to talk about their early pregnancy

I watched the pregnancy test with relief, sadness, fear, longing and regret. “Pregnant,” he said.

I tried to breathe. Guess I couldn’t have that glass of wine I had planned after all. In fact, the reason I bought the test was that I wanted to drink. I hadn’t done it for several days because I started to worry that my period was coming so late. Sacred buckets. Pregnant! How did it happen?

Oh yeah, this time I had unprotected sex. I didn’t bother to take the morning after pill because I thought I was too old for anything to happen.

Honestly, I didn’t think I could get pregnant. I spent my 20s doing everything in my power to prevent such an event, including taking the morning after pill several times.

Then, in my thirties, I had the idea that I really wanted to have a child and tried to conceive with my partner at the time. I stopped birth control for years with no results. I considered going to a fertility clinic, but the cost was prohibitive.

In my late thirties, my inability to get pregnant caused severe pain and a continuous feeling of loss. When I turned 40, I was finally able to come to terms with what I thought was my own infertility. When I was 42, I thought that window had closed.

Then I found myself about to be 43 and pregnant with someone I had met on Hinge and had four dates with.

I paced and paced, my mind spinning. This thing that I wanted for so long has finally come to fruition. A baby! I never considered having an abortion, despite the less than ideal situation of being without a partner. Yes, I was afraid of all the risks of having a child as an older mom, but there was no way I was going to let this chance pass.

I started thinking about baby names right away, and before I even told anyone about them, I sketched out scenarios on how I could make it work. I would need a two bedroom apartment, I thought. Maybe my parents could help with childcare. Or I could ask my nieces and nephews to help babysit the kids. I plotted and planned how I would make it work.

I didn’t tell anyone about it until the next day. The first person I called was my sister. “I think I’ll keep it,” I found myself saying.

I told a few other close friends about it. Everyone was in favor, although some encouraged me not to make my decision right away whether to keep it or not. I said I would think about it to appease them, but I had already made up my mind.

I began to see how people in early pregnancy should instead rely on their community. If the worst happens, the village is there to offer support. Why keep things a secret and fight this loss alone?

I found it very difficult not to tell people my good news. I wanted to share it with the world, but I didn’t even tell my parents, or the guy from Hinge, who I hadn’t spoken to for two months. I knew I would tell them, but I felt I had to wait.

I had heard that you weren’t supposed to announce your pregnancy for 12 weeks. I had people I was close to who encouraged me to wait that long to share widely, but I didn’t understand why.

The stigma of abortion and the stigma of miscarriages are two sides of the same coin. In either case, instead of seeing reproductive health just like that – part of a person’s general health care, they are instead burdened with politics and morals. One sequence of events means you are a terrible person, another sequence of events means you are somehow missing as a real woman.

A quarter of pregnancies end in miscarriage. We are told to keep early pregnancies private so that we are spared the pain of sharing our loss. I began to see how people in early pregnancy should instead rely on their community. If the worst happens, the village is there to offer support. Why keep things a secret and fight this loss alone?

A week and a half after finding out I was pregnant, I was reading on the sofa and suddenly felt a rush of liquid. I went to the bathroom and realized I had spots. I had my first ultrasound appointment the next day and was prepared for the worst.

At first, when the technician started the ultrasound, I didn’t realize that my insides were projected onto the screen in front of me. I opened my legs so I could see the picture. I gasped. I saw the most miraculous thing. It was my own little nugget right there!

Finally, the technician took out the wand and told me that she was very sorry but could not detect a heartbeat. It was as if she had stabbed me with a knife. I then started to cry and she took me to a private room so I didn’t have to go to the waiting room.

I immediately regretted not telling my parents. I needed my mother more than ever. Why hadn’t I shared the truth with her from the start?

Our culture has a long way to go in supporting people who get pregnant, and that starts with getting rid of the shame of miscarriage, the politicization of abortion, and the judgment of not having children at all.

I was also ashamed of the people I had spoken to. Now I should tell them about the miscarriage. But then I started to question myself. Wasn’t it a good thing to ask for help when something terrible happened? Why should I be ashamed?

It took three more weeks for the miscarriage to actually happen. I decided to wait for this to happen naturally and ended up having to go to the emergency room. It was traumatic, and yet I was still hesitant to share with people outside my closest circle.

I didn’t really feel comfortable saying it was a loss, but it was. This does not negate the experiences of other people of becoming pregnant and deciding to have an abortion. These two truths can exist for different people. For me, I lost someone I wanted to meet and love. I had to say goodbye to them before they were even born.

Our culture has a long way to go in supporting people who get pregnant, and that starts with getting rid of the shame of miscarriage, the politicization of abortion, and the judgment of not having children at all.

This is why you should share whenever you feel compelled to share. For me, keeping the news bottled inside me ended up preventing me from getting all the support I needed. Maybe other pregnant women want to wait a little longer.

The important thing is that as a society we have to stop telling people to wait for an arbitrarily predetermined date. Get rid of the stigma surrounding miscarriages and start caring for people through all stages of their pregnancy, even pregnancies that don’t come to term.

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