by Rachel Canar
Initially, of course, you aren’t supposed to tell anyone. I understand that this must be especially true of older pregnant women.
Given the statistics on miscarriages for women over 40 – that one in three pregnancies will end in miscarriage within the first 12 weeks – you don’t want to tell anyone about your pregnancy that you wouldn’t also want to talk to about your miscarriage.
While I agree that miscarriage does feel like something very private, the total vacuum silence around the subject seems to be way overblown. Once you are talking about it and you find out that pretty much all women have had the experience, it is a wonder that you have never once heard about it before. In fact, I didn’t even know that my grandmother had a miscarriage until we discussed my recent blog. That’s right. I wasn’t even told about her experience when I had one myself.
And I didn’t want to tell anyone about it when it actually happened to me either.
I actually didn’t have any initial intention to share so much. Writing for Primigravida, I felt more comfortable to bring up what I imagined to be shared experiences. Then, once it was written, I didn’t intend to publish it myself, or post it to Facebook.
But then my partner Hagai said to me, what is the point of writing it if you don’t want people to read it? So I shrugged and posted it. And now everyone knows.
People just kept telling me afterwards how brave I was to share so much.
Honestly, the hardest part for me to share was not the miscarriage, the horrible side effects of birth control pills, or the incredible difficulty of marriage with or without infertility – these things seem like common knowledge and not particularly linked to me.
The hardest thing to go public with was my pregnancy. I really didn’t want to tell anyone.
First I had all those good reasons. Many people even recommend not telling anyone until after the Down Syndrome tests come back at 16 weeks since, again, women over 40 – who have a 1 in 50 chance of having a Down Syndrome baby – may not want to share such a difficult decision process so publicly.
But then even after we crossed that hurdle, I still didn’t want to go public.
I have so many single girl friends over 35 with whom I spend endless hours discussing the likelihood of their actually having children. To break the news of my pregnancy to a friend or acquaintance who is deeply depressed about the prospect of not having children just seemed insensitive and icky.
But this still wasn’t the worst thing. I know that their sadness doesn’t preclude them from being happy for others, just as I was happy for my friends that got pregnant when I was failing.
The worst part was the embarrassment of telling all of my fellow childless friends with whom I had spent countless hours ranting against breeding. How was I supposed to tell my fellow anti-breeding club members that I had betrayed the cause? My anthem was “there are too many children and not enough parents.” Even during our time in fertility treatments, I would still have these conversations and was fantasizing about adoption the whole time. I held up examples of wonderful women who never reproduced, including several members of my own family. I read and circulated articles about the intrinsic value of a women’s own life without having children, championed adoption, foster care, Big Brother Big Sister programs and alternative family models.
I still believe all of those things, but I am also now a pregnant woman over 40.
As I enter my 8th month, there is no secret about it – everyone who sees me knows.
But I am still struggling with my change in status. Honestly, I have lived a long time as an adult without children, and was comfortable with who I am, how I got here, and where I was headed. Today, all that hard won self-knowledge seems irrelevant. I no longer recognize my body let alone my life. I fear losing my relationships with my friends who don’t have children but still not connecting with other parents.
I was recently at a gathering of five couples and their combined ten children. Hovering outside my body, overwhelmed by the din, I wondered, is this my life now?
Maybe I wanted to keep it a secret for so long because I wanted to keep my life as familiar as possible for as long as possible. Those days are over.
My baby is now announcing loudly to me and anyone who can see her dancing ripples across my belly, I am about to be a mother.
So my secret is out. Now I’m waiting to see if I can remain who I was and still be the mother I hope to become. I will let you know how it goes.
Rachel Canar is working on a baby and a book.