pregnancy

"I've had a miscarriage, and I still want to abolish the 12 week pregnancy rule."

I first knew I was pregnant because of my dog. He’d always been a mild-mannered, loving pup, but suddenly he became protective. He would growl at the postman and wouldn’t let me leave the house without a security detail. Weird, huh. It was another week before my period was late and I realised why he’d been acting so weird.

We were over the moon and started planning right away. I got the whole gamut of symptoms: all-day sickness, constant need to wee, the exciting new ability to fall asleep halfway through my mid-morning meeting. But I knew we couldn’t tell anyone yet.

You see, we weren’t allowed. It was still “too early”.

Twelve weeks. That’s how long you wait. Preferably till after the nuchal scan, when you’ve got the all-clear.

But being unable to acknowledge it felt like it wasn’t really happening. I was lying to people I cared about. It was a life-changing event, and I had to pretend to everyone that my life wasn’t about to change. For three whole months.

1. You’re excited. Why hide it?

I was growing a human inside me. I was bursting with excitement – I wanted to share our news. But I felt like people would think I was stupid if I announced it too early. Stupid, and naïve.

12 week pregnancy rule

The dog certinaly knew what was up. Image: supplied.

The judgement is real. I’ve judged women myself, before I’d ever been pregnant myself. “Don’t they know the risks?” I thought. But of course they do. Every pregnant woman is aware of the risks. We’re all up all night Googling the risks, reading forum after forum of other women’s experiences. (Or was that just me?) It’s just that if everything goes OK, you’ll have a baby at the end of it! And that’s pretty damn exciting.

2. People can’t offer help if they don’t know you need it.

Pregnancy symptoms are often worst in the first trimester – particularly those symptoms which might interfere with your ability to operate heavy machinery. If you could tell your boss, your pilates instructor, your friends – they’d be a lot more sympathetic when you piked on another class, or fell asleep at your desk while stuffing your face with carbs.

With my first pregnancy, my job saw me travelling all over the country. It was fast-paced agency work, and it was our busiest time of year. At ten weeks, I memorably travelled to five cities in five days. At the end of the week, I arrived at the check-in desk with one minute’s wriggle room and collapsed at the counter in tears. “I woke up in Sydney! I got caught in traffic! I had to run all the way here! And I’m pregnant!” I wailed to the bemused flight attendant.

When to tell the boss you’re pregnant and what are your rights. (Post continues after audio.)

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If my boss had known I was pregnant, I’m sure she would have been more accommodating. It would at least have given her the option. And you know what? It would’ve given me the option too – to accept the support which I needed.

3. I don’t want to lie anymore.

We’ve all been there. The work drinks you had to attend. The friend’s birthday you couldn’t turn down. The wedding toast. And if you can’t tell anyone yet, you’re faced with one of two duplicitous actions. Is it antibiotics this time? Or are you “still hungover” from last night, you drunkard?! All those well-placed Facebook photos clutching a glass of (someone else’s) wine. All those surreptitious times you swapped your (full) glass with your husband’s (empty) one. Sneaky, sneaky.

It's apple juice - I swear! Image: supplied.

I was at my mum’s for dinner at around six weeks, and she’d made Beef Wellington. Beef Wellington! Beef, smothered in paté, wrapped in pastry. Paté being top of the list of Foods You Must Absolutely Not Consume When Up The Duff. Not to mention the fact I couldn’t stomach anything more complicated than a bowl of white rice. I had to hide it under bits of salad.

Wouldn’t it be easier if you could just you know, tell the truth?

4. You can’t have it both ways.

Either miscarriage is heartbreakingly common (so don’t tell anyone before twelve weeks because it could happen to you!) or it’s totally taboo (we must never speak of it).

If we spoke more frankly about it, we could reduce the stigma surrounding it. Women are not responsible for our own miscarriages. I didn’t miscarry because I had a coffee, or because I was working too hard, or because I am defective. I had a miscarriage because sometimes pregnancies end naturally.

5. Miscarriage sucks. But it sucks more if you can’t tell anyone.

The second time I was pregnant, my miscarriage began at work. It was early – not even six weeks. Again, I hadn’t told anyone. The five-hour excursion to the Emergency Department was hard to explain to my boss. When I called my mum that night, it was with the tragic, double-barrelled news: “I was pregnant. And I’m not anymore.”

In my grief and sorrow, I had wonderful friends who supported me. It was hard, but it would have been much harder if I’d had to pretend it had never happened.

The real risk is that when you tell someone you have had a miscarriage before the twelve weeks are up, it’s almost like it was never a “real” pregnancy anyway. And yet, of course it was. You had to live with the symptoms, and you had imagined a future with that baby. It’s a real loss – no matter how common it is.

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