baby

'I followed the 12-week rule for my first pregnancy. This is why I'll never do it again.'

Content warning: This post discusses miscarriage and will be triggering for some readers. 

When I was pregnant for the first time I was over the moon, shoe tapping in the air excited. The moment I saw the two pink lines appear on the test I barely had time to pull my pants up before finding my husband to tell him.

I followed this (very quickly) with a call to my mum to tell her she would soon become a grandmother for the first time. But after this phone call my gut reaction was to stop sharing my pregnancy news. It was only early I thought to myself and you’re supposed to wait 12 weeks, aren’t you?

Why? I didn’t know then. But that’s the way it’s done so I had better remain tight-lipped like all the pregnant women before me. I didn’t want to do the wrong thing and the fact was, it wasn’t like I knew what I was doing; this pregnant thing was all brand new to me.

Note: Upon recent research, this ’12 Week Rule’ began because apparently in the time before pregnancy tests women had to wait to feel the baby move for pregnancy confirmation, which was around the three to four-month time, so around 12 weeks.

So being a stickler for the rules I stopped sharing the news. I instead wrote a countdown in my organiser to tell me when I could tell people, like a pregnancy advent calendar counting down to the big day and instead of presents I could actually share the fact that we were having a baby. Inside I was screaming out my news but outside I carried on (despite first trimester exhaustion, frequent trips to the toilet, fluctuating hormones and just utter excitement) as if everything was normal.

Unfortunately, this date never arrived. One morning I noticed spotting and I had a feeling that something just wasn’t as it should be. After visiting my doctor and having an ultrasound my feeling was confirmed, my baby no longer had a heartbeat and now I had to have a procedure to remove my little Olive (it’s food equivalent size at the time) and I was left to grieve my loss with the support of my husband and my mum.

I told my friends what had happened after the fact but as women who’ve miscarried know the often isolating experience of losing a child, the feeling of uncomfortableness that it seems to bring to others, and the uncertainty of how to respond clearly evident in their comments and actions (often innocently of course) makes sharing the news (especially if they hadn’t known you were pregnant in the first place) quite challenging.

shona hendley
Shona and her daughters. Image: Supplied.
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There seems to be some ridiculously incorrect, yet widely held belief, a social norm even, that the earlier you lose a child the easier it should be to cope with, the earlier it happens, the less of a child it was, that somehow if it isn’t 12 weeks it doesn’t actually count or matter. This belief is completely inaccurate and the reason why I think this social taboo of announcing a pregnancy before 12 weeks is something that needs to change.

My loss of Olive was the event that made me decide I wouldn’t keep my future pregnancies a secret. I’d tell those close to me - my friends and other family members because I knew if I were to suffer the same fate I’d want more support and people to lean on. I didn’t want to feel as alone as I had this first time.

About four months later I fell pregnant again. The joy I’d felt the first time was replaced with worry. Although I was apprehensive I knew I needed to share my news with my network, for the good or for the bad outcome, whatever it may be.

This time my olive grew into a fully-sized baby and my daughter Addison was born perfectly healthy, full term.

When I discovered I was pregnant with my second daughter Milla I did the same. I knew telling others meant I had a strong network to lean on, I could celebrate my happiness or tell my worries with others; when I was tired and grumpy in my first trimester people understood why. It was a relief to just have people know and understand and it was wonderful to share the experience and happiness it brought from the beginning - not a third of the way through. For me, my pregnancy with Milla was so much more relaxed, joyous and ‘easy’ than my previous ones, because I was confident that I had people around me, at every stage and for any possible situation.

I know sharing pregnancy news isn’t always possible for everyone and often while working, later is often better for many. But if you can (and if you want to, of course) even if it’s with a close network of friends and family it can offer so many benefits.

Waiting for 12 weeks may mean there is less chance of having to share ‘bad news’ but that’s when we need support the most isn’t it? And really, other than a reduced risk of miscarriage the 12-week rule is just an outdated social norm that, if you ask me, needs to be re-evaluated pronto.

And let’s be honest, finding out you’re having a baby, it’s pretty bloody exciting so screw 12 weeks, I say announce it when and how you want.

If you, or someone you know is struggling with pregnancy loss or depression, contact SANDS on 1300 072 637. 

How long did you wait to tell friends about your pregnancy? Tell us in the comments section below. 

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