First, I should say that I’m so grateful that I even get to consider this question. 🙂 We went in for another quick heartbeat check this morning at 11w1d and everything was still looking great. So now we’re starting to seriously consider when and how and to whom we will start spreading the news.
We’re naturally “staggered revealers” anyway. Both times, we’ve let some people know right away (I called my mom the same day we got the positive pregnancy test, and my husband let his parents know also within a day or two). Both times, we’ve let a few close friends in on the news early in the first trimester. So it’s not as though nobody knows — at this stage, my mom, my cousin, and my husband’s parents and sister know, plus a very small handful of our close friends (including H who is the only person I know in real life with whom I’ve shared this blog. Hi, H! ❤ ).
One of the odd silver linings about having a very public loss at 4.5 months is that we now know who is supportive and helpful during a loss and who is not (there were surprises in both directions). That made it even easier this time to spill the beans to our loved ones who had been super-supportive through our previous infertility and loss, because we knew they’d be supportive if it happened again — and golly, would we ever need their support. But that’s not the hard part.
The hard part is the rest of the world. Here are some of the categories I’ve found tricky:
Acquaintances that I see on a regular basis — Mostly this category is made up of people I work with. This is the trickiest category, partly because I’m showing much, much earlier than last time around. I hate to make everyone pretend that my increasingly obvious belly is not there. I’m quite certain at this point that it’s not just my imagination — I caught my department administrator doing a double-take when I walked past her the other day. It was really obvious, but she didn’t say anything. I do want to wait until after our nuchal translucency ultrasound on Thursday, but then I think I’ll have to start telling people in my department, before it gets absurd. For the rest of campus… there are a few others that I’ll be itching to tell at the end of the first trimester because they were unusually supportive after our loss (one of my fellow faculty in another department was the only person who wrote to acknowledge me on Mother’s Day this year), but I think otherwise I’ll just let the news slowly percolate out naturally. I’m a little worried that everyone else will be too much on eggshells to ever bring up the topic, but I’m sure something will work out. If random acquaintances don’t want to talk to me about my pregnancy at all, that’s just fine — I’m enough of a basket case as it is!
Family and good friends who are far away — As an academic and a recovering academic who moved cross-country 2.5 years ago, we have a lot of these. For friends and family who were sympathetic but not unusually supportive with our first loss, it’s hard to know when to tell them. There’s no particular urgency, but we want to balance their feelings of being kept in the loop and part of our lives with our desire not to have to deal with a lot of burdensome communication if something else goes awry. We also want to avoid accidentally having these people find out via some impersonal means like Facebook that I’m pregnant again. We’ve basically decided that we’ll tell any friends we see in person from here on out (including the 8 adults and two children descending on us for an awesome weekend of fun with my close college / grad school friends starting today). For the rest of this category… I think we’ll wait until after our the point of our first loss, which will be in late September of this year, and then start emailing/calling. Since our friends and family know our history, I think they’ll understand if we share a bit later this time around.
Friends who didn’t know about our first loss — This one actually has two subcategories: (1) People whom become friends with since our daughter’s death 11 months ago, and (2) Facebook friends who have been important parts of my life at one time or another but with whom I am no longer particularly close. The thing is, at some point both these categories of people will presumably find out that I have a baby (preferably a live one this time!). And honestly… I feel weird about them finding out that news without knowing the context of this pregnancy. There are a couple of reasons for that: (1) It feels like dishonoring our daughter to announce her sibling’s (impending) arrival without acknowledging her existence. And (2) I know exactly how painful the apparently effortless, out-of-the-blue Facebook pregnancy/baby announcements can be when you’re going through infertility and loss, and I don’t want to whitewash our experience by only posting the happy side without at least acknowledging the rest of it — and potentially providing some relief or hope to the acquaintance who is going through infertility or loss and hasn’t told us. We never posted about our first pregnancy on Facebook, which wound up being a relief after we lost our daughter. But eventually we will talk about the pregnancy or our baby on Facebook, and I want it to be honest. Figuring out how to do that is tricky.
Students — The first time around, I told my research group at the end of the first trimester, notified my advisees at the beginning of the fall semester that they would need to identify a new advisor before I went on leave in the spring, and mentioned it to some other students when it came up at a department social event. At 4.5 months I was showing while I lectured, but I never brought it up in class, and when our baby died just a few weeks into the semester, I was too freaked out and confused to have a calm and reasonable conversation with the students about it, so I just never talked about my loss with them (even though some of them were lovely and left cards and flowers outside my office). I would probably do things differently now, but I’m also a different person now than I was then. I still think that some of the students in the class had no idea what was going on, and I wanted to disrupt their educational experience as little as possible, so I don’t regret keeping it out of the classroom. This time around… I will wait to tell my research group until they’re back from summer vacation, and I won’t mention it to my big class of freshmen/sophomores at least until we’re past the halfway point in the pregnancy. The only reason I think it’s something I should officially address in class at some point is to reassure them that my due date isn’t until February and that it’s very unlikely that my pregnancy will affect their experience in the class. That’s all they need to know about it, as far as I’m concerned, but I do want to make sure that they don’t worry as they start to notice my belly expanding. There are various other students who will need to know at some point, but the awesome thing is that I was scheduled to be on sabbatical in the spring anyway, so I can continue to use that as an excuse to turn down responsibilities for basically as long as I want! (Sorry, you’ll have to find a backup advisor for the spring, since I’ll be on sabbatical!)
So that’s our plan. There are still a few details to work out, and it feels like a big logistical puzzle, but I’m making progress and (mostly) looking forward to being able to let people know about our good news. I’ve already had a couple of awkward conversations about this pregnancy, and I’ll be interested and amused to hear what comes out of people’s mouths when I tell them this time around (particularly the ones who said clueless things after our loss), but I’m really looking forward to being entertained by these stories rather than shattered by them. I feel so much stronger now, after everything we’ve been through, that I feel ready to deal with whatever awkward conversations come my way — after all, if this experience has taught me anything, it’s that other people are *way* more freaked out about talking about pregnancy loss and infertility than anyone who’s been through it themselves. If anything, I’m worried about making other people feel awkward because I’m *too* open about my pregnancy after loss feelings! We just told our first local friend, a math professor at my university who has been great and supportive through our loss. He was asking about whether I’ll get more monitoring this time around, and I was telling him about our pregnancy being high risk and what that meant, and then ended with, “But really, I’m just so happy that I’m pregnant again and that the baby isn’t dead yet.” Which was true, and exactly what I was feeling, but I could tell that it shocked him a little — oops. 🙂 I’ve gotten so used to being able to say whatever’s actually on my mind when I talk to my husband and my mom (because they get it) that I’ve forgotten that it’s really not appropriate to be that straightforward with people who haven’t been through it all with me. Guess I’ll have to up my brain-mouth filter for the next several months!