When to reveal a pregnancy after loss

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!


12 thoughts on “When to reveal a pregnancy after loss

  1. Wifey

    I’ll be glad when you can tell the whole world! Which will be here before you know it. The only person of importance in my life who doesn’t know is my grandmother. She knows our history, but we are purposefully not telling her yet because she forgets things easily and we don’t want to cause any added stress with worry. So, we will tell her when we have made it thru the first trimester. I’m kind of excited to surprise her since I don’t get to surprise anyone else. I’m glad you have lots of supportive people who will be thrilled to hear your good news!

    1. lyra211 Post author

      That makes a lot of sense. Grandparents are tricky, especially as they age and get a little more forgetful. My husband’s last grandparent died in between when we told her that I was pregnant and when our baby died — it’s always been a little weird knowing that she died believing we were about to welcome a child into the world. Sweet, in a way, but also weird. (Yeah, that was a rough year.) But it sounds really fun to get to plan surprising your grandmother with the news — it *is* fun to dole out this happy news, and I’m sure she’ll be thrilled to hear it from you when the time comes!

  2. hopingforatakehome

    First of all, that’s great about the heartbeat check today! And second, I loved this post! This is something I’ve been considering too. We’re definitely telling in a tiered manner. We’re not going to do any big public announcement so I think some people will find out quite late and just by chance. But certain relatives we haven’t decided when to tell them yet. Some don’t know about our previous losses because they haven’t been supportive about other difficult times so I think we’ll wait at least a couple of more weeks. I also feel like I’m showing (it seems so early!!!) and two people other than my husband have told me I am already!

    1. lyra211 Post author

      Yeah, I thought you must be thinking about this too. 🙂 I think the only thing I find tricky about the
      “tiered” announcement scheme is worrying about someone who might feel like they should hear it from me finding out from someone else. I guess it’s easier in a way for us since everyone who falls into that category knows our history, so I doubt they’ll be too offended if they find out we’ve been a little disorganized/secretive this time around. Are you planning to tell people about your previous losses when you announce this pregnancy, or just let it stand on its own as happy news? That’s hilarious about hearing from several people that you’re showing already! Congrats! 🙂

      1. hopingforatakehome

        I’m not sure about telling people about the previous losses. All our close friends and family know, and those are the people that knew early on that we were pregnant again this time. Sometimes I think, why not be open to absolutely everyone, since it’s part of our truth. Why hide it. Other times I think I want to keep the whole story a little closer to us. Even with people we are not as close with, I do tend to allude to how happy we are and it has been a challenge for us to get this far, when they find out about this pregnancy.

  3. My Perfect Breakdown

    I think this is a wonderful post. I understand so much of what you are saying here, and the comment about being happy for today because “baby isn’t dead yet” – I get that. I’ve said that. People have no idea how to respond, but you know what, it’s true and you deserve to be able be true to your emotions. Sending you love my friend and I’m hoping every one you tell will be thrilled with your news and will be there to support you no matter what!

    1. lyra211 Post author

      Ha, I knew you’d understand that feeling. 🙂 I’m sure everyone will be excited for us, but it’s also incredibly helpful to know that there are people like you out there who are excited for us *and* understand how complicated our feelings about all of this are!

  4. xykademiqz

    I am so glad all is going so well for you! I am a physical science full prof, and I have 3 boys; had a miscarriage between 2 and 3. A miscarriage, even though mine was an early one and I got pregnant shortly thereafter, messes with your head in ways that I could not ever fathom before. I can only imagine that it must be much, much worse if a late miscarriage or infertility is involved…

    With the 3rd baby, I don’t think we told nearly anyone for the longest time. My folks live overseas and I didn’t tell them till we had the baby (did the same with the 2nd kid); my mom means well but is a pain in the ass and would make my pregnancies about herself and her feelings, as she always does with everything, so I didn’t want to have her involved at all. (Plus, she basically told me I was a slut when I got pregnant with baby No 1 and could have really used her support because DH and I weren’t married yet; mind you, i was 26, so not exactly a teenage pregnancy). Most of my close friends are overseas as well, so we only check back with one another every few months; I told them after I had the baby.

    As for the locals, which is mostly colleagues: first, I enjoyed just not telling people — I liked having a wonderful secret. Second, I really enjoyed looking at people squirm as they started suspecting I was pregnant; the double-takes, the looks. It’s amazing how few people are wiling to bring it up (I am not THAT fat that you can’t tell when I am 8 months pregnant!) I think I actually told only 2-3 of the closest collaborators who saw me all the time, and the graduate students in my research group — I was even going to let the students figure it out on their own, but they started asking why I wouldn’t be able to do something in June, and I didn’t want to lie so I said I’d be having a baby. (I was going into a sabbatical so didn’t have to deal with teaching assignments too early.) One female collaborator who could not get enough of the info on my pregnancy with baby No 2 was completely acting as if I was not pregnant at all with baby No 3, even though I was seeing her weekly; it was weird and I presume having to do with her secondary infertility, but when I tried very politely to ask she was denying that anything was going on (my old grey male collaborators expressed more interest in the baby than a woman essentially my age, who was all over baby talk just a few years prior, so I know it’s not her overall lack of interest in babies).

    I never discussed my pregnancy with any of the students in my class.I was delivering after the semester ended, so it would not disrupt their experience. And they are nearly all boys anyway, so I didn’t think they would care very much one way or another. Apparently some didn’t even notice even though I was 8 months pregnant when the semester ended.

    I guess I am at the opposite end of the spectrum from many people here — I only shared when I had to and with people who saw me regularly in person. My point in all of this is that it’s totally okay to not tell most people, if you wish, until you have the baby in your arms. This is really something you and your husband are going through, and no one else is entitled to knowing or partaking in anything even a second before you are ready, their feelings be damned. If their hurt fee-fees for not knowing sooner are stronger than the joy they feel for you because you finally have a baby you wanted so much, they they are a$$holes.

    Sorry for the long comment and best of luck with your pregnancy!

    1. lyra211 Post author

      No need to apologize — I love the long comment and everything in it! (If it wasn’t already clear from my blog, I am incapable of writing in anything other than long multi-paragraph formats, so I grok the impulse.)

      I also love the mischievousness with which you approached letting other people sweat over whether or not to say anything to you as you became more and more visibly pregnant. 🙂 I think I’ll have to reconceptualize it that way for people with whom I’m just not interested in talking about this pregnancy.

      It’s fascinating to hear that some of your students never realized you were pregnant even while you were lecturing in front of them into the third trimester. I realized during my first pregnancy that people are much more oblivious than I assumed, but I didn’t realize that college kids could be *that* oblivious! (Although probably I should have…) I guess I worry a little more given the culture of my department since we’re small (can count faculty on one hand, grad students on the other, majors on your toes), so the gossip mill is strong — as soon as anyone knows, everyone knows. But I’m teaching a frosh/soph intro-level class in the fall, so maybe I can just leave the 19-year-olds blissfully unaware. We shall see.

      As a mom of three boys… any pep talk about raising boys? I just today found out that my current baby is a boy and have to admit that I might have shed a few tears over it (which I am ashamed of and clearly won’t ever tell him!). I know I’ll be thrilled once there’s an actual human rather than a single-characteristic mental construct in front of me, but especially after I let my dreams of mothering a daughter run wild in my first pregnancy this feels a little like losing my girl all over again. If you’ve got any happy words about raising boys, I’d love to hear them.

      1. xykademiqz

        Oh, you’ll love having a boy! They are a lot of fun. Boys love their moms really fiercely, I think that’s the best word to describe it. I think you will be surprised at the strength of the bond, please don’t think that you are missing out on the closeness by having a boy. When I came back the other day from a week-and-a-half-long trip, the younger two (4 and 8) were like little barnacles, you couldn’t peel them off of me.

        Eldest (15) looks very much like his dad but has a personality very similar to mine so we get each other really well. It’s fun to see the young and male version of myself, and I am pretty cool. 🙂

        My husband and I are very affectionate with the kids (lots of hugs and kisses), and all the kids are very affectionate in return. I think we as a society tend to underestimate how much physical affection boys need. Rough play is basically their way of cuddling with each other. It’s very endearing seeing my younger two play; they are rough, but not really. It’s the same with older boys; my Eldest is on the swim team, and there is a lot of horse play, which is the societally approved form of male affection, I suppose.

        I am on the tomboyish side, so it’s fun to be gross! There is burping and farting in my home, not all the time, but there are burp-fests where everyone who can burp on cue (read: DH and older two boys) chimes in. Blaming each other for farting is also hilarious. (We’re not savages… Sometimes.)

        There are things my DH does with them that I have little interest in, like video games. Middle boy is really into sports, which neither DH nor I are into. But there is math, science, art, music, and comic books that I can share with them.

        And there is no better way to understand and learn to really love men in general than having sons. You will probably understand, love, and appreciate your DH more after you see him through your little boys.

        Honestly, I love having boys and I can’t imagine having a girl. But I really think all kids are just wonderful and you will get as much love back as you put in, boy or girl. Regardless of gender, you get to know a new little person at the time when they are completely honest and curious and energetic and loving and just overall at the best that we humans ever are.

        Best of luck!

  5. newchancesnewhope

    Wow we really are going through the same thoughts!

    Your dancing baby is amazing news and I’m so happy you’ve had another great scan!

    I’m with you on the other people feeling awkward – I’ve got very close colleagues/team members who literally ignored what happened which was very upsetting. All we can do is handle it how we feel comfortable and others will have to deal with it! 🙂 xx


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