I'm typically a very upfront, "out there" person. However, the first time I discovered I was pregnant, I was immediately and uncharacteristically reluctant to say anything. This was about to be the biggest thing that ever happened to me; how would I even begin to tell people about something so momentous? I was concerned about so many things: how people would respond, what it might mean for my work, and whether the pregnancy would even stick. In the end, there were a lot of reasons why I hid my pregnancy, which is why even though I don't feel anyone should ever have to hide their pregnancies, I also completely understand why many women do.
Even though most people are genuinely excited and happy for pregnant women, that doesn't mean they don't also frequently respond to pregnancy in uncomfortable, unhelpful, and even discriminatory ways. I had no idea who in my life might fall into any or all of those camps, and I wasn't exactly in a rush to find out. If my pregnancy lasted, my belly would give me away eventually, and then I'd have no choice but to deal with that.
I was also really afraid for most of my first pregnancy, both for my security within the relatively new job I'd just begun, and the possibility of losing the pregnancy altogether. I didn't think I could bear to tell people about a pregnancy only to have to turn around and tell them about a pregnancy loss. (Which, ironically, is exactly what happened to me, though far later than I’d imagined when originally decided to keep quiet through at least my first trimester.)
What I learned from that experience, though, was that I am stronger than I thought. I also learned that not telling people about my pregnancy didn’t make it any easier to deal with the loss. It made it harder, because it meant I had less support. Actively trying to hide my pregnancy hadn't protected me in the way I'd hoped, and it did cost me some of my ability to enjoy my pregnancy, by forcing me to keep it from some of the people who might have shared in my (also hidden) excitement.
In my most recent pregnancy with my son, I announced a little bit into my second trimester. Having been through the grief of losing a wanted pregnancy before, I knew that I wanted at least some shot at enjoying myself (easier said than done), and a wider support base if that pregnancy ended as badly as the first. Fortunately, all went well. I’m not sure what I’ll do if there’s a next time — whether I’ll start telling folks right away, or waiting until I show, or what. Either way, I totally understand why some people don’t say anything, based on my experience with my first pregnancy and the reasons why I kept my excitement, to myself.
It Didn’t Feel Real At First
To me, pregnancy was always something that happened to people way more grown-up than I felt at the time, even though I was a 28-year-old woman. I'd never been pregnant before, and though I obviously always knew it was a possibility, and that it was something I wanted to do someday, it was absolutely bonkers to me that I was now in possession of a body that was making a person. Like, what? Me? Somebody's mom? How?
I Was Worried About Economic Consequences
We can debate about whether or not women should feel social pressure or freedom to disclose their pregnancies whenever, but the fact is, pregnancy discrimination is a reality for women regardless of our personal views, superstitions, or anything else. Like a lot of women, one of my main reasons for keeping my pregnancy to myself was that I didn't want it to affect my work life. I didn't know if any of my colleagues or donors might see my pregnancy as a liability, or think I was less capable of doing my job well.
I Was Worried About Being Judged
When I first got pregnant, my now-husband and I had pretty much just decided to make our platonic relationship a romantic one. Even though I don't think people should necessarily follow the ,"First comes love, then comes marriage, then comes the baby in the baby carriage" template, the part of me socialized in a society that repeats silly rhymes like that was concerned about how other people would react to me having a baby with someone who wasn't yet my husband, even though we loved each other as much (or more) than any married couple I've ever seen.
I Didn’t Want To Be Seen As Less Capable
Sometimes, people treat pregnant women like they're about to break at any moment, or like they can't do anything but incubate a baby. Sure, I was tired, and needed more rest than my usual, but needing to rest more and eat differently didn't make me any less mentally capable. I didn't want people treating me like I was.
I Didn’t Want To “Tempt Fate”
For the most part, I'm not a particularly superstitious person, but I was incredibly anxious about the prospect of telling people aside from my best friends (my sister and my partner) that I was pregnant before the end of my first trimester, when the risk of pregnancy loss is highest. I figured, I might as well see if this kid even sticks around before I start telling people about them.
I Didn’t Want People Making A Big Fuss Over Me…
It's really nice that people are so interested in pregnant moms, but it can also be uncomfortable (for some of us) to have so much attention on us. If and when people pepper me with questions, or make a fuss over me, I prefer that it be about my work and my other interests, not what my body is doing.
...Or To Only Talk To Me About Baby Stuff
A strange (read: sexist) thing happens to pregnant moms and brides: people seem to forget that we’re whole people with other interests outside of our family relationships. They stop talking to us about the rest of our lives, and start talking to us almost exclusively about weddings or babies, as though our other interests no longer matter to us.
My impending baby, and all the worries and everything else that went along with that, were already taking up a lot of my spare moments to think. I didn’t want them to take up all my conversations with other people, too.
I Wasn’t Always Sure How I Felt About Being Pregnant
Though I knew instantly that I wanted to have my baby, I wasn't always sure how I felt about being pregnant. Pregnancy can be both the best and the worst, sometimes all at the same time. For the most part, people expect pregnant women to exclusively perform their joy about the experience. They don't necessarily want to hear about expecting moms' anxieties and fears, or aches and pains, or that her pregnancy might be going poorly.
I knew I could talk to my close friends and family about all that, but I didn't have the energy to make aggravating small talk with random people who just want to gush over a pregnant lady, when I was feeling less like I was glowing and more like I was simmering in discomfort. It was easier to just keep my pregnancy to myself.
It Felt Kind Of Fun To Have A Secret With My Best Friends
Because I'm normally someone who speaks up about a lot of things, it was kind of a nice change to have a thing in my life that only my partner and my sister knew. I don't normally keep secrets of my own, so it was actually kind of fun to have one, and find ways to explain or cover little changes in my habits and behavior.
Because Being Pregnant Is Nobody Else’s Business, Really
Though it's great and necessary to have help from close friends and family, being pregnant is an experience that is ultimately the pregnant person's prerogative to define. How much or how little she wants other people to be involved should be up to her.
However, once people know you're pregnant, they don't always act that way. Part of me just wanted to prolong the amount of time that this experience belonged exclusively to me and my partner, before other people started horning in on it, and we'd have to fight with them to keep the same boundaries we then had, for only the small cost of a secret.