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Hiding a Pregnancy Until You’re Ready to Tell

Jun08

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pregnancy calendarDear Amalah,
Since having my first child, I’ve had two miscarriages. With the first one, we had told a lot of family. After going through the discomfort of having to talk to so many people about the loss, we decided to wait until the end of the first trimester for any future pregnancies. At the time of the second pregnancy, I told a couple close friends who could give me the right sort of support and I’ve since told a few other friends.
As I am writing this, I am 4 weeks and 4 days pregnant. I feel optimistic about this one, but still plan on waiting until at least week 13 to say anything. I’m starting to realize that this will be harder than before because we now live close to my in-laws. In fact, we usually spend part of the weekend at their house, giving our son plenty of grandparent time.
Our time there almost always includes two meals, which may require tactful avoidance of certain foods. Luckily the feta cheese they like to serve is pasteurized, but I’ll have to turn down cold-cut lunches. And then there’s the nausea, which is stronger than previous pregnancies and which grows stronger right about dinnertime.
I won’t even go into detail about the gas, dizzy spells, and general exhaustion. Or that my pants are already tight from the bloating and I figure I’ll be in maternity wear sooner than later, given that this is my fourth pregnancy.
Any hints for how I can work around the pregnancy symptoms and keep my secret until the end of July without simply avoiding my in-laws? Is it completely obvious only to me and my partner, but something others will overlook? Has my mother-in-law already figured it out and we’ll all just be pretending for the next two months?
Here’s hoping I can avoid puking on the breakfast table for that long.
M.A.

This is one of those “you do the best you can” situations, and then hope that the other people involved (i.e. your in-laws) have a modicum of sense and sensitivity in case your best isn’t good enough.
Translation: you admit nothing, you spend the next nine weeks with a Mona Lisa smile plastered all over your face while you turn down cold cuts (“I’m trying to cut back on my sodium!”) and wine (“I’m detoxing/training for a marathon/celebrating Lent at a non-traditional time of year!”) and re-emerge from the bathroom after puking (“Must have been some bad sushi!), and you hope that your in-laws are polite enough to let you announce the news, even if they have indeed figured it out. You probably have about a 50-50 shot. People tend to be more oblivious than we assume they are, but there may come a point where it just IS obvious, and unless you take to your chambers like an olde timey Victorian lady, there’s not much you can do about it. Baggy tops and acting skills will only get you so far.
Given your history of miscarriages, you would THINK that they’d understand. Of course, they might also think, “but we’re FAMILY! we’re DIFFERENT! we have a RIGHT TO KNOW!” They might also be the type who might simply blurt it out the second it dawns on them at the dinner table. If this happens, I generally believe there’s no sense in continuing on with a charade (unless it’s at work or another situation where you have a definite right to your privacy). For family, I’d just own up to it, while gently letting them know that it is REALLY IMPORTANT TO YOU that they tell NO ONE until you’re ready to announce it at week 13. NO ONE. No hairdressers, no distant cousins, no local media outlets. NO ONE.
Depending on when your miscarriages occurred, you might want to set your sights on six weeks for now, since you sound a little stressed out by the thought of trying to keep the secret for over two more months. Once you see the heartbeat, maybe. Even if you still don’t want to announce it to the world at large, you can relax a little bit on the need for TOP SECRET DEFENSIVE BEHAVIOR all the time around the in-laws. If they figure it out, well, you’ve got a decent shot at not having to crush their excitement later. Then aim for 10 or 11 weeks, once you can hear the heartbeat via a doppler or get the nuchal fold transparency ultrasound. Before you know it, you’re in the second trimester and can start liberally spreading the news.
I really do think the onus is on OTHER PEOPLE to have a lick of decency when they’ve figured out a pregnancy. You just shouldn’t assume or say anything. Ever! Common sense, really. If someone mistook a case of the stomach flu for a pregnancy back when I was struggling to conceive and said something to me, I would have run away and spent the rest of the day crying. I mean, it’s no different than later on: I don’t care if a woman looks like she has a beach ball under her shirt, I am NOT saying anything unless she explicitly tells me or is leaking amniotic fluid all over my shoes. (Even then! You never know! She could have bladder control issues! DON’T ASK IF SHE’S PREGNANT UNTIL THE BABY IS CROWNING.)
A coworker “figured it out” before I was ready to announce my first pregnancy — I’d told maybe two or three close friends at work, since I was puking and falling asleep and bloated and GAH. I did not choose to tell him, however, even though we were friends. He just…wasn’t one of the people I felt like dealing with in case something happened. He figured it out and decided that it was perfectly appropriate to walk into my office and ask if I was “knocked up” and when I was going to star “acting all crazy and stuff.”
RIGHT NOW, I should have responded, since the next morning I was meeting with HR to have a little chat about how a certain male coworker needed a refresher course on “boundaries” and “leaving Amy the eff alone for the next eight months, because really, she might kill him.”
I know that’s not an exact parallel to your situation or anything, but still. That’s my opinion of premature pregnancy assumers. By the time I did go public at work, almost everybody had figured it out, or at least strongly suspected. (The way I dressed ended up being the biggest giveaway, since I was SO OBVIOUSLY wearing baggier clothes and thought this was somehow less obvious than a tiny little pooch that was really only noticeable to me.) But they waited until I said something. Because they were smart people who knew not to mess with a nauseated and hormonal pregnant girl.
I wish you nothing but tons and tons of luck, with both keeping the secret AND the pregnancy.

*************************
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About the author

Amalah

http://www.amalah.com
Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy's daily mothering adventures at Amalah. Also, it's pronounced AIM-ah-lah.

If there is a question you would like answered on the Advice Smackdown, please submit it to amyadvice@gmail.com.

Amy also documented her second pregnancy (with Ezra) in our wildly popular Weekly Pregnancy Calendar, Zero to Forty.

Amy is mother to rising first-grader Noah, preschooler Ezra, and toddler Ike.


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18 Responses to “Hiding a Pregnancy Until You’re Ready to Tell”

  1. Jessica Jun 08 at 12:18 pm Reply Reply

    I had two miscarriages before I had my first child ( a boy born on December 27th). With the the first pregnancy we told EVERYONE right away. And then had a lot of untelling to do. With the second we told family and a few close friends but it was still too many people to have deal with.
    So when the third time happened we didn’t tell anyone at first. We barely spoke about it to each other for the first six weeks. We told family and the same close friends at about nine weeks but made them swear not to mention it to anyone, even people we did not know and would never meet.
    I told everyone at work as soon as I came back from my appointment at 14 weeks. I had been on the verge of showing for weeks (since it was my third pregnancy in less than a year) and was positive that everyone already knew. They had no idea. One woman had noticed me drinking a Sprite and eating saltines every morning but hadn’t equated it with pregnancy.
    I don’t think I work with oblivious people, I think people don’t notice what we do/wear as much as we think they do.

  2. ryley Jun 08 at 12:23 pm Reply Reply

    The beggining is SOOO hard. With my first (now 5 months old) I really wanted to wait. I had a rough couple of first weeks, severe cramping and lots of bleeding. I thought for sure I would miscarry. 900 doctor appointment later I found out I had a subchronic hemmorage and placenta previa. My little peanut was fine. At the time my husbands sister was just about to give birth and that made us want to wait to tell everyone even more. We didnt want to over shadow her baby.
    Those first few weeks KILLED me.. I felt like anyone who looked at me could see me screaming “I’M PREGNANT” We made a goal to wait until 10 or 12 weeks.. I’m not going to lie, it was torture.. 4 people knew (besides my husband) and none of those 4 people were family members.. none of them!!
    We got together with his family EVERY Sunday night for dinner and most of the time I’d try to stay as far away from everyone as possible. Claiming to be really wrapped up in a book, or the newspaper.. I just really thought I’d blurt it out at every moment.
    When his sister had her baby I enundated her with a million questions at the hospital. And still she didnt suspect. I figured the 14 hours of labor made her not the sharpest tool in the box! :)
    Amazingly.. it got easier, and started to LOVE that no one knew. It was fabulous.. it was this amazing little secret that just me and my husband shared. And because no one knew I couldnt complain to my coworkers EVERY SECOND OF EVERY DAY! That turned out to be a huge blessing too, since I learned to enjoy the pregnancy.
    I was actually sad when we finally decided to tell everyone..
    Want to know how far we made it.. 20 WEEKS!! We didnt tell everyone till after we found out the gender!! It was great…
    The next 20 weeks flew by soooo quickly. (Also another reason I <3 delayed telling!)
    Good luck..
    The beggining SUCKS!!
    Oh.. and the best of luck to your little bean.. I hope its a sticky one…

  3. Gina Jun 08 at 12:29 pm Reply Reply

    It won’t be easy, but you can do it! I found out I was pregnant with my 2nd the day I agreed to take on a promotion & be involved in pitching a new client. Given it was my 2nd, I was in larger-sized clothes around 6 weeks & my co-workers figured things out pretty quickly thereafter. But we didn’t want to tell the potential client that their account person would be out the first 12 weeks of our contract. Finding the right clothes was the key.
    I also became really good at the social events. At parties, I’d either order gingerale w/cranberry (which looks like a cocktail but the ginger is actually good for nausea) or order beer in a container. I’d bring the beer with me into a private bathroom & dump it out while returning with my empty can where I’d pretend to drink.
    I highly recommend experimenting with ginger to see what form will best help your nausea. If it’s bad, you might want to look into those bands or bracelets too.
    Slimming down your social calendar for the next few weeks might be helpful as well. Sometimes that’s easier said than done but it may also be worth it.
    I hope there’s something helpful for you here. Good luck!

  4. AJU5's Mom Jun 08 at 12:32 pm Reply Reply

    I miscarried at the beginning of the year and am now 15 weeks pregnant again. We told everyone at 13 weeks 1 day (Mother’s Day). A few people had been on to us because I get SEVERE morning sickness (worst in the evening like M.A.), but they kept their suspicions to themselves (until we announced it). One thing I did do was bear baggy clothes that I already had an occasionally wore. I didn’t have to go into the “maternity” box until week 13 though luckily.
    As for what to do – maybe ask for a “hot” sandwich if they are doing sandwiches. Say that you really like the warmed sandwiches lately because of the toasting at Subway or Quiznos (if you frequent them). Also, snack regularly – maybe blame it on your son even (i always snack when my daughter snacks to keep the belly calm). Finally, if the nausea gets really bed, call your doctor and get meds! They can really help!

  5. Molly Jun 08 at 12:35 pm Reply Reply

    We had two miscarriages between our son in 2005 and the girl who’s due later this month. I found out I was pregnant the week I started a new job. It was a total nightmare trying to keep it quiet for three months, especially those three months, the throwing up, bloated, exhausted, whacked-out, stressed-out three months until you know everything’s okay.
    Hopefully they won’t ask. You might volunteer to do some of the cooking and shopping, so that you get some say-so into what you eat. In lieu of a cold-cut sandwich, volunteer for grilled-cheese duty or tuna melt duty or something like that.
    If they’re presumptuous to actually come right out and ask you (my mother would be), my stock answer before I was ready to talk about it was a shrug and a “not that I’m aware of.” You’re not under any obligation to be truthful before you want to, even with the well-meaning, and if they’ve got the good sense that God gave pistachio nuts, they should understand why when you do finally come out and tell them.

  6. Annemie Jun 08 at 12:37 pm Reply Reply

    I was in the exact same situation – great first pregnancy, second and third were miscarriages (at 6 and 11 weeks, respectively), and am now 18 weeks along with what looks to be a perfectly normal pregnancy. My miscarriages were last fall, and a fair number of people knew about both. This pregnancy, my husband and I kept it very hush-hush – my parents and a couple of friends ONLY. Then I fainted dead away at work at 11 weeks… Given that I’m a labor and delivery nurse, my co-workers absolutely positively knew what was up after that, but they still gave me the leeway I needed since they knew what we had already been through.
    I say that Amalah’s advice is spot-on, but that if someone asks directly – no matter who it is – if you want to lie, lie. If they don’t have the sense to keep their speculations to themselves, they deserve it.
    Best of luck… it’s a long 8 weeks ahead, but if my experience is any indicator, the rest goes flying by!

  7. Sheila Jun 08 at 1:13 pm Reply Reply

    My favorite answer to prying questions about when we’d be having a baby was, “No news yet!” Which was true because while I was pregnant, I wasn’t sharing that info, so I genuinely did not have news for them. Yet.

  8. lolismum Jun 08 at 3:01 pm Reply Reply

    I don’t understand what the big deal is, personally. I have two children, and I also had 2 miscarriages. If people noticed and asked, I replied whichever way I deemed appropriate at the time . Mostly with ” Yes I am pregnant, but it’s very early.” After I miscarried, some people asked me about my due date and I said I had miscarried. I was sad and upset, but not at them, at the miscarriage itself. People usually just said they were sorry and it ended the conversation.
    People ask/say inappropriate things all the time, and as much as I agree that we would all prefer it if people had common decency not to ask, I think most people view a pregnancy and the birth of a baby as something exciting. So they don’t think it’s inappropriate to ask. Since the intention is good, why take so much offense at it? By all means take offense at things like , “now that you are knocked up, you will act all crazy,” or ” now that you are pregnant, you won’t be working very hard,” or ” now you will be fat.” Those are really rude, inappropriate things to say regardless of the cause. But to spend time and effort concealing pregnancies… you lost me there.

  9. Jess Jun 08 at 8:02 pm Reply Reply

    As one of the people that tends to blurt out “are you knocked up” i have to say that I think people are being a little hypersensitive to that question. I agree with lolismum that the intentions are good and I think it’s silly to consider it “good sense” to not say anything especially to a very close family member. Maybe not at work just because someone’s looking a little bloated, but to your darn daughter in law??? It’s not out of line to ask….

    • liber Aug 19 at 11:24 am Reply Reply

      I am sorry, I think it is out of line to ask because if they haven’t told you, there is a reason. I know the intentions are good, but after a miscarriage and even without one, a pregnancy is something of the couple and it is polite to wait until they want to share the news and not add stress them making them think of extra excuses or making them tell you when they are not ready to.

  10. gizella Jun 08 at 11:55 pm Reply Reply

    due to some medical constraints because of a medication I was on, believe or not I told almost no one but our parents about my pregnancy until 5 months along. It was awful. I didn’t know if I could enjoy this time, or if I would have to terminate due to some unthinkable defect due to my medicine. It was awful. My boss, when I told her, said “That explains all your bitchy behavior”. There will always be one person. You can do it, and do it your way. Protect yourself and your family, a parenting golden rule you are learning right away.

  11. Brenda Jun 09 at 9:54 am Reply Reply

    Ouch. I’m definitely one of the people who spots pregnancies early. I figured out my coworker was pregnant when she was five weeks. (Not from how she looked, but from a shift in language about her family.) My favorite technique has been to say, “So anything new happening in your life?” and then being quiet until they break and ‘fess up. Where do you think that falls in the rude/not rude category?

  12. amalah Jun 09 at 10:36 am Reply Reply

    I dunno. Some people are going to be sensitive. They’re still stinging from having to re-tell people that they lost a pregnancy, from years of thinking it would never happen, worried about repercussions at work, and I still don’t think that’s unreasonable. It’s not the same for everybody and every pregnancy and every loss and blah blah blah. But if someone hasn’t told you that they’re pregnant, they probably haven’t told you for a reason. I’d prefer (personally) if my friends and family respected that reason, even if they disagreed with it or didn’t see the point. It’s big, exciting and maybe scary news. I’ll tell you when I’m ready.

  13. professormama Jun 09 at 12:21 pm Reply Reply

    I think it depends on how hard it will be for you to talk about another miscarriage.
    I had an easy first pregnancy and healthy baby and then a miscarriage at 8 weeks with my second pregnancy.
    We had told family and a few close friends, and while it was very disappointing, my miscarriage was natural and didn’t require a D&C- so the experience of it made me feel ok,
    it didn’t really feel like losing a baby.
    It was weird to tell people about it, mostly because they seemed to feel so bad,
    I was very glad not to have to talk about it at work though.
    I’m due in few weeks with a healthy baby after a complication free pregnancy and this time we told no one, but one very close friend until we heard the heartbeat at 15-20 weeks or so.
    Go with your gut, and try not to worry about what people suspect, everyone was super surprised I was pregnant when we finally started telling.

  14. Melissa Jun 09 at 12:22 pm Reply Reply

    I think people are generally just excited and don’t realize that the question might not be welcome. However, in a situation where someone has suffered previous miscarriages, I would think a little more sensitivity would be expected.
    I’ve found that if you really don’t want to tell, you need to be prepared to lie. Since I don’t think it’s anyone’s business, I’m ok with lying. But you have to be ready for it, because generally, when confronted with a direct question, we at least pause slightly before lying, which will totally give you away. So have your line ready AND be prepared to stick with it.
    Also, some people aren’t going to believe you, for whatever reason, and may keep pestering or respond “Sure, whatever you say, but I know your secret!” I find that the best approach there is to still refuse to admit, but also let them know that their questions are not really welcome. “When we have good news to share, we’ll let you know” served me well.

  15. Della Jun 09 at 2:29 pm Reply Reply

    To Lolismum and others who genuinely care and are excited and want to join in- that is understandable and also sweet.
    At the same time, realize that especially with someone who has had miscarriage(s), or anyone that has a reason to be nervous about their outcome, your knowing and being excited can make their lives harder. Not only are their own hopes up, hanging out there precariously, but they can feel as if they are letting YOU down, too, if the worst happens.
    Plus, if they were to lose their baby, you would be aware of their grief, and maybe they want to grieve in private. Maybe they feel it’s not fair that they have to share that grief with anyone. If they were to lose this child too, having people offering condolences (or worse yet, saying happy forward-looking hopeful things when their hopes have just been dashed) is just another reminder of their tragedy, and it is NOT going to make them feel better!
    And I don’t think that they are really taking offense at someone asking if they’re pregnant, per se, nor would they be offended that someone is excited or happy on their behalf, but rather it can feel like an intrusion if you are trying to avoid a particular subject and the other person brings it up. (Pregnancy or not.)
    To M.A. – thinking sticky thoughts for you :) and unlike some here, if a person outright asked me “are you pregnant”, I feel that honesty is the best policy – I think it would be harder later to explain the lie. Having said that, I think the “no news” idea given above is a nice workaround. Nobody can say you lied outright to them.

  16. MA Jun 09 at 2:35 pm Reply Reply

    Original poster here.
    My partner and I discussed this issue and have come to the consensus that my mother-in-law will probably not say anything since she knows how hard the first miscarriage was for us. (We never told her about the second because at such times she feels a real need to take care of people and we both need some space, so we decided to protect ourselves.)
    I actually quit remarking on possible pregnancies or even questioning a person’s intent before my own problems. I had a good friend who has had even more problems and probably will not be able to have a second child. Simple questions about her plans for future children can be enough to put her in a bad emotional state. Talking to her about that has made me really think about not making any assumptions or off-hand remarks. Sure I think them and readily share them with my partner, but I make sure I’m not the one to bring it up with the person in question.

  17. Eileen Jun 19 at 10:01 am Reply Reply

    Maybe it’s because I’m from another culture (I’m Irish) but I would never expect to be told of a pregnancy until the second trimester. Even my own sisters didn’t tell me before this point and I never questioned it. I’ll admit to placing bets with my boyfriend regarding whether they were pregnant or not, but voicing such theories to anyone else would be unthinkable. Announcements, when they came, were met with a simple, “Congratulations, that’s great!”
    My mother was horrified when my Japanese sister-in-law announced her pregnancy at a very early date – about 6 weeks I think. She barely mentioned or acknowledged it until she was past the ‘danger period’ of the first trimester.
    The consequence of such a policy means that no-one in the family except my parents knew when another sister-in-law miscarried weeks before a family wedding. It only emerged two years later when she was pregnant with my eldest niece. I wasn’t annoyed I hadn’t been told – it was none of my business – and I can certainly understand my brother and his wife wishing to keep their grief private, especially when everyone else was celebrating. Looking back, I can vaguely remember my sister-in-law looking somewhat pale at the wedding but there was nothing remarkable that caught my attention; and I’m sure she preferred that to being handled with kid gloves by everyone unsure of what to say.

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