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Hiding a Pregnancy Until You’re Ready to Tell

By Amalah

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.

 

Published June 8, 2009. Last updated March 27, 2018.
Amalah
About the Author

Amy Corbett Storch

Amalah

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 Ama...

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 [email protected].

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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