When I announced the birth of my youngest child on Facebook, I received a message from a friend I had last seen a couple of weeks prior. She was shocked. She hadn’t noticed. And she didn’t know.
I hadn’t exactly tried to hide it when I saw her, but I hadn’t mentioned it either. I wore a pair of shorts and a loose-fitting T-shirt. A group of us were watching TV, and I lay on my back (because it hurt). I honestly thought my bump would be visible at least in that position.
But I didn’t want to talk about it. Announcing my pregnancy drew attention to it, and I was barely surviving. I had announced pregnancies twice before, but this time was different.
I was measuring small — eight weeks behind to be exact. My urine protein got flagged as high in a routine prenatal visit. Further tests got me slapped with a preeclampsia label. Sonograms revealed an IUGR baby (too small) and low waters. In my mind, I was carrying a dying baby. Some might think I was being hyperbolic, but my obstetrician understood my fear.
Three months before I conceived this baby, I gave birth. I gave birth, but I didn’t bring the baby home. My little girl was sent to the morgue, and I was wheeled out of the hospital with a cardboard box of mementos instead of my child. It would be a gross understatement to say that losing my daughter destroyed me.
I had announced my pregnancy at twelve weeks like I was “supposed to.” Everything was perfect until it wasn’t. I spiked a fever and ended up in the hospital with sepsis and a dead baby.
It’s a funny thing — going through a public pregnancy loss like that. People haven’t really learned how to relate to people who have lost babies yet. It’s been taboo for so long, that even well-meaning people don’t know what to do or say. I attended my sister’s wedding ten days after my loss, and most people avoided eye contact. A few people offered condolences. To me. Not to my husband. I was uninvited to a baby shower.
In the loss community, we talk about secondary losses and secondary traumas. The way people reacted to my loss and the lack of support surrounding it was a secondary trauma for me.
We had no funeral, no acknowledgement of the gravity of our loss. I knew that if it happened again that I would need to be able to tell the world in my own timing. I wouldn’t hide the loss, but I wouldn’t share until I was ready to face the secondary trauma either.
So when I got pregnant again, and so soon after, I wasn’t ready to tell people in the first trimester. The second trimester rolled around, and I still didn’t feel ready. I was pressured into telling a few people, and a few more guessed, but there was no big announcement. Many remained in the dark.
When I hit the third trimester, that is when the problems started: the IUGR and the pre-eclampsia. I had twice-weekly visits to the clinic then and one scary trip to Labour and Delivery after I stopped feeling movements for over an hour. My heart was preparing to grieve, not to welcome a baby home. So although I had planned to finally announce in the third trimester, I couldn’t do it.
The fact I measured a whole eight weeks too small undoubtedly helped keep the secret. The photo above is of the day before my induction (at 37 weeks). My oldest child was excited to welcome a living sibling, and I was trying to latch onto that hope.
I think I might have given away the ending with my first line, but we did welcome a healthy baby boy in July 2018, eleven months to the day after the birth of his sister. He is the light of our lives.
This post first appeared on Medium.