"Congratulations! How far along are you, three months?"
"No, five weeks."
People are surprised that I'm telling them so soon. I know the norm is to keep a pregnancy top secret until around twelve weeks when the risk of miscarriage drops. There are many statistics out there, but the most common is that one in four known pregnancies will end in miscarriage, with the risk being highest early in the first trimester. Risk of loss falls week by week, and for most women, by 14 weeks, the chance of miscarriage is less than one percent.
So society tells me to be cautious and keep my pregnancy to myself until I'm more sure that it will be a healthy one. I know that I'm supposed to hide the fact that I want to vomit all day long and that I can't drink alcohol. I also shouldn't tell anyone that I'm injecting my tummy every morning with blood thinners because I've been diagnosed with a prothrombin gene mutation, which means I'm more likely to get blood clots. This same mutation caused me to have pre-eclampsia in my first pregnancy, leading my baby to be born early and low-weight.
But I don't want to lie. I'm already fatigued, nauseous, and wracked with anxiety for the health of both the fetus and myself. I don't want to carry this burden by myself. I want to share it, all of it: the joy, the worry, the reality. So I am.
Miscarriages are more common than you think
The truth is, many women miscarry before they even know they are pregnant. This is why that one-in-four miscarriage statistic we are familiar with is actually far lower than the number of miscarriages that actually occur, says geneticist William Richard Rice of the University of California, Santa Barbara.
Research that draws upon previously conducted studies and health databases for a meta-analysis, claims that more than half of successful fertilizations will end in miscarriage. "[Miscarriage] is not an abnormality," Rice has told New Scientist. "It's the norm."
If it's so normal to have a miscarriage, why does it still feel so taboo for moms-to-be to talk about it? And why do we never hear about it when our friends and family members experience one?
Katherine, a mom of two, felt the hush-hush attitude toward miscarriage first-hand during her pregnancies. "It is extremely damaging to women and their partners," she said. But since suffering two pregnancy losses, one miscarriage in 2012, and a near-fatal ectopic pregnancy four years later when she also lost a fallopian tube, she understands the hesitation women have to talk about their experiences.
"It makes some people extremely uncomfortable because they don't know how to deal with these strong emotions surrounding loss, grief, life, and death," she said. "It makes people confront a lot of uncomfortable feelings. People don't know how to deal with that."
But for Katherine, it's important to acknowledge these losses happened. "To me, these were my babies," she said. "As soon as I found out I was pregnant they became real, I could see their whole lives, I was changed as a person… It's a hard concept to grasp... It's a loss of something that never physically existed, it's the loss of an idea, a dream…"
How to talk about miscarriages
I'll admit that even though I know that miscarriages happen often, I still struggle to address my friends who have experienced a pregnancy loss.
"Just say you're sorry," advises Rachel, a mom of two who experienced three recurrent miscarriages. "Don't try to come up with solutions, or causes, just be there, acknowledge they are in pain, that they're grieving, and they'll need support."
She also warns against asking how far along the pregnancy was. "It's like saying 'how much are you allowed to grieve? How much of a baby was it?'"
When it came to announcing her pregnancies, Rachel didn't want to tell the world right away. But, as someone who has lived through the very scenario that keeps other women quiet, three times, she has learned that it's best not to keep it all to yourself, either. "I was initially very lonely and isolated and it was very hard for people to understand. But the more it happened, the more I talked about it because it was defining my life for a while."
Having lived through what she calls "the tricky, complicated, precarious process of having a family," she suggests "telling the people you want to be there for you, for better or for worse, the ones you'll want for support if it goes wrong."
Stop suffering in silence
By the time Claire experienced her pregnancy loss, she was 28 weeks along, so everyone knew she was pregnant. Her baby was stillborn, and she explained that talking about it was part of the grieving process. "We're an open couple and our motto is to share everything. I think I got over it because I am open," she said. "I told a few friends and the message got passed along. If people wrote I'd tell them. Some people phoned, some emailed, people responded in different ways. Just like any death."
Claire continues to talk about her grief, even after recently giving birth to a baby girl, her rainbow baby. "I don't want women to suffer in silence, or be unaware of the risks there are," she said. When I told her I am just 5-weeks pregnant, she suggested I download the app Count the Kicks, which educates expecting mothers on the movement patterns of their baby.
When I asked if she was hesitant to share her pregnancy news the second time around, her voice was full of joy and hope. "Even though you've had a bad experience, you want to celebrate your pregnancy. Getting pregnant is a miracle."
So, when I tell people my news, I am sharing that very joy of a miracle, but I'm also giving my friends and family the chance to offer support if I end up needing it. I want them with me on the whole journey, whatever the outcome.