Silence

Photo: www.citymusemagazine.com

Apparently, this blog is destined to be about Daddy bloopers. (Or Hubby bloopers, for the moment). In a sense, you’re reading one of them.

It’s really impossible to fathom – until you’ve successfully knocked somebody up – just how much time and energy you are going to put into NOT sharing this happy news with your loved ones. While there’s a certain twisted logic behind this, it’s snowballed culturally to a ridiculous degree. Talk about something you want to shout from the rooftops! But no can do – society has decided that instead of allowing others to partake in our happiness, we are now to focus on the SCARY shit.

There is a straightforward rationale behind all of this: the odds of miscarrying decrease dramatically after the first couple of months of pregnancy – 80% of miscarriages occur in the first trimester. So generally, in the United States at least, people wait until their Week 12 ultrasound to get the medical “all clear” before they send the witty announcement to their friends. After all, it’s one thing to scream happy news at the top of your lungs, and quite another to publicize sadness. (Even for those of us who are by nature “sharers.”)

What irks me, though – aside from the challenge of keeping my mouth shut for another month or so – are the larger ramifications of this mentality. After all, this goes way beyond the glass being half full or half empty; only 15% of (recognized) pregnancies result in miscarriage. Just to clarify: this means that the other 85% result in babies.

So, is “cautious optimism” really being responsible? Or is it just like dressing your pessimism up in a really nice three-piece suit? When you consider that a baby’s healthy development is also effected by its mother’s emotional well-being, things get even more complicated.

For the most part my wife and I are all about “better safe than sorry,” so we are allowing ourselves to be guided by the presiding cultural norms – you will have noticed that this blog is (so far) anonymous. But that doesn’t mean we have to be thrilled about it. So last week, when I found our growing seed distracting me from my usual responsibilities, I decided to start writing about it all.

However, I’ve never been very good at journaling. Call me what you will, but I’ve always preferred writing when there’s an audience of some sort (or at least I can pretend that there is an audience of some sort – which the internet is great for). I got approval from the Mrs. to take the blog live – without our names on it – which makes this less of a rooftop to shout from and more of a virtual confession booth, but nonetheless allows me to feel slightly more productive. What I forgot is that sometimes the web has a mind of its own.

(I’ll spare you the technical details here – let’s just say that Daddy fucked up).

I suppose I shouldn’t have been surprised to receive at least one congratulatory email the following morning, and luckily the one I that I did get came from somebody who would have been among our first post-ultrasound phone calls. I’m thrilled – and relieved – to be able to talk to her about this now. So why does it feel like I betrayed some terrible dark secret, instead of letting slip the happiest news of my life?

Yesterday, I asked a friend in Italy how and when this is typically divulged to friends in his culture. He didn’t quite understand the question –

“What do you mean? It’s such wonderful news! We tell our friends and family! Ma come no? Why wouldn’t you?”

When I followed up with a question about miscarriage, his response was much the same:

“Well, then we share that with our friends and family, too. What are true friends for if they can’t share both joy and sorrow?”

Now how’s that for food for thought?

6 thoughts on “Silence”

  1. Congratulations, by the way! Very exciting news.

    I know that this particular blog post (Silence) is old now, but I can’t help but comment to relay one experience I had from the other side of the to-tell-or-not-to-tell question.

    I did an internship a few years ago while I was looking for work. While I was there, a senior-level professional announced that she was pregnant. That’s great! Congratulations!

    Fast forward a year, I’m long-done with the internship and run into her at a conference. We smile at each other and say hello. Hey! Can I see pictures of your baby?

    The smiles disappear, replaced by anguish. She announced the pregnancy too early and miscarried. I unknowingly dragged up something she’d rather not think about, especially in front of the check-in table at a conference.

    I for one would never want to end up in that woman’s situation. The pain on her face when I asked about her baby was heart-wrenching (not be mention my extreme embarrassment for bringing it up), and it was totally avoidable.

    I can understand that close friends and family will want to celebrate or mourn, as the case warrents, with the parents-to-be. But there are some things that are just too personal to annouce to the whole wide world before knowing that it’s going to “take”. To me, miscarriages are not so unusual: my mom’s first pregnancy miscarried, and many of my aunts have miscarried, some more than once. So, it happens. I think of it as such a normal thing (but unfortunate!) that the idea that a couple would tell co-workers right when they find out to be bizarre.

    The real question is, can the friends and family keep it secret? Maybe that’s a whole other blog post!

    Of course, a few weeks ago my brother and his wife announced her pregnancy by showing their enitre family the pee stick via video-chat (eew! lol) so you’re not alone in this.

    my 2 cents.
    Love you guys!
    Rima

  2. Just saw this now! I think the cultural thing isn’t that it is “taboo” to talk about it early, it’s just considering how you would feel if you had to then share sad news. Personally, I would want to share news with close friends because I would need those friends to be there for me if something bad happened. But it is mostly about personal psychological perspectives, right?

    When I was 6 my parents told me I would have a sibling, and then my mother miscarried. I think they regret telling me although at the time I don’t remember being traumatized, just confused. I learned recently that my mother had had 2 more potential pregnancies that they never told me about because they worried about how I would take it, and they didn’t tell others about because my mother didn’t want to have to talk about sad things if it came to pass. But to me that is really lonely. I couldn’t keep that – happy or sad – to myself, I don’t think.

    1. Thanks as always for the thoughts, Lauren. You’re right that it’s about “personal psychological perspectives” – and I think that’s a great way to put it.

      But what I found so frustrating was that the “silence” has gone far beyond this subjective level in our society. When we did choose to share our news with people – all the while understanding the “risk” – we received some interesting push-back in a few instances, as if we had broken the rules by celebrating “too early.”

      Of course we then went and perpetuated the whole thing by reaming out family members who couldn’t keep their mouths shut. But that was different… it was OUR news. 😉

      1. Yeah, that is a weird facet of US culture. When something becomes common because of a perfectly good reason (although honestly I think the reason for silence is more because if you then had to share bad news it wouldnt be right for ‘polite company’ – this may be too harsh, but I suspect this came out of the 50s etc mentality about women and reproduction which is why I am even further against the idea of it), and then when it becomes the norm people forget WHY and forget to question the norm and balk at anyone who doesnt conform. For such a momentous occasion, people should get to share their news whenever they damn well please and however they please.

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