So I’ve already written a lot about the IVF process we went through to get pregnant. The next obvious step is to talk about pregnancy. And that’s a topic that could (and will) fill a lot of blog posts. So I’m going to try to break it down in as logical a way as possible – and probably occasionally swerve back into the present day when there’s something I want to rant about (yesterday it was “people pushing kids’ faces into birthday cakes” because WHAT THE HELL IS WRONG WITH YOU).
Except it’s not a logical process, from the very beginning. The way pregnancy gets portrayed, in books and movies and TV and even in the pre-natal books you read for homework, it just happens (no IVF!) and then you get the test to find out (not multiple tests and scans and weeks of anxiety to confirm!) and then you (the joyful-despite-being-ridden-with-morning-sickness mother) break the news joyfully to the totally-oblivious dad, possibly involving some elaborate surprise like hiding the stick you just peed on in a can of his beer, and suddenly everyone knows and also in the very next scene the baby has arrived.
While we were trying, the scary algorithms that control YouTube marketing kept showing me an ad for ClearBlue pregnancy tests, which can, they say, tell you to the week how pregnant you are. They showed two nice normal skinny white ladies (the only people who can acceptably be pregnant in advertising) sitting together. One tells the other, “I’m pregnant.” “How far along???” her friend (I assume, pregnancy ads are usually aggressively heterosexual). “Two weeks!”
Who the hell is telling anyone when they’re two weeks pregnant was my main question.
Also … did they actually mean four weeks? Because at “two weeks pregnant”, you’re not actually pregnant. Pregnancy is timed from your last menstrual period, not the date of conception, because one of those is a lot easier to keep track of due to the, um, physical indications and extra laundry. At “two weeks” the best you can hope for is that your ovaries are in a good mood.
(This is why the recent Texas 6-week abortion ban is so ridiculously restrictive: even people with a clockwork 28-day menstrual cycle will have “only about one week before the “six-week” threshold to confirm pregnancy” before they’re out of time to seek abortion care, if they want or need to.)
It was very irritating, is what I’m saying.
The process of telling people wasn’t that tidy for us, by any means. When you’re doing IVF, a lot of people know, not just that you’re trying, but that there are very specific dates involved. Some of our closest family members knew very quickly, and thankfully, were very understanding that we didn’t want to go public or even really commit ourselves emotionally until more time had passed. If you’ve confided in a work colleague or supervisor, especially because you’re taking sick days for procedures like egg harvesting and embryo transfer, they have a pretty clear sense of whether you might have news or not.
The day of our successful embryo transfer, I’d already had a massage booked for weeks and figured it wouldn’t be a terrible idea to be nice and relaxed – and the therapist was already a very good friend – so I had to mention it to her, just for caution’s sake, before baby had even had a proper chance to implant. I was being a Wrong Mama again: you’re not meant to get massage during the first trimester, they say. But it wasn’t even the first trimester yet, was it?
The point is, she was literally the first person I told after I left the clinic and while I love her, that was not the plan.
When we went into COVID level 2 restrictions I needed to call my GP to see if my fleeting sore throat warranted getting a test, and felt it was something I should probably mention then, too.
My regular feminist book club / fight club / wine friends were always going to figure it out when I started ordering ginger beer instead of my usual sours and ciders. They were good enough not to ask but the big reveal lacked a bit of revelation given they’d all been sitting there staring at my glass for the whole evening.
What this all added up to was people finding out in a very higgledy-piggledy way, well before I was really comfortable with the idea. And for weeks afterwards I was trying to remember who knew, who I should call, who would have seen the Facebook post we eventually did.
I wish it had been easier. And I wish I could have been more comfortable telling people in those early days.
The main reason I think people don’t, is that there’s a huge cloud around losing pregnancy. We – I really mean Pākehā, I can’t speak for others! – aren’t comfortable with the grief, with the loss of such potential, the disappointment of such hopes and expectations, and on top of that we don’t have cultural mechanisms to process it well or even at all, probably coming from our fairly locked-down / patriarchal / Christian / British roots. So we don’t tell people until the “risky stage” is over, to save them from the grief and to save us from having to suffer it publicly. It’s a dark personal secret, and gets treated as a brave revelation when people talk about their experiences of miscarriage – because it is brave. It invites a huge additional emotional burden on top of everything you’re going through (and opens you up to abuse and judgement because that’s the nightmare society we live in).
Even when everything goes according to plan, there’s still that period of hunkering down and hoping and praying, without being able to reach out to other people to share the load.
For us, having kind-of lost our first attempt (I don’t really count it because it was so fleeting and I did, somehow, manage not to pin all my hopes and dreams on it) and having told a few people – the necessary ones – I really didn’t want to get anyone else’s hopes up on our behalf again. But I also wished for someone to share it with who wasn’t my partner, i.e. the other person going through the experience. Some perfect, detached, supportive being who wasn’t also weighed down with the what-ifs and the what-if-nots.
I don’t have a tidy answer (I almost never do). As with everything in pregnancy, I don’t think there is one. You’ll feel wrong if you tell people, like you’ve jinxed yourself, and if it all goes well you’ll feel wrong for worrying. You can only make the best decision for yourself – which isn’t the same thing as a comfortable decision.
Photo by Priscilla Du Preez on Unsplash