It used to be considered standard for women wait until they were 12 weeks along before announcing they’re expecting. Past this point, they breathe a sigh of relief knowing the risk of miscarriage has greatly diminished. After the first trimester, women slowly move past some of the initial exhaustion and nausea and feel more comfortable with their pregnancies.
While parents still typically wait until then to make it public, we’re starting to see a shift toward announcing earlier. Some expecting couples share their pregnancy news just weeks after they find out, or upon seeing their baby’s ultrasound for the first time.
Even as we celebrate with them, we instinctually do the due-date math and realize the baby is just six, seven, or eight weeks along. It can seem naïve to us to go public with a pregnancy so soon.
The rise of social media, a go-place for pregnancy announcements, may play a factor. Couples carefully compose clever sayings and cute pictures themed around the coming baby. Some parents-to-be are too excited to keep the pregnancy a secret. And there can be other reasons, too. Kate Middleton was forced to announce both of her pregnancies early because of extreme morning sickness that led to her hospitalization with Prince George and at-home medical care with her current pregnancy.
But the biggest reason for the recent movement to announce earlier is a changing view of miscarriage. Jill Duggar made headlines last year when she told the media that she was expecting a baby shortly after her wedding, and long before she was 12-weeks along.
It wasn’t a lack of knowledge of miscarriage risks that led Jill Duggar to announce early, but because of them. She explained that they see every life as valuable and wanted to honor that life for as long as it was given to them.
Writing at The Federalist, Bethany Mandel celebrated her decision, saying:
The more I thought about the Duggar/Dillard announcement, however, the more I came to admire their bravery. What is brave about announcing to the world you’re pregnant while still in the first trimester? The terrifying possibility of making another, much sadder announcement several days or weeks later.
As more women speak openly about the risk and pain of miscarriage, announcing pregnancies earlier becomes another way to combat the isolation that comes with losing a baby in its first several weeks. If moms who grieve miscarriage never shared their pregnancy news in the first place, they’re left with the dilemma of whether to tell when the baby doesn’t make it.
In a recent Motherlode post, Angela Brown shares about her first miscarriage:
I understood first-trimester etiquette: You avoided boasting your bump until after your 12-week nuchal appointment. Miscarriage etiquette, however, was less clear. If our family and friends never knew we were expecting, was it melodramatic to inform them of our loss? Was it hurtful, insulting or offensive to divulge our bad news if we were unwilling to share our good news first? Since no one close to us had ever miscarried, would people even consider our loss newsworthy or our emotions warranted?
Deciding against telling of their loss, Brown and her husband proceeded to try again for another pregnancy only to be met with another devastating blow—a miscarriage at 12- weeks gestation. This time they told family and friends the sad news. And she was overwhelmed with their compassionate and helpful response. It left her wondering why they waited to tell all along.
Lately, this conviction has hit me. As someone who believes that life begins at conception, I will publically decry abortion at any stage, including before 12 weeks, but will secretly judge the woman who tells everyone she is pregnant that early.
I know how fragile life can be at this stage and remain sensitive to the worst fears of a mom-to-be: What if I lose the baby? How will I come back and tell my friends I’m no longer pregnant? Will I have to post an update about that, too?
After two miscarriages, I know this reality personally. We didn’t announce those pregnancies on Facebook, but we did tell a lot of friends and family, only to have to go back weeks later to say that the baby was no more. I know how awkward it can be to forget that you told someone who were pregnant only to be congratulated on your pregnancy, or months later, your subsequent child.
I agree that it is brave to publically share your pregnancy news long before it is considered “safe” to announce. It bolsters the pro-life argument when we gladly tell about the life inside of them with the same passion they would the babies we defend against the fate of abortion.
But, as with all special, personal news, we have no obligation to go public on the Internet or to tell a wide swath of Facebook “friends.” Social media makes us feel a bit too comfortable sharing the most intimate details of our lives. It provides a perceived community of support that pales in comparison to real life community.
The problem that can come with announcing a pregnancy early on Facebook is that if the baby is lost, no amount of outreach from Facebook friends will make up for flesh and blood support that comes from the people who live around us. Angela Brown experienced this personally when she and her husband decided to share about their second miscarriage with family and friends.
They say it takes a village to raise a child; however, with each greeting card, casserole and thoughtful phone call we received, we began to realize it would also take a village to help us recover after our child was gone. And for us, it was within the voices and gestures of the people from whom we first hid our news that we eventually found the courage to try to conceive again and the strength to begin to move on.
This type of healing happens in the communities we live in. I’m all for acknowledging life at conception. I want to know when friends far away are pregnant or have a new baby. But I also am committed to loving real life people through their joys and their sorrows. I think, in our pro-life communities, we could benefit from having both.