The first twelve weeks of pregnancy seem to flash by without you even realising, and those early weeks hold very different things for every woman. Some may not find out they’re pregnant until they’re a few months gone, some may be filled with anxiety waiting for the first scan, some may be full of fear of miscarriage and some (like me) may be facing the huge decision of if they want to seek a termination or not.
All these things are so impactful on a woman’s life, emotionally and physically, yet society swears us to secrecy. Most women wait until their 12 week scan to announce their pregnancy – as the chance of miscarriage decreases after this week. But why is this? Should we really be doing this when what a woman needs most in this time is support?
When you unexpectedly discover that you’re pregnant it’s often difficult to decide who to confide in, if anyone.
When I discovered I was pregnant I was around 4 days late on my cycle. I remember taking the test at 5:30am and when I saw those two pink lines appear I instantly felt like was holding a big secret.
Me and Kieran spent the next few days discussing what we wanted to do, but came no closer to a decision. (Thank god for living by the sea and having the beach to escape to) We started the process of seeking a termination as I knew it was a lengthy process and the further through your pregnancy you are the higher the risks of complications. Me and Kieran spent the next few weeks sneaking off to termination assessments and having phone calls to different clinics. We were holding such a huge weight on our shoulders but were made to feel as though we couldn’t let anyone know. For some reason society makes things like terminations and teenage pregnancy seem shameful, which is more than wrong. What me and Kieran needed most was support and people to talk to outside of each other.
I will also note here…that attending your 18th birthday party…and trying to secretly not drink when you’re supposed to be getting absolutely plastered is interesting to say the least.
I was quite sick during 6-12 weeks, had a fair few incidences of running to the toilet to throw up…and trust me doing that without anyone noticing is quite a challenge. Sometimes I wonder how i managed it. Life would have been a hell of a lot easier if it was socially acceptable to be open about early pregnancy. Especially considering I was at school and sitting my A-level exams…that was interesting to say the least. I have distinct memories of walking around Tesco at 7am trying to find something I could stomach to eat before my exam…but retching at the sight of almost everything.
Eventually Kieran confided in his parents and I confided in one of my closest friends. It was so hard to tell people, but the second you share something as big as that with someone you trust it feels like a little bit of the weight is lifted. Even though me and Kieran were the only people who could make the decision on what to do, having people to talk things through with was a life line.
We are indirectly creating a culture in which women feel the need to hide early pregnancy, and this is contributing to the suppression of women. By not openly discussing these topics, we are reinforcing the idea that they are not worthy of thought and women should deal with them alone.
So after getting through the first 12 weeks you then face the question of how to announce your pregnancy…and who to tell first?
Once we had decided to continue with the pregnancy, we were of course very excited about it all. Yes we had big changes to make to our future, and some things about having a child so young were daunting…but not once were we ashamed of our decision or worried about being able to make it work. But I can say, it’s extremely hard to maintain that positive mentality when people react to your news negatively…or instantly start asking you lots of intrusive questions about money, housing, education etc.
Pregnancy is a fact of life – it’s how we’re all here after all. Yet we still hold a huge stigma around things such as termination, miscarriage and teenage pregnancy. If women felt able to talk openly about the first 12 weeks of pregnancy, maybe we would be able to get the support we need…whether that’s being able to run to the toilet to throw up without the added pressure of trying to hide it, having people to discuss your options with or those who experience a miscarriage having people around them to help them through it.
I know I will be raising my children talking openly about my experience, and I hope that the future holds a society in which these things are not stigmatised.