Is the 12 week announcement ‘rule’ suppressing women?

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.

Me and Kieran on my 18th (it’s a Polaroid)

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.

Georgia X

Unplanned pregnancy + mental health

Every woman can relate to the struggle of trying to not get pregnant. Balancing having a great sex life with the fear of becoming pregnant when you don’t want to be is difficult. And I’m sure 90% of women have had that ‘shit… am I?’ moment when they’re a few days ‘late’.

Personally I have always made the choice not to use artificial/hormonal birth control (and continue not to), having only in the last couple years managed to regulate my cycle and being an athlete – I try not to interfere with my body as much as possible. So I’m a natural methods kinda gal…if you know what I mean. (until we decide to try for another little squish hehe)

But no matter how safe you think you’re being…it can always fail you. Being in a long term relationship…this is a scenario me and Kieran and discussed and ‘thought’ we had prepared for if it were to arise.

When I took the test, even though i was a few days late, i was sure it wasn’t going to be something that would happen to me. In hindsight….that was pretty naive. I specifically remember seeing the two lines and feeling like everything had just gone blank, like I had just received a bit of information that my brain couldn’t process. I was three days away from my 18th birthday and two weeks away from my A-level exams…boy I felt like I’d messed up (which I hadn’t…it wasn’t anyone’s fault, just a fact of life that happens more than you would think)

In the weeks following this…I went through all the motions to get a termination, because this is what society made me feel like I had to do. I spent my 18th birthday on the phone to The Marie Stopes Foundation doing an assessment. I went to a clinic in Maidstone in the middle of my exams for a second assessment. I even travelled to Kings College Hospital London for a third assessment (The termination system in this country is a complete mess, every woman has the right to a termination and I really feel we are failing our women with the way it’s set up…but that’s a discussion for another time)

This was by far, the darkest time in my life, I couldn’t sleep – the only thing ever on my mind was the thought of being put to sleep in the operating theatre, and waking up without my baby. Our society continually tells us that teenage pregnancy is one of the biggest failures you can make. That it’s something that should be hidden, with young girls dragging themselves to termination clinics to ‘get rid’ of the problem. Yet it is something that happens ALL THE TIME. Our society makes young women like me feel isolated, pushing us to have a termination when its often not what we want. This has to change, what young women need is support and compassion – and most importantly to know we have OPTIONS.

I knew I didn’t want a termination right from the start, but had been made to feel like I didn’t have a choice because if I didn’t, my life was over there and then apparently. It took me right until I was outside the doors of the hospital on the day of my termination to stand up and say ‘actually, I want this, I can do it, and I don’t care what anyone else thinks about it’.

And here I am, doing it. I haven’t failed, I have the brightest future ahead of me, I have a wonderful little family. I am a teenage mother, and no less of a mother because of it.

Becoming pregnant when you didn’t plan it has a huge effect on your mental health, no matter your age. But as a society, we need to stop stigmatising young girls who choose to have their babies – because they made that choice and they are entitled to it. We need to love and support them and show them that they are still capable of anything they want to achieve.

And to all the people asking me if I’m ‘managing ok’ in that slightly sheepish tone of voice. I am bloody great – I absolutely love my life, I am incredibly proud of what I have achieved and what I have ahead of me. So please don’t go asking me questions that you wouldn’t ask a mother who is 10 years older than me.

Georgia X