“Exciting things are happening and I can’t share them just yet.” I hit send on a social platform. Thought no more of it. A little tongue in cheek share on something that I couldn’t reveal about my comedy career, just a bit of fun.
As I expected (and not-so-secretly hoped), comments came in asking for hints, but one stuck out. “Not until after the first trimester.” A throwaway joke about the secretiveness of early pregnancy, but it gnawed at me as it is something that is all too common and accepted, on a subject that is hugely complicated and personal.
I have no plans to have children. I can barely dress and feed myself and I find my cats almost a bit too much commitment, to be honest. But I know so many couples who absolutely long for children and are unable to have them for a variety of reasons, and I know how heartbreaking that is for them.
Pregnancy is a hugely emotive topic, whether you are staunchly child-free and, like me, tired of having the conversation as to why, or you’ve gone through a harrowing miscarriage. People are finally starting to speak out about miscarriage and problems in pregnancy, but there is a huge amount of work still to do.
There’s not enough understanding of how we best care for people when it happens, when one day they are excitedly expecting a baby, and the next day they are not. If it’s an early pregnancy, very few people may know, so they can’t even seek support from those they love without having to break the story and retread the ground.
Some friends have been too excited to wait and mentioned it early doors, only to be drinking G&Ts in the pub with me a month later, leaving me unsure if I should ask or just wait for if, and when, they want to tell me. It’s a privilege to be in that inner circle of trust for people at such a beautiful, scary time but there are responsibilities with it and there is currently no guide on how to navigate it.
I cannot count the amount of times I’ve taken a night off drinking, for something innocuous like an early morning alarm or some ill-fated health kick, only for knowing looks to be flashed around, and loaded questions about whether I’ll be avoiding soft cheese or some other pregnancy allusion.
It’s speculation I’ve been guilty of myself, and it’s a common clickbait trick for tabloids to see a woman who has maybe had a big meal and pose the question apropos of nothing. It is a minor irritant to me, but I always pull people up on it because it needs to change. If someone is trying to hide a pregnancy, the last thing they want is a lot of speculation, particularly bearing in mind that not all pregnancies go to full term.
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No one deserves this information until the people involved are ready to share it, and speculation on something so private at a fragile point in someone’s life, potentially forcing them to reveal a pregnancy before they want to, can do more harm than good. It can make people feel as if they’ve jinxed it, and create a wider pool of people to tell in the event that something goes wrong.
Trigger warnings can be derided, but on topics like this, I would implore that hyper sensitivity should be exercised where possible. Among people who know they’re pregnant, around 1 in 8 pregnancies end in miscarriage. So whilst you might not know of any that have happened in your circle of friends and family, the odds are you are close to someone who has experienced it at least once.
Pregnancy is a serious thing, it’s a huge medical undertaking and the stakes are high, so it’s time we stopped asking women if they’re pregnant. If they are, they’ll tell you when they’re ready, and it’ll be worth the wait.
Vix Leyton is a Welsh stand-up comic