Why pregnant women feel the need to keep secrets

By Adrian Rose

I took a pregnancy test in a public bathroom last month. In a park. During a run.

I purchased the test at the pharmacy on my way out and tucked it into my jacket. I ran six kilometers around the park with the pink box bouncing uncomfortably beneath my sports bra before stopping.

As I unwrapped it, I thought how depressing this could seem. But I wasn’t sad or depressed. I was hopeful. My body felt pregnant—sore breasts, constant thirst, fatigue. It was a few days before my period. I was confident I was pregnant and wanted to know now. Being out for a run seemed irrelevant, initially.

The test was negative. I was gutted. And confused. What had driven me to be so irrational and not wait until I was home to purchase and take a test? Was it because I wanted to surprise my partner? Or not disappoint him? He would find out the result—pregnant or not—eventually. Hiding something from my partner was unlike me.

Then I thought about my relationship with pregnancy which, like most women I know, is complicated. 

The process of wanting to be, trying to be and being pregnant has left me incredibly angry at but equally in awe of my body.

It wasn’t until I tried to get pregnant that I discovered my body had been holding out on me. Years of endometriosis and infertility led to scans showing I had only one kidney—a fact that had evaded me for 30 years. More scans revealed I had no left side to my uterus—no left ovary, no fallopian tube. It’s called a unicornuate uterus. I joke that I am a unicorn. Only I am not magical, I am just rare—and not in a good way when it comes to fertility.

I eventually became pregnant after laparoscopic surgery to remove the endometriosis but our baby had a congenital disorder. My partner and I made the difficult decision with our doctors to end the pregnancy.  We were assured the disorder was random—it had nothing to do with my “unique” anatomy. At the time, I didn’t know whether to be relieved or angered by that.

I had to deliver our first baby. It was the safest option. It was hell and then when I thought it was over, my body played a horrible trick on me. My breasts swelled days later with milk for a baby that wasn’t there. The physical pain amplified my mental exhaustion. I cried. I grieved. I eventually healed. I wish I had never had to make that decision, but I am eternally grateful that I had the choice to make it.

Very few people had known I was pregnant—then that I was no longer so. My body had been hiding a beautiful, painful secret.  

A dear friend is now pregnant. She wants to tell the world. But she has been warned—as we all are—to wait until the 12-week mark. 

Prevailing wisdom says you’d rather not have to tell everyone about an early miscarriage. I wonder how wise this is. I tell her it can be bloody difficult to grieve for a loss in isolation. So while I hope she does not have to grieve, if she does, I hope she will not feel she has to do it alone.

Our bodies, our pregnancies, our secrets. We tell the world about the lives that live, but we hold inside the lives that are lost—the scars on our hearts, our minds and our uteruses.

I did end up pregnant again. I told no one for many months.  I wanted to be sure my body would hold up its end of the deal—that if I stayed healthy, it would deliver a healthy baby. This was arbitrary because I had been perfectly healthy the first time around.  

One toddler later, I am still bartering with my body to give me what I want. This time in a park bathroom stall. Fear and hope drive me. Fear of my body’s inadequacies. Hope for my body’s strengths.

I like to imagine a world where these fears lessen. A world where women are not pressured by society to be alone with our bodies’ secrets—whether they bring us joy or bring us pain. 

A world where my relationship to pregnancy is less complicated. A world where I do not feel shame for hoping for a pregnancy, or feel shamed for having ended one.  

Adrian Rose is an American Australian writer whose home-base is currently in eastern Australia. Having lived around the world, the experience of motherhood keeps her grounded (and conscious of the choices and privileges she has). Adrian is technologically behind-the-times, but you can connect with her on her newly established Twitter account (@AdrianKRose) or on her website (www.adriankrose.com). 

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