Tuesday, January 24, 2012

How to Hide a Pregnancy

Probably the most asked question is how on earth did I hide a pregnancy?

First, I'd like to address the why.

After losing Savannah, we were devastated.  I was able to get pregnant 6 months later in November 2009.  We were so happy and told just about everyone.  We had no reason not to!  After all, my issues seemed to be at the end of pregnancy.  I had never had a miscarriage before so I'm sure you can imagine our devastation when just 6 weeks into that pregnancy, I miscarried.  I felt totally defeated.  We vowed never again to share the news until after we had another live birth.  And we didn't.  There were times when I disclosed that we had experienced another loss after it happened casually, but to be honest, each subsequent time I got pregnant, I expected to miscarry again.  And I did.  3 more times.  This just solidified our decision to keep it private.  It seemed the only way to protect ourselves and our family.  We didn't want any one's pity.  We just wanted to be able to one day celebrate the arrival of a new baby.

I don't want anyone, especially Irelynn, to ever think that we didn't want her or want to celebrate her coming.  We did, it was just very difficult for us to talk about it with anyone else.  I eventually decided to do some pregnancy photos and I'm really glad that I did.





Baby showers became very difficult for me to attend so eventually, I just stopped all together.  For a time, I became bitter and jealous of people who became pregnant without trying or who had the audacity to complain about their pregnancy.  It was so hurtful to me each time a new friend would joyously announce a new pregnancy.  Some friends of mine have had multiple children in the time since I lost Savannah.  It's not their fault that they are fertile but it was still a constant reminder of something that I couldn't control and a blessing that wasn't being bestowed upon us.

As the weeks of my pregnancy went by, we just kept things private.  I did everything I could to blend in and not attract attention to myself.  I wore baggy shirts and wore almost nothing that was maternity.  I remember looking at other women who were about the same point as me and they had on all these dresses and tops that just screamed "I'm PREGNANT!"  It was just extra attention that I didn't want or need.

Luckily, most people didn't question it.  I was careful in how I posed in pictures and thankful that in all the weight I put on, I didn't put it on in my face, which would have been a total giveaway.  I wore regular clothes as long as I could, long shirts and sweaters, and wore lots of accessories to attract attention away from my belly.  I tried to find the most obnoxious necklaces thinking more towards the end that no one will look at my belly when I have this hideous necklace on.  Eric says I was in denial, but it became easier to think I was successfully hiding it.  If you look back at my Facebook pictures, either people were in front of me or they were shots of my chest up.

There were a few people who cornered me and I was shocked that they didn't at first believe me when I said I wasn't pregnant.  It was like somehow they knew.  I had some carefully crafted responses.

1.  We don't have any news to share but we are hopeful that we will soon.
2.  I can't believe how much weight I'm putting on.  It must be those darn fertility meds.
3.  Because of what happened with Savannah, we are choosing to keep things private, but we'll let you know when we have good news to share.

I got better at answering questions for those who did ask me.  Most had good intentions but in my thinking, if someone is pregnant and not talking about it, there is probably a good reason why.  Part of my work in the baby loss community has brought some amazing people into my life.  The downside is that I personally know people who have lost their babies at every point throughout a pregnancy so I know first hand, that no one is ever safe.  There is no safe point, such as after the 1st trimester because I know lots of 2nd trimester loss moms.  Michelle Duggar is a perfect example of this.  While I don't want to scare anyone reading this who is pregnant, is a sad reality that I and others have painfully experienced.

Just to throw off anyone who may have been suspicious, we sent out the greatest Christmas Card that was all pictures of Jeremy.  There were a few of all 3 of us, and the funny thing is that I was pregnant in each of those.  But no one said a word about it.

I did choose a few close friends to share the pregnancy with, like a very small handful.  I kept it on a need-to-know basis.  The biggest reason was that I didn't want to deal with all the questions.  When are you due?  Do you know what you're having?  Do you have names picked out?  Are you having a baby shower?  And on and on and on.  All of these are well-meaninged questions but it was just questions I was not ready to deal with or answer.  So the less people that knew, the less I had to deal with, and thankfully, those few people who did know didn't ask me about it.

There are a few things we could have done differently/better.  First was Jeremy.  Of course, we told him about the baby.  He had some issues differentiating between the new baby and Savannah.  We told him not to tell anyone.  When school started, apparently, he opened up about it a lot.  He came home and told us his teacher was questioning him about it.  We had told him if anyone asked him anything about the baby to say "I don't want to talk about that."  And we practiced all the different ways someone might ask him.  It caused a few issues and we ended up addressing it with his teacher.  Everything worked out, but it was clear that Jeremy needed a safe place to talk about Savannah.  We put him in a Kids N Grief support group which he absolutely loves.  It's a place where kids his age all lost someone very special and he is encouraged to talk about it and share his feelings through play.

We also couldn't chose a name.  It was just too emotionally hard and raw because I knew that it could end at any point.  We tried several times but ended up with a list of about 10.  We decided to wait until the baby was born.  In order to help Jeremy, we needed to find something to call this baby so he could understand that it wasn't Savannah.  Very easily, the name Baby Bunny came to me.  Not only is it a super cute name, but Bunny (Bernadette) is the name of my Godmother, an amazing woman who lost her battle with Alzheimer's Disease a few years ago.  She was in her late 40s when she was diagnosed.  Most importantly, she was someone who was very special to me and I have faith is helping to watch over Savannah for me.  If you have other children, I would recommend finding a special nickname as early as you can.

Towards the middle/end, when I had to attend meetings, I used a binder or large bag in front of my stomach.  I just tried my best not to attract attention.  I avoided places like Target and Walmart where the probability of running into someone I knew was high.  I tried to shop at the Commissary on off-hours, like right before they closed.  My life basically consisted of taking Jeremy to preschool and going to doctors appointments.  I did the best I could and hoped that if people did suspect, they wouldn't ask.

For my family, it was pretty easy.  All of my family lives out of state and we don't see each other very often.  I did see some extended family over the summer, but I wasn't showing and thankfully, no one questioned why I wasn't drinking.  Although, I thought that would have been a dead giveaway!  Shannon without a drink in her hand?  Something MUST be up!  But then again, we had been trying every month for 18 months and of course I always stopped drinking just in case.  Although if you are out with friends drinking, it was easy enough to ask for a ginger ale in a cocktail glass with a lime.

I felt like I had the clothes situation really well thought out and was prepared since I was going to get bigger in October/November/December which should have been cold weather months.  Would would have thought that it would still be 65 and 70 degrees in November and December?  Not cool and not helpful to my plan.  I did the best I could and hoped no one would notice.  This is mostly where a lot of denial came into place I think.

Anyway, this is not the right decision for everyone.  I wish it hadn't been for me but the days of being joyful and excited about seeing those two lines on a pregnancy test are over.  We waited so long to have a successful pregnancy and I thought getting to that point was our biggest challenge.  I was wrong.  It became a week by week battle against my thoughts, worries, and fears.  Then having a safe delivery became my biggest fear.  You know what's funny?  Now that Irelynn is here, it hasn't stopped.  I invested in a monitor that clips on to her diaper and sounds an alarm if she doesn't breathe or have belly movement after 18 seconds.  Will it help prevent SIDS?  Maybe or maybe not but it does provide us a small amount of peace of mind, especially when we are all sleeping.

Hopefully, this will help someone else out there who thinks the same way we did.  I wish that we could be excited and joyful just like every other pregnant women but it's just not our reality anymore.  As sad as that it, we have accepted it.  Looking back, there really was no need to tell anyone anyway because we were worried enough for everyone.

When Irelynn was born, we sent out an email to family and friends letting them know first that she had arrived and why we chose to keep it private and not disclose it.  Everyone so far has been understanding and supportive and I'm sure if you asked them, they are probably relieved that they didn't know.  I know some people suspected and we are so thankful for their prayers for us and our baby.  It meant the world to us!  Later, once we were home from the hospital, we announced it on Facebook.  We didn't want anyone in our families to have their feelings hurt because they found out via Facebook that we had had a baby.

Still to this day, when I see people announce their pregnancy on Facebook at 4 weeks, I shake my head.  On one hand, I'm glad they don't have to live with the fear that we do.  On the other hand, I am worried for them because I know that so many things can go wrong, especially that early.  For us, we have learned the pregnancy is such an amazing gift and we were grateful for each and every day because it can end at any point.  In fact, I prayed to God and thanked him for the baby growing within me and I prayed that he would grant us one more day.  Every day I prayed this prayer.  And each day I was still pregnant and felt her move inside me was an amazing gift from God.  I never complained, never took anything for granted, and tried my best to try to live in the present and not the past.  Much easier said than done for sure!

The other downside is the lack of support.  Fortunately, I found some great support online.  There are some great support groups called Subsequent Pregnancy After Loss (SPALS) and several on Facebook, although I was the only one who hid my pregnancy.  I was also contacted by a documentary who was interested in my story.  As tempting as that was and how passionate I am about helping others, I was scared.  What if we didn't have a happy ending like on those shows?

Also, don't waste your time looking on youtube for videos on how to hide your pregnancy.  There aren't any except if you are a teenager and trying to hide it from your parents.  LOL!
So, feel free to email me if you have any other questions and I hope that none of you find yourself in my situation.  It was the right choice for us, but it's not right for everyone.

5 comments:

  1. Awesome reflection on your experience..also after seeing all your beautiful pictures of you family at christmas. I wondered if you may be pregnant my sister in law hid all of her belly pictures from us all and you looked very glowing and pregnant. However you had a very difficult loss and I can understand why you would want to keep this private. My son was born 6 months after your loss and I worried that I may lose him after reading your story in may 2009....your loss is not a memory to me it is something I think about often and pray that your angel in heaven is watching what a wonderful mom she has...chrystal

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  2. Awesome reflection on your experience..also after seeing all your beautiful pictures of you family at christmas. I wondered if you may be pregnant my sister in law hid all of her belly pictures from us all and you looked very glowing and pregnant. However you had a very difficult loss and I can understand why you would want to keep this private. My son was born 6 months after your loss and I worried that I may lose him after reading your story in may 2009....your loss is not a memory to me it is something I think about often and pray that your angel in heaven is watching what a wonderful mom she has...chrystal

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  3. This is beautiful! I am truly happy for your amazing family!

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  4. I am astounded that you were able to keep it so well hidden. I know you did the best thing for you & your family!! We are all behind you, Shannon! As soon as I read it on FB, I have kept you in my prayers every single night. You, Irelynn, Jeremy, and your husband. ((HUGS)) I am so very happy for you!

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  5. I had you on my mind a lot the past few months wondering how you were, but had no clue about your pregnancy, but I agree with you - if you are keeping it quiet, people should assume there is a reason and not pester you with questions, as well intentioned as they may be. I'm happy for your family and I know your big girl is in Heaven proudly watching over her big brother and her baby sister.

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