Moving from FEAR to WONDER in the First Trimester
I find that the first trimester is one of the most fascinating times of pregnancy. In our culture, we are trained to hide our pregnancies and are told to keep it a secret until the first trimester is over.
We are often taught to believe that there is some magical “time” at the end of the first trimester. At this point, there is suddenly no risk and our pregnancy is deemed “safe” to share with the world. We’re told that the magical 12 week marker is the “safe space” to share a pregnancy. As if there is suddenly a guarantee, zero risk, or some magical safe space that happens here.
In truth, this marker is really arbitrary. There is no dramatic difference in the rates of pregnancy loss from 13-14 weeks. There are several points in the early weeks of pregnancy in which the risk of miscarriage does lower over time. This coincides with first trimester development.
But the idea of the end of the first trimester being suddenly safe is really just a made up construct. Pregnancy and birth are natural processes, it cannot be made 100% safe.
First Trimester Secrets
What really happens is that we are put into this box in early pregnancy. It’s this secret zone. Our society lacks the language, compassion, community, and empathy to support each other as we talk about pregnancy loss. If you have a first trimester loss, the expectation is that you’re supposed to keep it a secret. You wouldn’t want to tell anyone about your pregnancy too early in case you have a miscarriage. By keeping your pregnancy a secret, you’re shielding yourself (theoretically) from having to go through the pain of sharing your pregnancy loss with others.
Now, I have a huge level of awareness, compassion, and empathy regarding pregnancy loss during this time. In fact, my first pregnancy ended in a loss and I was told to keep it a secret, shut up about it, and get over it like everyone else. I was basically hardcore shamed into keeping it a secret and told to suck it up and get over it. Actually, I was even pregnant during this time at my wedding, in which my partner told everyone about our pregnancy. So EVERYONE at our wedding knew I was pregnant. And then I lost my baby. And had to eventually tell this story to everyone and faced a lot of questions about it like “when is your baby due?” after the fact. So I’m coming at you from a place of understanding this very well.
Find Community, Connection, and Support
When we are told to keep our pregnancies a secret during the first trimester, we lose out on the opportunity to find community, connection, and support. Pregnancy and birth changes your life, and losing a pregnancy changes your live. All people deserve comfort and community in birth and death.
In our culture, we’re taught that you keep it a secret so we don’t have to talk about the uncomfortable nature of death. Our discomfort with the topic really highlights our dissociation from life’s processes, and ultimately the whole idea that birth and death happens “somewhere else” rather than in our community. We send our elders off to die in nursing homes, and our most vulnerable elders now in this COVID time are forced to end their lives alone. Families are being forced to birth without support in our hospitals. Our discomfort with discussions of birth and death limit our emotional support, close off the bonds of our communities, and leave it as something to brush off as something that happens “somewhere else.”
So, bringing this back to the first trimester…
When we are pressured into keeping this time a secret, we’re missing out on an amazing opportunity to find support in our communities – whether your pregnancy continues on or not.
Looking at the statistics of the first trimester, there are a ton of different numbers when considering the risk of miscarriage in this time. Different studies even show different rates even with the same participant criteria. In general, as a summary of what I have found…
Miscarriage rates dip dramatically after having a confirmed fetal heartbeat. After hearing a fetal heartbeat, the risk of miscarrying is about 10% at 6 weeks, 1.5% at 8 weeks, and 1% at 10 weeks. For most people, the risk of miscarrying after 14 weeks is less than 1%. So statistically speaking, the end marker of the first trimester really isn’t a radical change point in your odds of having a miscarriage. Sure, going from 1% to .5% is “50% reduction” but we’re talking about something that is already so uncommon. To put it differently, it’s 1/100 pregnancies or .5/100 pregnancies. That doesn’t feel all that much different right?
The Amazing First Trimester
One of the most amazing things about the first trimester is that it is such an amazing transformational time period. The fetal development that happens in the first trimester is totally radical.
In the very beginning, there is such tremendous energy called in when fertilization takes place. At first, your baby is made of one single cell called a zygote. Across the first week, the zygote rapidly divides into a group of cells and implants into your uterus. Your baby grows a placenta and attaches to the wall of your uterus. Your hormones are changing to support your growing baby. In the first trimester, your baby’s head, spine, limbs, and major organ systems develop into a fully formed fetus. Your baby develops tooth buds, fingernails, and facial features. These systems are all very immature of course, but the features are present. The magic that happens in the first trimester is absolutely radical.
Unless you’re feeling lots of nausea, little fish wiggles (or at least that’s how I would describe it in this time), or if you are very aware – you could feel your uterus slightly rising in your pelvis towards the end of the first trimester… There just isn’t a lot of outward confirmation that things are doing all that they should be doing.
This is such a tremendously amazing and magical time, yet we are pressured and believe we should keep this time to ourselves as a secret. We’re missing out on the opportunity to connect and find community in this time.
Follow Your Own Compass in the First Trimester
This isn’t to say that I think you should scream your pregnancy from the rooftops if you feel you want to be private. Of course, many people feel that they want to hold this space for themselves during this time and that is totally awesome too. I’ve done this a variety of ways. I’ve waiting quite a long time, or shared with just a few people, not shared at all, and I’ve shared publicly too. I’m just sharing this to bring awareness to this culture of secrecy. Share your pregnancy whenever the hell you want and move forward in confidence. My goal here is to help you think about this a little differently and encourage you to feel free to move from the FEAR state and into the WONDER state, and I want you to feel okay about celebrating your pregnancy, wherever you’re at, however that resonates with you.
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