For most women, the miracle of motherhood begins with a lie: You can’t have a glass of wine because you’re on a cleanse. Or that you’ve gained weight from consuming too many crumpets, when actually that spare tire is a burgeoning bump. Lies, lies, lies! And every one permissible, since concealing a pregnancy for the first 12 weeks in case of miscarriage has become convention.
A web of lies
The first thing you should remember about pregnancy concealment is that, unlike most lies, if all goes well you will eventually be found out. Because of this, creating elaborate fictions to explain your changing shape and social habits is probably not a good idea. When I became pregnant for the first time last Christmas, I was so worried abstaining from alcohol would give me away that I made up a chronic bladder infection to put friends and colleagues off the scent. I figured that if my excuse was icky enough, no one would guess I was knocked up. Well, it worked. But when it came time to reveal the pregnancy, friends looked a little hurt I’d led them so far astray. I’ve since learned there are subtler ways to hide in plain sight.
“Just accept a drink, pretend to sip it all night and most people are too self-absorbed to notice,” one girlfriend with two children advised me. “Tell people you’re detoxing for health reasons,” recommended another, since technically it’s true.
Don’t feel like you need to stay quiet
Siri Agrell, a mother of two, feels that lying about early pregnancy actually does mothers a disservice. “It treats a lost pregnancy like something shameful to be hidden. Because of this, miscarriages have become something that women don’t talk about.” When Agrell lost her own second pregnancy at 22 weeks, she was amazed to find out how many of her friends and colleagues had miscarried and barely told a soul. “Some had suffered multiple miscarriages — one woman had six. And all of them clearly had been carrying this around for a long time without anyone to share it with.”
Whether to keep an early pregnancy hidden is clearly a personal decision. But better to do it subtly rather than drawing attention to your fibs. If all goes well, in a few months you’ll be getting more than enough attention. And in the meantime — if you wish — mum’s the word.
A version of this article appeared in our August 2012 issue with the headline “Undercover mother,” pp. 45.