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Why I Haven’t Told You I’m Pregnant

Please, don't say congratulations, mazal tov, or besha'ah tovah when you see me. Please don't shower me in your hopes and dreams. I'm not ready for you to be more effusively excited than I am. Please don't ask me how I'm feeling; I don't want to be surprised by your question, whether you see me in a service or shout it across a parking lot.

If you've already said something please don't feel badly -- I appreciate your concern and your positivity; but the more obvious this pregnancy becomes, the more the felicitations have been accelerating. It's becoming too much. No need to apologize.

This is not a pregnancy announcement -- well, at least, it's not intended to be. I've been pregnant twice, and I have never made a pregnancy announcement on social media. Both times, I've told people verbally relatively soon after I found out I was pregnant, but not this time. (I have known since early November.) If I could, I'd say nothing at all and you'd all be surprised when the baby is born, God willing, in July. If only I could hide until then.

But word is getting out, and I can't just hide the evidence under my Zoom box forever. Truthfully, I wouldn't be making this statement except that my grief journey has taught me that I am best off if I educate the people around me to control the conversation and well-intentioned expressions headed my way.

Also know, though, that in this I speak only for myself. Bob, my husband, wants to talk. And my twins are super-excited about the "snowflake" arriving in July. Don't presume my insistence on silence with me is a directive on talking to the rest of my family.

It's not that I'm not happy about this. I am. I'm excited, and hopeful -- and nervous, and anxious. And, I've fallen from the top of this ladder before. My pregnancy with Ronen was relatively calm, restful and beautiful, but starting within minutes of his birth, I spent 39 days walking on cracked ice, only to have it shatter and then be swept away in the cold torrent beneath.

Jewish tradition dictates that we say besha'ah tovah to a pregnant mother. It means, "[May the birth occur] in a good hour." We don't wish a mazal tov, or congratulations; rather, our traditional wish nods toward the possibility of unfulfilled dreams. In generations past, this was a more widely shared understanding between those who had experienced the inevitability of pregnancy and infant loss, in those days that pregnancy wasn't a promise.

As parents, we live in a state of "adaptive denial," defined as follows:

"Most individuals employ some form of adaptive denials at stressful or catastrophic times. In these occasions, the defense mechanism of denial function as the preserving of well-being, protecting the person from stressors that are too overwhelming, buying time to mobilize the resources needed to cope and safeguarding important relationships that are too fragile to withstand the truth."

Shortly after Ronen died, in casual conversation as I was sitting with a few other mothers of young children, the subject of lice going around our preschool came up. "Lice? Ugh, that's my worst nightmare!" one woman said. Worst nightmare. Good for you that that's your worst nightmare. I already lived through mine. This is adaptive denial -- when you can believe, really believe, that the worst thing that could happen to you is that you'd have to clean bugs out of your kids' hair and stuffed animals.

I don't have the luxury of any kind of denial. I'm going to spend the rest of this pregnancy on pins and needles. I'm going to be holding my breath until I hear this baby cry for the first time -- that cry I didn't hear until Ronen was extubated at 13 days old.

Rest assured, I have the people in my inner circle. They know who they are, and they know I'll share. My twins are aware and excited, too. When a counselor suggested that I should find a name of affection by which to call this pregnancy, my twins decided to call it, "little cute snowflake." Every Friday night, traditionally a time for praying fo the well-being of one's family, my almost-5-year-old son J prays for "more ice cream," and his twin sister prays, "Dear God, I hope the baby doesn't die like Ronen did." As we try to encourage her to spin this into a positive request, J settles on, "When the new baby comes home, let's have an ice cream party!" -- sublime, and ridiculous.

If you're wondering how you can respond to my news, I recommend silence, and listening. I also commend this open letter by Jenny Albers, "To Those Who Love a Woman Pregnant After Loss," on her blog about bereaved parenting, A Beautifully Burdened Life.

To Albers's important words I'll uplift and add this: the rules, the needs have not changed. I'm writing this post, not because I aspire to be the kind of person who blasts pregnancy news on social media. I'm writing it because I've had a radical commitment to honesty, to being open about the way I need people to interact with me. Despite mostly seeing me from the shoulders-up on Zoom, it's inevitable that some of you will see me in person sometime soon. I hope for that. But the more our isolation has amplified my social anxiety, the more I anticipate painfully that someone will publicly get excited to see me and discover I'm obviously pregnant, and the more I want to retreat into my home and wait to come out until I know the ending of this chapter of my story.

Conventional wisdom reminds you not to ask a woman if she's pregnant until she says she is. Now that you know I am, I still ask you, please let me lead. The door is not open. Please wait for me to initiate the conversation. Please meet me where I am, how I am feeling. Don't show me that you're happier or more hopeful than I am. Don't introduce new fears to me either. Don't tell me about your rainbow baby, or how you conquered your anxiety in your "similar situation." Don't remind me of all the bad things that can yet happen.

I'll let you know what I need, if it's appropriate, when I'm ready.

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