“I’m so excited! Now, quick, stop talking about it.”
At least that’s how it felt when I got the phone call that confirmed the blood test. The rush of elation is quickly met with the rule that you don’t talk about it. Not for 3 months. Not until it’s safe. I knew the rule and I knew it was in place for good cause. The percentages of miscarriage are very likely at this early stage and besides the pain it causes to have to renege on a pregnancy announcement, I imagine it’s just as awkward for the person who has to respond to the early loss. As much as I generally rail against tradition and rules, this one made sense.
In order to alleviate the pressure of keeping it a secret, and also to help us through the process of trying to get pregnant, we agreed that we both got one person to share these details with. We justified it knowing that it was the people we’d also share the sad news with if we lost it, looking for support. But even as we shared the pregnancy news it was with this kind of pre-emptive defense—“It’s early, we could still lose it.…” It’s not a great way to start a pregnancy announcement, but I’m a born and bred New Englander—we like to cut our losses before they have a chance to strike. It helps steel us for the reality of the situation, even if it is negative.
We each told our person and we were satisfied, until we realized we didn’t know how to occupy ourselves for the next 2 months and 29 days before we could tell anyone else. We told ourselves to be patient and we’d share the news when the time was right. All in good time.
Except for one thing. As a member of the lesbian community my wife and I like to fulfill certain stereotypes, including a societal favorite: playing softball. We play in a league with all of our friends and although we were excited to enjoy this rite of passage playing a sport where hard projectiles are hurled at your body and people hang out afterwards to eat hot dogs and drink beer, it wasn’t the best time for Katie to get pregnant. Although the doctor said it was okay to continue doing activities your body was used to the investment of time, money and emotion made the risk seem too high. Katie would continue running, but not around a diamond where people collided and dove into bases. So she stopped playing after the first week of the season, making a couple of feeble end-of-the-school-year excuses, this coming from a person who would drag her broken leg behind her before she would let down the team by not showing up. The stage was set for everyone to figure out the “secret”. Did I mention that she rarely declines an offer for a beer or two at social gatherings and she doesn’t drink mixed drinks or anything that can be disguised with juice. Our secret was doomed from the very beginning.
Lucky for us, people were nice enough not to pry, to nod politely as we continued to throw out far-fetched excuses, including one where Katie threw her back out chasing after our run away dog. No one acted surprised when that same person walked around without any signs of pain. I had tried to convince Katie to practice walking with a kind of lower back stiffness, but she found those dramatics to be a bit over the top. Instead, I settled for sessions of corroborating our story before we left the house to attend a social event.
The jig was up with our softball friends, we knew it from the beginning, but even in areas of life that preyed less on obvious indications of pregnancy, I still didn’t find myself to be very successful. I’m not good at keeping secrets, especially when they’re about something exciting. I don’t see the point of spending all of that energy trying to keep stories straight. I’m in awe of people who have the stamina to have affairs or lead double lives. I have a hard enough keeping my one story straight. Katie’s no better. We have yet to make it to a Christmas without giving each other at least one gift beforehand and that’s even after we’ve tortured each other with hints and guesses.
I used to consider the fact that I’m a bad liar a strength of my character, but it wasn’t coming in handy during these times. If I didn’t have a preplanned answer when someone asked me how it was going, I froze. Worse, my solution to avoid spilling the beans was to try to pretend that it wasn’t happening at all. I would suspend my disbelief until it was time for everyone to know. As happy as I was that this became a successful way to keep the secret, it was nearly 3 months of denial over something that I was actually very excited about.
When we finally crossed the 3 month threshold and were able to start telling people many of them squealed excitedly for the news and declared that they had already guessed. No softball for 3 months, no beer, not even a hotdog? Congratulations, you figured out the worst kept secret of the year.