I’ve been noticing, these past few months, that I’ve started to really “own” a lot of parts of my life I used to think merited secretiveness.  Like the two-year relationship I had with another girl’s boyfriend while I was in college.  Or the slight overlap between the end of my first marriage and the start of my relationship with Doug.  Or the fact that I’ve been married at all – when Doug and I moved to Seattle, I looked at the fresh start as an opportunity to write out that entire chapter of my life story.

It’s not that I’m suddenly proud of these things; it’s just that I’ve learned to feel less ashamed about them.  They happened, and because they happened, I became the person I am today.  Had things been different, I would be different; my life would be different.  And my life is pretty great.  So while I’m not bragging about my past indiscretions, lately I’m more comfortable being honest about them, both with myself and the people around me.

Which brings us to my miscarriage, something of which I have never been ashamed.  I, for one, would be happy to talk about my pregnancy-and-miscarriage experience with anyone who asked, but there seems to be a certain taboo about the subject, and talking about it makes people uncomfortable.  Which is funny, because people have no qualms talking about divorce, or politics, or war.  I would think those things would be equally discomforting, if not more so, since there are actually people responsible for them.  A miscarriage is more akin to a natural disaster than a man-made one.  We should be banding together in the wake of a miscarriage, and sending aid and supplies to those affected, instead of just sweeping it under the rug.

But I digress.

I don’t talk about my miscarriage in public much, because I’ve been trained not to.  But damn if there aren’t times when I want to shout it from the rooftops, so that the people around me will have a better understanding of yet another thing that has happened in my life and shaped the person I am today.

At work, I have about 15 superiors.  Some of them know this part of my history, either because we’re friends on facebook and they’ve stumbled across one of my blog posts, or because I’ve told them, or because I’ve made brownies for them in the wake of their own lost pregnancies.  Others of them do not know this part of my history, and that makes things kind of awkward.

For example, one of my supervisors used to live in Santa Barbara, and, before joining ranks with the grocery store, was a manager at a coffee shop where my friend Monica worked for a few years.  Every so often, he’ll ask me how Monica’s doing, or he’ll ask about her daughter, and I’ll have to remind him that she and I don’t talk much anymore.  It makes me feel shitty, to repeatedly have to tell this guy about the end result (lost friendship) without the explanation (Monica got pregnant right after I’d lost a pregnancy, and therefore our friendship spontaneously combusted).  What must my supervisor think of me, that I can rave about how much I love Monica, tell him stories about when she and I lived together, and then wrap it up with, “Oh yeah, but now we don’t talk.”

And yet, there’s never been a good opportunity for me to approach him and explain everything – and if I did explain it all, say, one day when we happened to be eating lunch at the same time, it would seem so non-sequiter, and kind of depressing.  So I just keep telling myself that if and when he gets transfered to another store, I’ll tell him what really happened between me and Monica before he leaves, just so I’m left feeling so dishonest and unsettled around him.

Then yesterday, I was standing in the backroom next to a white/clear plastic trashbag full of more white/clear plastic (for recycling), which we tie onto our baler at about waist height.  I was wearing a light pink shirt.  One of my supervisors came around the corner, and I guess the bag and my shirt were all blending together in just the right, optically illusive way, because he glanced up and said, “Whoa!  For a second there, I thought you were pregnant!”

This man also knows nothing about this part of my history.

“No no,” I said, then probably said it a few more times.  “No no no.  That’s not happening for a while yet.”

“Yeah, Doug would probably flip out, huh?” he said, trying to make one of those typical guy-to-guy jokes.

“Doug would love it.  It would be the best day of his life.”

“It would?  You know that for real?”

“Yeah,” I said.  “But there is a time, and a place, and a financial situation, and a relationship status for that…”

“Really?  A relationship status?”

“Yeah, if we want to proceed with the least amount of criticism from Doug’s family.  And we are not in that time or place or financial situation or relationship status.”

“I’m sorry,” my supervisor said.  “I actually have no place asking you about any of this.”

So he walked away feeling uncomfortable, and I stood there wondering about the things left unsaid.  This supervisor is really intelligent, and has a wife and two little kids of his own, so I’m sure he would have been compassionate to my situation if I’d decided to share it with him.  But there’s a time and place for that kind of sharing, too – and the back room at work is not the place, and while-we’re-trying-to-get-shit-done is not the time.  And, I wondered, if I had opened up to him about why it’s really weird to tell me a plastic bag was making me look pregnant, would it have left him more uncomfortable than my being cryptic about it?

For the rest of my shift, part of me wanted to approach him and appeal to his love of facts and statistics.  “You’re a smart guy,” I imagined myself saying.  “So you must know that a quarter to a third of all pregnancies, and up to 50% of first pregnancies, end in…”

I would make him say it, and then I would tell him, “And that’s why Doug and I have had all this time to think and plan out what the circumstances for my first successful pregnancy should be.”  But again, I never got a good opportunity.  And I wasn’t sure I had the statistic exactly right, anyway.

I don’t like not owning this in my everyday life, with my circle of acquaintances.  But I’m not really sure where the line is, and I certainly don’t want to cross it.  Because again, there’s a time and a place to get all in-your-face with people about pregnancy loss, and I feel like work ain’t it.

I wonder, though, if a little taboo-filled honesty would actually improve awkward situations like these two.  And if so, I wonder whether I should speak up out of context one day, just to fill these guys in.

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6 Responses to Over-share/under-share

  1. C says:

    It’s a hard line to draw sometimes. I have drawn it at work and on Facebook – if I am in regular contact with someone outside of those two media (and inside them, if they are coworker/friends and FB friend/friends), then odds are that they know. I don’t wear it like a scarlet letter, but I no longer shy away when the subject of procreation is brought up by someone I have a friendship, not just acquaintanceship, with. It’s just too damn draining to always put on a happy face and joke about it.

  2. Julia says:

    Though being diabetic is not equivalent to losing a baby – this does remind me of how awkward people can be when they notice my insulin pump for the first time, or see me testing my blood sugar. I’m always happy to answer questions and explain what I’m doing, and I’d say about 75% of the general population just nods and walks away. But then there’s that awkward 25% that say the stupid shit, the predictable shit, that want to know if I’ll ever lose my limbs to gangrene, or if the root cause of type 1 diabetes is a surplus of Dunkin Donuts as a teenager. And yeah, sometimes I’ll launch into my little speech, and they’ll walk away a little more informed, if not about diabetes, then about me, and how if you ask for information, I’ll spew it right out.

    I can’t help feeling that the people who stupidly ask women if they’re pregnant or what they’re doing when they’re taking care of their bodies are the same ones that are so embarrassed and/or awkward when they learn that what they know is, in fact, not applicable to most people.

    • Marie says:

      Seriously. I just feel sorry for these guys. Like, they know they’re wrong about something, but they don’t know what it is. It must be so humiliating. Don’t get me wrong, there are also women I work with who don’t know all this about me, but I feel like they wouldn’t be repeatedly asking about my friend’s baby, or making jokes about Doug not wanting me to be pregnant.

      So glad to hear you won’t be losing your limbs to gangrene. And I think being diabetic is very equivalent to losing a baby in terms of it sucking. Though maybe you deal with more misconceptions while I deal with taboo.

  3. Christina says:

    There is a time and place for everything. If it feels like it’s forced, it probably isn’t the right moment for it.

    You could do what is just did and have it slip to a co-worker. I was telling one about a mutual friend/co-worker that just hinted/announced she is expecting. Out slipped that we would have shared a due date. “Oh, yeah… I hadn’t told you that I had a m/c.” And I begin the recounting.

    I don’t think it should be something we should feel ashamed of either. I think it if is something that you feel you can talk about openly, if you have healed and moved on emotionally, then why not bring it up and share and discuss? It is really strange to think about what topics are taboo and which ones are fine to talk about in society these days!

  4. mommyodyssey says:

    I say yes. But I’m very outspoken about this. I will speak about my MC’s to total strangers, just because.
    I like to be “in your face” about this stuff because of the taboo. Heck, I even brought it up at a meeting with a client the other day.
    But again, I’m an extreme situation.

  5. bodegabliss says:

    I have a very hard time drawing lines. In fact, I don’t even try to find the pen…I pretty much just forget about lines all together. Even at work. But in my case, I work with two men on a daily basis and that’s it. They know all of my history because it’s such a small workplace, they have to know because I can’t hide it. There are definitely times where I’ve over-shared, and regretted in instantly. Yet that doesn’t stop me and I’m over-sharing again the very next day. I’d actually like to have a little more restraint, and not just in the manner of talking about my miscarriages. So maybe we can balance each other out somehow.

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