At 36, I have one healthy son who's now four. But I'm writing this article just after my 10-week pregnancy ended with a miscarriage - my third loss in as many years.
I've felt many emotions around my miscarriages: sadness, frustration, disappointment, ambivalence. But this isn't an article about my misfortune in the reproductive stakes. This is an article about crossing personal boundaries and the issue of pregnancy-related privacy.
When you reach the ripe old age of thirty-something and are securely in a relationship, you can bet your bottom dollar that your friends, family members and people in the office will start to speculate on whether or not your ovaries are in operation and if you are currently, or about to become, pregnant.
Fine, I get it. People are curious. But what I find challenging is the line of questioning that goes right to the heart of the issue, putting you firmly on the spot. It can include the vague but suspicious 'why are you not drinking?' to the pseudo-friendly 'any plans for a baby/more babies soon?' - or even the ultra direct 'are you pregnant?'.
With a total of five pregnancies under my belt, including one son, three miscarriages and a termination, I know what it is to be pregnant and hiding it. It's an exciting, worrying and secretive time that goes on for weeks - but at the time, it can feel like years.
If you are battling sickness, tiredness, your hormones and a bloated belly, hiding a pregnancy can be tricky. Hiding an early pregnancy in Australia, where drinking alcohol socially is an important part of life for many, also presents an added complication; if you don't drink, people are instantly suspicious. And if, like me, you are a social butterfly who goes from enjoying a glass of pinot gris on a Friday night to suddenly sipping at a glass of mineral water, it's fairly obvious something is up.
I've gone to extreme lengths to avoid questioning. These include faking illness and not going out at all, faking a hangover, sneakily getting my hubby to drink my wine when no one is looking, using non alcoholic beverages as a replacement option, or pretending to be on the 'Feb Fast', 'Dry July', 'Ocsober' programs. Really, pregnancy concealment can be exhausting in itself.
For the women and men that continue to ask these awkward questions, I wonder if it is because their pregnancies have always ended with a gorgeous little bundle of joy so they can't understand why you wouldn't be shouting it from the rooftops.
While I wanted and needed to talk about my miscarriages with close family and friends, I sometimes wondered if it would just be easier to be open and honest with all those who ask. But then how many curious hairdressers/tradesmen/receptionists need to know if I am suffering a second, third - or, god forbid - fourth miscarriage? Do they really want to know this personal information?
A good friend told me her own experience of an acquaintance who, after observing her have a night off the red wine, decided to draw his own conclusions. The next day he asked her if she was 'up the duff' - then proceeded to ask again next time he saw her. He acted as if it was some sort of ridiculous game he wanted to win.
She didn't reveal that she was, in fact, seven weeks pregnant, and was waiting until after the results of the nuchal translucency scan to tell him - and everyone else.
Imagine if she had confessed she was pregnant and then had a miscarriage, or worrying results from the scan that could have resulted in a termination? I wonder how jovial he would be listening to that sad news and knowing something that really was none of his business.
Pregnancy for many couples is joyful and precious, but direct questioners and curious bystanders need to remember that it can also be traumatising and sad.
So the next time you suspect a friend, acquaintance or client is pregnant, why not speculate with a partner or just in your head. Remember to ask yourself what the point of knowing so early on would be. Does it change anything? How would you feel if you were in her shoes?
She will tell you when she is good and ready and not a moment before.