A Guest Blog By Allie VanNest

When I was six weeks pregnant with my first child, I told a stranger at the bus stop that I was going to have a baby because I needed to tell someone; I assumed I would never see her again.

Imagine my surprise when, over the next 34 weeks (and three days), I waited for the bus with this woman every single day. Every day, she asked me how I was feeling and commented on the size of my belly. Once, on the ride to work, I fell asleep on her shoulder.

On the other hand, my husband is a vault. When our friends found out they were expecting, they let him in on the news a long time before they made it public knowledge, and he didn’t even tell me. When I argued that it was a husband’s responsibility to share these tidbits with his wife, he countered with a non-apologetic: “It just wasn’t my story to tell.”

To this day, I don’t understand his logic.

But I’ve noticed that, as we get older, the secrets we keep aren’t always as happy-go-lucky as the secrets of our youth: The rock-solid couple that you always looked up to? They are on the brink of divorce. Your college drinking buddy developed a full-blown drinking problem. That routine health test didn’t come back normal, after all.

It’s harder to tell each other these kinds of secrets.

When I was nine weeks pregnant with my second child, before I could tell anyone but close family, I had a miscarriage. It was the first major “secret” in my life that I didn’t share with the world. Yet, as it was happening — while I was on the subway, walking down the street, sitting in a meeting — I felt an urge to tearfully proclaim it to everyone who crossed my path.

How could they be acting normal when I was privately having one of the worst few days of my life? How many other women were also on the subway/on the street/in a meeting experiencing the same thing as me? Why weren’t we talking about it?

Why don’t we talk about it?

As we whittle our lives down to bite-sized compartments of information fit for Facebook, we tend to shave off the grubbier, knottier bits — like miscarriages, divorce proceedings, and sickness. Maybe we’re trying to spare the feelings of our friends and followers.

But this costs as much as it saves. Suzanne, from accounting, and Bill, your barista, are very likely encountering the same challenges that you are. And you might ever know, save for the courage of one weird moment of human connection… like falling asleep on a stranger’s shoulder during the bus ride to work.

Let me propose an experiment: go out on a limb and ask your hairdresser how much she talks to her mother. Maybe we can get the ball rolling together. After all, it isn’t your story to tell, but she might be willing.

 

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