August 24, 2014
“Sooo…you’re pregnant,” he said.
“Nope, I’m not,” I replied.
“Yeah, you are!” he insisted.
“Nooo…I’m not,” I insisted back.
He proceeded, “Oh, I thought you were pregnant…was that a while ago?”
“I was, but we lost the baby,” I tried to say lightheartedly.
“Oh, jeez, I’m sorry…”
This exchange was nothing short of awkward. It happened a few weeks ago between a well-intentioned buddy of Mike’s and me. I’m sure he half-read a post on Facebook back in February, didn’t calculate the months that had passed and failed to look down at my very un-pregnant waistline. I’d like to say that this was the only time this has happened. But it isn’t. It’s by far the worst, but it’s not an isolated incident.
Shortly after this weird conversation, I left the ungodly high temps of Oregon to spend time with my family in Michigan. It was incredible to see how my nieces and nephews have grown and matured. I loved hearing about the latest accomplishments of my three “babies” who are now pre-teens, the joyful giggles of my preschool-aged niece and nephew as they swung on the tire swing, and the hilarious intonations of the two toddlers as they figured out how to communicate all the thoughts in their funny little heads.
During one of our family get-togethers, in a wild game of balloon toss, my almost-three-year-old niece brought me a balloon, lifted up my shirt and tucked it under.
“You have a baby in your belly!” she squealed.
I smiled warmly at her and said, “I do? You’re so funny!”
She laughed and ripped the balloon out, returning to her game of keep-away. I sank back and bit my lip. I wish.
Looking down at my concave belly, familiar feelings of disappointment and loss traveled through me. Pouring into my anxious stomach, sadness settling into my toes. I would have been huge at this point if it hadn’t happened.
Soon the exhausting sound of a young child crying about a peanut butter sandwich or some other desperate need interrupted my thoughts. I watched the self-denial of the mother who got up from the table, leaving her untouched lunch, to tend to her child. Guilty and conflicting feelings of relief washed over me. Maybe I wasn’t ready. Maybe motherhood is not for me. But I know deep down that this is not true. Nobody is ever ‘ready’ for kids.
My good girlfriend and I were able to catch up after quite a bit of time apart during this time at home. She gave me opportunity to process this last year, which I hadn’t done in a while. One realization that I came to through our chat was that, although no one has ever told me I can’t talk about my pregnancy, I feel like I shouldn’t. Somehow I have internalized an idea that a woman only has the right to talk about her pregnancy if she actually has the baby. However, if you were just “a little pregnant” (whatever that means), you shouldn’t talk about it because it comes with a sad story.
An example of this illogical rule I’ve created would be if, say, you go out to dinner with friends who have a baby or children. It wouldn’t be weird for the mother to reference her morning sickness during the first trimester if it comes up in conversation. Oh yeah, I could never eat eggs with runny yoke when I was pregnant for Joey. However, if I were to talk about the morning sickness I had when I was pregnant it doesn’t have such a happy ending. I lived on Rice Chex for 12 weeks. The end. I feel like at this point everyone is then going to start thinking about a dead baby, which is downright depressing. And nobody likes a Debbie Downer.
But I want to talk about it! I want to claim it, to own the motherhood that I held in my heart for a brief moment. I love remembering the time when I felt so completely important and powerful, even if it ended too soon. It feels good to commiserate with fellow mamas who know what it’s like to avoid a hot tub and a glass of wine. (Do you realize how HARD that was for me? How does one do this for nine months?!) Instead, I mention it to people who I know are willing to listen and have signed up to be there for me even when it feels like I’m “dwelling” on something I should be over by now.
My dear friend told me that I need to talk about it. She reminded me that the only person wondering why I’m still bringing it up is myself. Rather, those who love me are probably wondering how I’m doing. This encouragement she extended to me was an allowance of love. It strengthened me to own this piece of my story without fear of “depressing someone.” So here I am, mentioning it again. I’m hopeful that talking about it more, even six months later, will encourage any other women or men who have experienced this loss to speak up about it too.
I know why this is so hard right now. I have been thinking about this month for nine months. For three of those, I had very different expectations for what would befall. And for the remaining six of those months, I have been attempting to piece back together a future that I had built quite a bit of hope in. My “someday,” that is still possible, just not on a timeline that I had determined for myself.
My due date would have been tomorrow. Not that the actual date means much in the real world of pregnancies that go to term, but it is significant to me. It makes me think about the “Choose your own adventure” that is life, and how much choice we actually have. I wonder what could have been had a right turn been made rather than a left. Modern technology makes this curiosity a little useless though because I know the baby was never viable to begin with. There was no choice that I made that put me on one path versus another.
Is it possible that I am thankful? Not thankful that my life went this particular direction (because I would never wish the disappointment I’ve felt this year upon anyone). But I am thankful that my life is what it is. Because the same roads that have brought me pain, have also brought me more love and peace than I could ever imagine. I’m thankful that sometimes life just does its thing and you just have to trust that there is a way it’s supposed to be. I’m also thankful that through this difficult valley, I have learned so much about giving myself grace and acceptance for whatever I’m feeling right then. Even when it feels wrong or misplaced or expired. Grace. Whether you believe it comes from above or within. You can’t get through shit like this without it. Nor can you heal without talking about it, honestly, with people you love. I’m thankful for these things and more.
© 2014 D. Willson
Inspired by this collection of writing, I have begun to collect other’s stories about their experience with pregnancy loss. To learn more, please visit my Baby Elephants Project page.