22 weeks + 4 days pregnant
To the outside world I am just like any another pregnant lady. But what the world cannot see is that behind my bump lies a wounded heart and a head filled with anxieties.
I always find it odd how strangers in the street smile warmly at me during pregnancy. They assume that bump equals baby and smile at the beauty of the new life that you will bring into the world. Somehow those smiles feel a bit presumptuous to me now, oblivious to the fragility of pregnancy that I know all too well to be true.
Over the weekend Matthew showed me a photo of his friend, who is about 30 weeks pregnant. She looked so blissfully happy and carefree and I felt a pang of jealousy that some women get to experience such beauty in pregnancy, whilst my own pregnancy is governed by fear. It feels like losing Nieve stole so much from me; I lost my daughter but I also lost my faith in absolutes. Most pregnant ladies seem so sure footed while every step I take is tentative and I continually question the stability of the ground beneath me.
In my online pregnancy group one of the ladies shared her personal anguish at being told that she would have to have a Caesarian section which was not her first choice of birth. She described how she had cried for hours because she had wanted a natural childbirth. I found it so difficult to relate to her and felt somewhat resentful that she spent so much energy feeling sorry for herself when she will be so blessed to take that baby home, no matter which way it is delivered.
I held myself back from replying. It is not my place to judge others. They only come from their own standpoint- their own experiences shape how they act and feel and I cannot punish others because they haven’t endured the reality check that I have.
I do not yet know how I will birth my son. Rewind a year to my pregnancy with Nieve and I had so many ideas in my head about the type of birth I wanted. I read dozens of books and knew that I wanted my labour to be as natural as possible. I wanted to create a calm environment; low lighting, soothing music, essential oils. I deemed labour to be natural rather than medical. I read books about hypnobirthing and wanted to employ some of those techniques. Those ideas were shattered when we lost Nieve and they feel ludicrously unimportant now.
Medical intervention feels like a necessity for me now and I can’t help but think back on my ideas about a natural childbirth and think myself naive. I’m aware that millions of women successfully birth this way every day but I now know too much of the kinds of things that can go wrong. I’ve lost faith in my body to carry and birth a healthy baby. I suppose the reality is that other loss mums make up a huge proportion of my encounters with pregnancy and childbirth. So even though baby loss is deemed relatively uncommon, for me it feels very prevalent.
The idea of birth carries so much less importance for me than it did in my last pregnancy. In my one-day-at-a-time approach it is just one of dozens of hurdles I have to encounter and barely warrants my attention right now. All that matters is that he makes it here safely.
Yesterday I overheard two colleagues quizzing one another about whether they would each have another baby. It was such a casual and conversation; like they were deciding whether or not to have another slice of cake. It made having a baby sound like such a simple process with a guaranteed baby at the end and I felt jealous of the luxury they had in being so confident in happy endings.
I can’t help but find such conversations naive though, especially since loss has introduced me to so many women who’ve experienced infertility and tradgedy. Before loss I lived in a naive little bubble where I believed bad stuff only really happened to ‘other people’.
The scary reality is that I am just a normal person and what happened to me could happen to anyone else. I sometimes wonder what others see when they look at me. Am I just a bitter reminder of what tradgedy could befall any one of us? Or am I seen as ‘different?’ Do others justify what happened to me in some way so as to protect themselves from the reality that pregnancy is fragile?
Matthew and I are contemplating whether to enrol on an antenatal class in our local area. We organised one in my last pregnancy as I’d heard it was a good way to meet other first time parents just like us. But here’s the dilemma- we aren’t first time parents any more and the likelihood is that the other parents won’t be ‘just like us’.
Where do we fit among the other parents now? I perceive them to be wide eyed and innocent, blissfully naive and carefree and with a palpable excitement over an assured future. Will I resent their ability to enjoy pregnancy and impending parenthood? Will they resent my caution? Will my experience tarnish theirs? Will I be able to relate to the kinds of concerns I perceive that they might have over birth and breastfeeding when my only concern is that my baby survives?
I spend a lot of time chatting online to my loss mum friends, many of whom are pregnant themselves now. It’s a space where I can chat to people who ‘get it’. Aside from them, I don’t have any friends or colleagues who are pregnant so my contact with ‘normal pregnant ladies’ has been minimal.
I always knew that when I had a baby I would want to reach out and meet other parents. Pregnancy after loss feels like a very specialised group and I just hope that my experience won’t impede my ability to relate to the other parents, or for them to relate to me. The fact is that Nieve’s story plays a central role in my pregnancy and in the way I will parent in the future. Can other parents truly understand that when they haven’t walked that path themselves?
When I lost my daughter I lost my innocence but did I also lose my ability to relate to those who I perceive to be in more fortunate circumstances than myself? I honestly don’t know. I do know that I find it easier to relate to people who’ve experienced a level of tragedy. Or maybe it’s just that I find it easier to relate to people who are willing to be real. So many of us choose to live our lives pretending that bad things don’t happen. Is it I who is morbid and negative to allow my past experiences to shape the way I view the world now? Or is it others who are unrealistic for preferring to view life through rose tinted glasses?
I was happier when I too lived a life pretending bad things didn’t happen. But now that I know the truth I can’t unknow it. It weighs heavily on me. Will I reach a point again where I can be carefree once more? I’m not sure I ever will but I just hope that a time comes where experience has taught me that not everything ends in tradgedy.
Maybe then I’ll be able to breathe more easily again. Maybe then I’ll be able to find a place back in the world with the ‘normal’ parents.