Every year, 26,000 babies are stillborn in America. In 2003, one of them was my son.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Pregnancy after Baby Loss

If you've been reading Glow in the Woods, you'll know that bon just put up a post on being pregnant after a loss. (Glow in the Woods is a new blogging community of several babyloss mamas; it's terrific, {as if anything about babyloss could be terrific, but these women are so articulate and write so beautifully}, so head on over and say hello.)

Her post has given me so much food for thought; she is 20 weeks pregnant and fearful, hopeful, terrified. She is on bedrest and....managing? Yes, managing as well as any babyloss mama can. Bon asks the question how we feel about pregnancy now, and oh, I have so many mixed feelings. So much to say.

I want to be pregnant again. Sort of. But not really. I want a baby. I am also mourning the loss of that possibility in my life, although it is, still, physically possible, but emotionally, I am not so sure. I am rapidly approaching the end of my "safe" reproductive life - I am well into "advanced maternal age" and while there's no reason I couldn't have a baby again, it is very unlikely I will. I am both jealous of those who are pregnant and holding new babies, and frightened for those whose bellies I see protruding. I know I am a harbinger of death for those among my group of acquaintances who get pregnant; I see the spark of fear in their eyes, the slight distance they put between us, for I have shattered their innocence by losing my son.

Bon talks about "owning the elephant" in the room...I love that phrase. I'm not sure I own the elephant; perhaps it is easier now to pretend I'm not the elephant in the room of a group of mothers and hopeful mothers. But I still feel it, that distance, that experience that sets me apart from all the rest. It holds me back from becoming friends with the lovely women I meet at storytime with my 2.5-year-old; those women who are showing up pregnant at the library, at James's gym time, in the neighborhood. It keeps me from becoming friends with the moms at Charlotte's school, whether they are done having children or still expanding their families. It keeps me from feeling like I am truly being myself with nearly everyone, and I hate feeling that way. Part of me has closed off permanently to others, even to myself. I don't know what to do with the dead baby part of my life, so it just sits there, quietly waiting.

It is so hard to see other women pregnant, and I suspect it always will be. I met a woman shortly after Ben died - I knew her only slightly before then - she lost a baby some 30 years ago. He seemed fine when he was born, but died unexpectedly sometime in the first 24 hours of his life. She told me a little about her experience, and mentioned that the daughter of a friend of hers was pregnant, and how terrifying that was for her. That is where I am now, and permanently.

I see younger mothers at my son's preschool, who are expecting, and I feel...I hate to say this, it seems so awful...disdain. Perhaps it is because they are driving in their SUVs, with enormous diamonds on their fingers, designer clothes, manicured nails...which is not my thing...but their personas shriek entitlement, and perfection. And they barely see me, a late-30s, average mom, with perhaps 10 pounds to lose, fairly attractive, wearing reasonably-priced clothes, who doesn't believe in ostentation, who doesn't play tennis or go to a gym to work out with a trainer, who doesn't run with cliques and never has.

I alternately hate those mothers and feel sorry for them. Mostly I hate them. Because they are pregnant, and they are blissfully unaware as they drive off in their Audis and Suburbans that anything can go wrong. And if they knew my story, if I told them, I know they would look at me in horror and never speak to me again. And of course I wouldn't tell them, could never tell a pregnant woman who did not know me "before," what it is that makes me who I am "after." I'm sorry for them because I feel they don't live in the real world, which makes me a snob of a different sort from them.

Ultimately, here's how I feel about pregnant women: after Ben died, I thought no one should get pregnant ever again. It hurt too much to hear about, hurt too much to see, made me feel so frightened. I can't shake that. I fear for any pregnant woman I see and only wish I could be happy for them. That I will carry for the rest of my life.

Strangely, last night I dreamt I went to my OB for my annual check-up, and we talked about me having another baby. I don't remember what we said, only that I hoped it wasn't too late for me, even though I didn't think it would happen again for me. I am conflicted; I both want to be pregnant again, one last time, and I know that, emotionally, I can't do it again. If it were to happen, of course I would, but deliberately? I don't see how I could.

I know how much there is to lose.

1 comment:

Monica H said...

I know about the website, but I have yet to head over there- I will though.

You have not shattered their innocence. People should know that babies can die (although they shouldn't). You've only showed them your reality and if they can't handle it or if they cower from it then they're not worth it.

I'm tired of being the elephant in the room too. Although I do love elephants, I do not own my elephant-ness. But it's not fair! I certainly didn't ask to become this and I'm sure neither did you. Why are we looked at and treated like we're contagious? Like grieving the loss of your child/children isn't enough!

I don't know what to do with the dead baby part of my life either. It has consumed me and has permanently weaved itself into my life. I can't hide it. I can't ignore it. It's too big.

And seeing pregnant women scares me, makes me angry, makes me sad, makes me jealous, makes me hurt. I like to believe that's a "normal" feeling, but I wish it weren't. I do hope you have the opportunity to have another child. You deserve one. We all know how damn difficult and emotional it is, but you have to weigh the odds. I think the need and desire to have a baby far outweighs the anxiety I will have. I can get through 9 months (granted I get that far!) of emotional craziness for a chance at parenting from Earth, not from the grave.

I wish the same for you. I pray that the opportunity presents itself. I wish happiness one more last time. I wish you peace about it all.