Last year around New Year’s I wrote in my journal about how hard the holidays are while grieving. At that time, we had been grieving for two years of holidays in a row. In 2016, I had imagined being pregnant at Christmas. My idea of this was more picturesque than real life, but I was devastated to not have any aspect of that when Christmas 2016 rolled around. At the same time, I fully believed that I would get to experience that in 2017. Then, at Christmas 2017, I was in the same place as I had been the year before.
Not only was I not pregnant, I was also grieving again. The grief was worse than the year before because we now knew that our losses weren’t random.
The holidays also bring New Year’s, a time when people reflect on their past 12 months and express hopes for the coming year. My 2017 was the same as my 2016. There was excitement about the idea of becoming pregnant and having a baby, joy during 21 weeks of pregnancy, and then the remainder of the both years had been spent grieving.
At the end of 2016, I had been looking forward to the fresh start of a new year. At the end of 2017, I could no longer hope that a new year would hold the joy and growth for our family that had been taken away from us twice.
As everyone reflects on their past year, they share social media posts about the positive things that have happened, the babies that have been born, and their resolutions for next year. Sending and receiving Christmas cards this year has been a reminder of the ways in which our life is different than it could have been.
I have been trying to decide for some time how to write about what it is like to see other women have successful pregnancies, hear news of couples welcoming healthy babies, and watch those babies grow. As I write about this I am not talking specifically about any one or two people.
There are so many babies that have been born in the more than 2 years since we lost Lentil.
Some of these babies were born very close to when we lost our babies or close to when our babies were due. I know that the friends and family who fall into these categories have felt our losses with us. I have a sense that many of them feel connected to our journey in an even greater way than others. They have wished nothing more than for us to also have had our babies along with theirs.
There is not a limit to the number of babies that can be born each year.
There is no one to blame for our losses. It is not as though we didn’t get our babies because other people had theirs. There is simply an unfairness about who tragedy strikes and how.
The fact that there is no rhyme or reason doesn’t change the level of pain of watching journeys of others continue smoothly while our journey has so many bumps and so much pain.
My reactions to others’ pregnancies, births, and growing children is a sign of how our losses have changed me. After our first loss, I was often happy for others and sad for me when I saw pregnancy and birth announcements. After we lost Danny, this shifted. I noticed feeling more envy and sorrow in reaction to others’ pregnancy announcements. My genuine reaction to births of other babies at this point is not excitement or joy but relief that everyone is safe and healthy.
I am always surprised by others’ confidence when they are pregnant that they will be welcoming a baby into their family soon.
My experiences have taught me that babies die before they are born, and they have especially taught me that my babies die before they are born. I know that this seems dark, but it is my reality. Logically, I know this is not the case for most babies, but it is hard to ignore my experiences. When I see others’ confidence and unbridled excitement in pregnancy announcements, planning baby showers earlier than I would ever feel safe, and making clear steps to prepare for a baby that I don’t see as a guarantee, it is a reminder of how my traumatic experiences have affected me.
We have received so many Christmas cards this year with pictures of children who did not exist before two years ago. We see so many others having their second children while we are in some way still trying to get to our first. We see others having babies and hitting milestones that we expected to hit before them.
Seeing children the ages that Lentil and Danny would be is like looking into an alternate reality, a reminder of where we could have been if our lives had not taken this unexpected turn, twice.
It is not always intensely painful to see others have success on their journeys or to see or spend time with their children. It is hard to predict. I don’t always know when I will be fine and when it will be painful. One announcement may not affect me at all, while another may have me in tears immediately.
I imagine my pain with watching others have success is not dissimilar from the pain of many experiencing any sort of struggle to bring children into their family. There is some difference, though between losing our babies and those who are struggling to conceive.
It is not only that our family has not been growing. Our family was dying while others’ families were growing.
Now, at the end of 2018, it is hard for the growth in other families to not be a reminder that our babies died. At the same time, I am grateful for how this year has gone. On the pregnancy front, we have had mostly good news and no devastating news, which is a change to the pattern of the past two years. But I am still hesitant to make any toast to finally getting our first take home baby in 2019. Our Christmas card stated our hopes for growth in 2019 in a way that made it clear this baby’s safe arrival was no guarantee. I cannot pin my hopes for an entire year on things that I don’t have much control over. I have done the parts I can do, and now it isn’t up to me.