We attended our birth class last weekend, and it was exactly what we needed. The doula who taught the class was as much focused on preparing emotionally for labor and delivery as she was on teaching techniques for coping with pain. It was helpful for Eric and I to have to deliberately plan for what labor and delivery may be like for us this time. I had thought about some of the ways in which going to the hospital to deliver El may remind us of our previous experiences with the end of pregnancies.

But I hadn’t fully realized how emotional a birth class would be for us.

Sitting with these emotions in the class made me realize other aspects of birth that will be emotionally painful. While I thought we would get preparation from this class on what to expect physically with this birth, what it ended up giving us was emotional preparation that I hadn’t even realized we needed. It helped us to think about our previous experiences while also looking forward to what this new experience may be like.

The other update for this week is that El’s left kidney still has slightly more fluid than is normal at this point of gestation. The mild amount of enlargement has remained relatively stable since it was first observed at 28 weeks. We were told last week that this is expected in 4-5% of babies in utero and that it is possible it will resolve by birth. We have a consultation scheduled with a pediatric nephrologist in early February to learn a little more about what to expect regarding follow-up to monitor the baby’s kidney after birth. It’s hard to say whether this news is scary for me or not. I know that for Eric it is very scary.

It is hard to trust that everything will be okay around this issue when we have in the past had a high likelihood of things turning out fine that did not end fine.

For me, it is reassuring that although this may be an abnormal ultrasound finding, it is a common abnormality. I also am reassured that this abnormality is in no way connected with fetal death, stillbirth, or poor pregnancy outcome. I am okay with the idea of my one year-old possibly needing a minor surgery to fix a medical concern because it means I have a one-year old.

And if that one year-old has to have a medical concern, I am really glad that it is a fixable problem. The medical issues that affected our two baby boys were not fixable.

Other than those updates, I wanted to share something I have been thinking about over the past few weeks. In the past 2.5 years I have learned firsthand the ways in which we try to avoid having to feel the pain of others.

In the loss communities I have joined, I have read so many experiences of parents being told (directly or indirectly) that they shouldn’t talk about, post about, or continue grieving their babies. For multiple reasons we have avoided sharing photos of Danny publicly, but we have shared them in person with people. I know that it is hard for others to see him, but when someone says they would rather not see our baby, it makes me feel as though they are not willing to feel my pain with me.

It is as though it is too much for them.

When people can’t handle the dark sense of humor that I have now because of our losses or the intensity of anxiety about this pregnancy because of the fear of losing a third baby, it is as though they are saying that our pain is too much to allow themselves to fully understand. When people try to find the silver lining, it is as if they are saying that they can’t handle just feeling the pain without trying to find a reason to justify it. The reality is that there is no acceptable justification for our babies dying.

I have heard from multiple people that they do not read the blog because it is too hard for them. I get that. It is an okay choice to not read my blog posts. I have noticed an incredible benefit of my writing on friends and family, but my purpose for writing was not just for friends and family. It is also for myself and other loss parents. Friends and family who are reading seem to understand our emotions more than they have before, because it has been a space where they just listen to our experiences. I do not downplay or diminish as much as I might in person because I don’t have to see others’ reactions in the moment or feel the internal or external pressure to be positive or look for the joy.

But when people tell me they are not reading what I am writing or that they stopped reading, it hurts. It hurts because again someone is saying, “Your pain is too much for me.”

I get it. It is too much for me too.

The problem with this, though, is that sometimes others’ joy is too much for me. And I don’t feel like I very often get permission to tell others that.

Others get to tell me that they can’t handle my pain. But I don’t get to say that I can’t handle their joy.

Gender reveals, pregnancy announcements, baby showers, birth announcements, birthday parties, and sometimes just being around others’ kids or hearing about parenthood can be too much for us. At times it seems easy for others to put up boundaries around feeling our pain, but it seems so much harder for us to put up boundaries around feeling others’ joy.

I definitely have spaces where I am encouraged to express my boundaries, and I am so grateful for the people who truly understand my need to do this. But there are times that I feel a pressure to hide my pain, even from people whose intentions are to be supportive. I especially feel this pressure from our culture as a whole. I feel like I am cold and heartless if others’ joy is painful for me.

I feel like I am supposed to be happy because otherwise I am not a kind, loving, nice person, a good friend, or a good relative.

In pregnancy after loss, couples often feel the pressure to just focus on the joy and the new baby. One of the things I am most grateful for about my experience of blogging about this pregnancy is the space it has made for Eric and I to share more about the babies we lost as we go through this time of preparation for the new baby that will hopefully join us soon. Thanks to all of you who have been willing to hold space for all of our emotions along this journey and who understand that even when El is safely in our arms our grief will still not be gone.

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