I have been avoiding a woman in my office building for months now. Not because of anything she’s said or done, but because we have similarly sized baby bumps and conversations about pregnancy with people I don’t know are scary for me. She’s noticed me a handful of times and she always looks happy and excited to chat. Before this week I’ve been able to gracefully duck out of the break room or turn down the other hallway to avoid these casual conversations, but recently I found myself alone in an elevator with her and her cute bump…
I nervously started asking questions in an attempt to talk as little as possible about my own story. It worked relatively well this time around. I learned that we are both due in June but preparing for our babies to come in May. When she asked me why I couldn’t carry all the way to my due date I said simply, “because of a previous loss.” She expressed a quick but sincere condolence and the conversation moved forward naturally. All things considered, it wasn’t a bad interaction at all.
Despite the relatively positive outcome, I won’t be changing my practice of avoiding pregnant ladies I don’t know anytime soon.
For me, there is nothing casual about pregnancy conversations right now. Excitedly carrying Arthur for 40 weeks and losing him so suddenly left me with raw, sensitive feelings surrounding all pregnancy and baby related things. If someone really wants to talk about these topics with me, it may involve me dumping out a burlap sack of big emotions onto the table. Unless it’s a safe place and both of us are somewhat prepared to sift through that mess, I prefer to keep my sack to myself, especially in the elevator at work or a grocery store checkout line.
At first, this felt like a really lonely position to be in – experiencing all of these big things but not having anyone to share them with. Fortunately, I’ve found some help carrying the load over the last six months.
First, connecting with other moms who have also experienced loss has brought me comfort during this time. Whether it’s participating in an online forum or meeting someone else with a really sad story in person, these interactions have made me feel less lonely, offered a surprising amount of validation for the range of emotions I feel, and given me hope.
Secondly, and most importantly, I have a few close friends with overlapping pregnancies.
These women haven’t experienced the same type of pregnancy loss or child loss, but they’ve been willing to walk with me anyway. Sometimes it has felt hard. Sometimes I feel angry and jealous that their journeys seem easier than mine. I know it hasn’t always been easy for them either as they’ve felt frustrated by my anxiety, my emotional neediness, or a number of other things I bring to the table – I’m not the easiest person to love and support right now. But my friends have heroically stayed with me and have extended me a lot of grace as I’ve done my best to show up for them. Most recently, I got to bring one of them a meal and meet the first of our three precious babies to arrive safely earth side. It felt difficult, but they’re part of my tribe and the friendship and community are worth it.
I really hope that all of these things get a little easier with time, but for now I’m OK ducking around corners to avoid conversations with strangers and saving my emotional energy for the people who matter the most. It’s not a bad survival strategy at all.