In thinking about pregnancy after loss the other day, I referred to it as 9 months of overwhelming emotions – joy, grief, hope, and fear. As I revisited that statement a little while later, I realized that it was based on one very big assumption – a pregnancy would last 9 months. In the world of loss, we know that that’s not always the case and those of us who are able to carry a baby for 9 months are pretty darn lucky.
As a loss mom, how did I make this presumptuous statement without thinking about it, a statement that may feel insensitive or isolating to fellow loss moms?
It makes me think of the way my friends who have not experienced loss speak about pregnancy. They’re able to make definitive statements about the future without a second thought. “I’m not sure if we’ll make it to that wedding next fall because we’ll have a 3 month old.” Those things are very hard for me to hear without inserting a ‘maybe’ or ‘if all goes well’ into their comments. Because these folks haven’t experienced loss, they have this peace of mind, or confidence in the future. Their “gift” makes me feel my own ugly grief feelings at times, but it’s still a really lovely thing for them to have. I certainly don’t want to take it away from them.
I didn’t have an abundance of confidence or peace of mind during my PAL, but I tried to recognize the bits I had. We lost our perfectly healthy son after a routine, full term birth. We don’t know what happened. I’ve also had an early miscarriage, so I know about the sometimes tragic uncertainties of the first trimester as well.
My losses robbed me of peace of mind that a positive pregnancy test will result in a healthy pregnancy, or that a healthy, full term pregnancy will result in a living child.
BUT, I have not experienced pre term labor, or preeclampsia, or HELLP, or a cord accident, or a stillbirth. My heart aches for those moms that have and I see you as fellow travelers on this grueling journey, but my trauma is not your trauma, and at the end of the day my heart believed that I’d carry my baby to term because that’s what I experienced the last time. This, I know, is a huge gift and I tried to take some comfort in it.
I hope that all of us loss moms have a few of these gifts that our losses haven’t completely taken away from us. Yes, we know a lot more about what could go wrong, have experienced our own horror stories, and have a lot more justified anxiety, but deep down, what can you find some confidence in? Maybe you have confidence in being able to conceive, maybe you’ve birthed a living baby before and have confidence in being able to do it again. Maybe you have a really great doctor and have confidence that she’s going to do everything possible to get your baby here safely.