Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Good luck with that?

Pregnant women are one of my biggest triggers.  I discovered this soon after Lydia died, when I was still supposed to be pregnant, before she should have been (still)born.  I thought maybe once I passed my due date, that trigger would switch to babies.

But it didn't.  Don't get me wrong; I still avoid babies.  But pregnant women are worse.

And several people have announced to me that they are pregnant since my daughter died.  I'm sure there are more pregnant friends out there, but avoiding Facebook sure helps me to avoid those pregnancy announcements.

Old Heather would have responded, "Oh yaaay!  Congratulations!  How are you feeling?  When are you due?"

New Heather wants to curl in a ball and cry.  Or punch those people in the face.

The first announcement came from my cousin.  I told her that I was pregnant with Lydia at her post-wedding brunch.  One day after Lydie's due date, she wrote to me and my family to say that she was pregnant.  She did not mention my daughter.  I did not respond, and I never want to.   Let's just say, my response would not go over well with Grandma.   At this point in time, I don't want to see her ever again.  I've even had multiple dreams in which I tell her off. (And I recognize that she may not be deserving of so much anger, but there it is). 

The next was another cousin, from the other side of the family.  One I've always been close with; we were bridesmaids in each other's weddings.  I couldn't help doing the math that soon after she drove the seven hours to attend my daughter's memorial, she herself got pregnant.  She also didn't mention my daughter's name, and she was very flippant about the whole I-always-wanted-three-kids thing.  I can't do flippant about these things anymore.  I thought about a whole lot of nasty things to say to her, and instead I said nothing.  And I continue to say nothing, even though she's reached out a few times since then.  What do you want me to say?  "Congrats on your third; my daughter's dead and it's the most unfair thing in the world"?  I said nothing and I hope that sends it's own message. 

And a side note: now I also feel like I can't attend any gatherings of either side of the family.  (Not to mention the other cousin whose due date was a day after Lydie's and of course gave birth to a living, breathing baby.)  My therapist calls these "secondary losses."  I have a lot of them. 

The next was the owner of Benjamin's daycare, who was the only one at his school who acknowledged our loss to our faces.  She wrote to all the families, announcing that her new addition will be here in September.  Now, I know at least one other family who has had a loss.  And I am willing to bet that other families have experienced miscarriages.  And that others struggle with infertility.   Statistically, they're there, but those struggles are silent.  So way to treat your customers, lady.  Really professional.

It's not just that they're pregnant.  Although I would love to put a temporary (or perhaps, permanent) ban on pregnancy, rationally, I understand just because my baby died, doesn't mean every one else is going to stop having babies.  I can't expect the world to stop reproducing, though I would really appreciate it.

It's their confidence.

It's their belief that if they make it past the first trimester, then their pregnancy will result in a living, breathing baby.

It's their air of invincibility.

And it's even worse that these are people who know our story, and still act like that.

I can't wrap my head around that.  Do you realize that we had no warning signs?  That I had a completely healthy, low-risk, drama-free pregnancy until the moment I found out my daughter was dead?   Do you realize that I never, not once, contemplated that this could happen to me, to my daughter?   Do you realize that she was completely perfect and healthy until her heart stopped beating?

How do they know about Lydie and still act so confident that they will be bringing their babies home from the hospital? Why do they think what happened to me would never happen to them?

It's the anger that makes me unable to respond.  When I saw the the daycare owner, and she said hello, I wanted to tell her I just left a trauma therapy session.  Because, you know, my daughter died suddenly, when I was 34 weeks pregnant.  Instead, I couldn't even look at her.  I ignored her.  Because if I said a word, it wouldn't have been nice and it certainly wouldn't have been "congratulations." 

I can't say congratulations.  I can't.  Do you know how many times I heard congratulations when I was pregnant with Lydia?  Hundreds.  Except not once after she was born, because she was born dead.  No one told me congratulations then.

What I'd like to say is "good luck with that."  Except it sounds totally bitchy.  So I say nothing. I ignore.  And I vow never to speak to them again.  And these women, even when they're not showing, become major triggers for me.

I know there's no easy way to share this news with me.  But if anyone else is pregnant and thinking how to best tell me?  I'd like to cut down on my secondary losses, so let me give you some advice:  Put some thought into your announcement.  Recognize that I don't dislike pregnant women because I'm crazy but because they cause my anxiety to sky-rocket.  Acknowledge my loss. Use my daughter's name.  Tell me you know that the news is hard for me, because it's so very unfair that Lydia is not here with us, where she should be.  Show me that you recognize that pregnancy is risky business.  Tell me that if all goes well until then, this is your due date. Don't act like your pregnancy, at 12 weeks, equates to a living baby. 

And maybe even rethink the whole way you make your announcement to the world?  Maybe recognize that others struggle with infertility and loss, and your announcement could cause them pain?  Think about how other women were due then too, but already miscarried.  Maybe recognize that getting past the first-trimester means your odds of a loss are reduced, but do not make any promises?

I know I made the cutesy announcement myself last June, and I know I sound judgmental now.  But I've learned a whole lot since then.  And I wish that people who knew me and knew Lydie would show me that they've learned too.

7 comments:

  1. Unfortunately, I have learned from you that every moment is precious because life could change in an instant I wish every day you didn't have to experience this lesson first-hand.

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  2. Pregnant women still make me twitchy, but it's gotten easier over the years. At least for the people I like who I know don't take it lightly. The super confident ones still annoy the piss out of me, but the others I can say, "I wish you a healthy pregnancy" and mean it. If they luck out and get a happy outcome I usually say, "congrats on his/her safe arrival."

    But never just "congratulations" - it's too complicated for the simplicity of that word

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  3. I don't think I've said "congratulations" to a pregnant person since Luke, either.

    I hate that we were the subjects of the losing odds. That WE'RE the ones who know these feelings and drown in them. It's so fucking NOT fair.

    In the beginning, I wanted so bad to be one of them, still. To be naive. To have no fucking idea what it means to go through trauma or lose a child.

    Now? I think I've settled into my perspective. I'm...a different person now. I didn't WANT to be this person. But here I am. I have a sensitivity that others have no idea how to possess, and goddammit, I will be there for people in need when so many others won't.

    It's so complicated. I remember saying in my head "good luck with THAT" about 10,000 times to random pregnant people that first year. Again...all I can say is that this bitterness...dwindles. It never gets easy, but it's not so much front and center?

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  4. I struggle with exactly this as well. I avoid people. I can't say congratulations. Like you said you really just want to say "good luck with that" or tell them "thats great but you aren't guaranteed a living baby". Peoples ignorance is what pisses me off now days, I just can't handle it.

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  5. I'm so grateful for this post, and honored you shared your blog with me this week. You are a really good writer, and you convey this so well. Why can't people learn to just acknowledge other people's losses? Why isn't that taught alongside please and thank you: just, I'm so sorry you lost Lydie? I am so sorry and sad Lydie is not in your arms right now. It's not just wrong and awful but it's unjust. It's a huge injustice, and I feel angry and sad just thinking about it. It's also so unjust that when you lost Lydie, this horrific trauma, you deserved to be surrounded by all the support in the world and yet instead you faced so many secondary losses--I like that term for it. We live in a trauma-denying culture. It's like, in order to be happy, some people need to pretend that nothing can go wrong; and in the process, they ignore and abandon they people for whom it went horribly wrong, even when they care about those people. But that's a fragile and bull**** happiness if you ask me. I don't have to be a victim of war or trafficking to know that it exists, and we have to work for a more peaceful world. Why can't that be true on a more intimate level, and people can look you in the face when your daughter was unfairly ripped from you, and say yeah, that's not fair; that I know now how fragile my own gifts are, and it's okay if you feel triggered by my own entry into this precarious fray of childbearing, in fact it makes a lot of sense? I have a friend who suffered two miscarriages in a row, like me, and she knows to be aware of how others feel about pregnancy and babies now that she has her daughter. It's just instinctual when you go through it. If people haven't gone through it themselves, can't they take a minute to consider and find out ways to be sensitive and supportive? Once you know anyone at all whose lost a baby daughter or son i'd assume you'd always approach news about pregnancy with some humility. Especially when you think that only relatively recently in human history would people even have the luxury of being ignorant of how common pregnancy and infant loss are.

    I've written a lot, but it's such a relief to hear you articulate something I feel a lot myself but can't say because it sounds too resentful. Today my husband ran into these neighbors we never liked anyway who went and had a baby exactly when our first pregnancy would have been due. If if have been there if have run away; he just kept it short and focused on our dog instead of their baby. Yes we just favored a dog over a human there. Maybe they've heard through the grapevine about our losses, but I still want to just shout, I'm not asking about your baby because I just spent the last year having miscarriage after miscarriage! I'm not an a****** but I just can't bear to look at you right now! I think for me a deep part of the anger comes not from others' blithe ignorance but from the fact that it's not f***ing fair. Why is their baby in their arms, and I labored and lost months of my life only for emptiness? Twice? Why did I have to lose my blithe ignorance and faith and trust and hope and theirs was rewarded? There's no answer I know, but in the space of that lack of an answer there's so much anger and crushing grief, and at the very least it needs a tip of the hat when others get lucky or believe they'll get lucky when they play this heartwrenching game of trying to grow a family. I don't always know how to tip that hat myself, I admit, but triggers really are about soothing the person triggered anyway, not the one doing the triggering.

    I know our losses aren't the same, I just want to acknowledge that. I cry when I think of how you lost Lydie and I wish you had had all three pounds ten ounces of her and much more to hold for good. I'll always remember her and I'm so grateful you're sharing your story of her. 

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  6. Invincibility of others is so obnoxious. I hate it. It just angers me so freaking much.

    Pregnant women were really hard for me until (at least) after Benjamin was born. At that point, Andrew would've been one, so I did move on to jealousy of toddlers at that point. Horrible jealousy.

    Others simply don't understand and won't ever. People who sent cards, gifts, emailed and called and did all they could to support me went on to have babies (good for them, but I was still jealous) and chose home births and went overdue..... I could go on and on. It makes me very ragey to know that they were certain their baby would live despite all they knew about mine. It feels offensive because it almost insinuates that it was my fault he died. Kinda makes me hate them, even people who were supportive and loving.

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  7. Thank you all for your comments and helping me feel not as alone with these feelings. I struggled to publish this because I know I seem resentful. I don't want to come across that way, but I do want to be honest. And I agree with Brandy. Other women's invincibility makes me feel like they somehow think that what happened to Lydie was my fault. But guess what? It never could have happened to me either, but then it did. I also didn't mean to alienate family members here. I just wish others could think of other people more when sharing such news, and think about the fragility of life and stop taking pregnancy for granted.

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