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.