Monday, March 3, 2008

Disconnect

We had a dinner out for moms in Monkey's class last week. One of the moms, the one right next to who I ended up sitting, is pregnant. 18 weeks or so, I think. Thankfully, only a small part of the dinner conversation was about her pregnancy, but the part that did left me distinctly uncomfortable. She didn't bring it up, I'll give her credit for that. But when asked when she is due she answered "July. With my luck, though, I will be pushed to August." She then went on to say that she had swore that she would never have a baby in late summer, but it really is the ideal timing for the business.

They own a local business, one I patronized before I ever met them. It's really a great business, and something of a lifesaver for me. Another mom chimed in to say something like "I never thought about this, but I guess you do have to plan this with respect to holiday shopping season." And that's exactly it-- the thing I couldn't formulate in my head right on the spot, but the thing that had me studying my silverware rather intently during this conversation. They have a business, and the business has a busy season, and a season for preparing for the busy season. But the funny thing to me is that this is their third kid, and not only does she still think they can schedule this, but they in fact can. Perfectly. Leaving her able to kvetch about how hard it will be for her to be so pregnant in the late summer. Not to mention her concern is not increased likelihood of problems as you go over your due date. Nope-- it's the extra days in the heat.

She is a perfectly nice woman, she is. She just happens to live in this universe I don't ever remember occupying. And when I get glimpses of that universe I can't be sure who is the freak. Are we freaks? We who hold our breaths, individually and collectively, for every pregnant friend, be it online or IRL? Or are they? The unaffected? The ones who have either never been close enough to infertility, to miscarriages, to dead babies, or have been, but are still somehow sure they are not going to be touched by this?

I am not angry, and wasn't then. I am not even jealous, not exactly. But I am sad. I feel something of a loss-- I can't be a part of a conversation like that. I can't offer genuine support on the subject of the inconvenience of a hot pregnant summer, even though I understand intellectually that the choice may feel forced for her. On the flip side, I don't imagine having concerns about a pregnancy of mine that would lend themselves to an easy dinner banter with other moms in the class.

I guess that should answer my freak question. Only it doesn't. I feel that we are the realists, for we know that there is no rhyme or reason, and anyone can be hit, even the happy shiny pregnant women. I also feel, increasingly, that our culture is inappropriately obsessed with pregnant women. The feeling reinforced for me this weekend by the movie Knocked Up, of all things. What can I say? JD wanted to see it, and I heard it was funny, so I agreed.

To give credit where it is due, every time there was something that could've made me uncomfortable, JD asked whether I was ok or should he turn it off. But the plot kept being so over the top weird that nothing actually bothered me. Until the crying baby entered the picture. Living baby being born, suctioned, and crying. That being the end of the movie though, it was ok.

Back to the cultural obsession. The lead female character is an on-camera host at E! and so gets to interview stars. At the time when she is distinctly uncomfortable with the whole pregnancy thing, all the stars want to talk about is her belly, how big she looks, etc. etc. etc. She reacts to it in understandably uncomfortable ways. The movie's point about this, I think, was that her personal issues were preventing her from engaging in this happy talk that she somehow owed these people, that people had a right to expect of her, and, by extension, any pregnant woman. In stark contrast, my take away was that her personal circumstances were preventing her from engaging in this happy talk that has somehow become mandatory but really shouldn't be. People were invading her space on the one subject that, because of things going on in her life at the time, made her feel vulnerable, made her feel like it was the last thing she wanted to discuss. And yet they felt entitled.

I know that some infertiles, after years of being ignored and invisible, relish this part-- the part where strangers talk to them, and smile, and wish them well, the part where they find instant comradeship with other pregnant women and with mothers of small children. I am worried about that part. Dread it, actually.* The girl from the movie and I clearly couldn't be farther from one another in terms of reasons why public displays of interest make us uncomfortable. And she is a movie character, for crying out loud. I am just saying I get it. Which probably seals the freak indictment, firmly.


*This, I realize, can sound like one of those complaints that I should be swatted for. Except that I had this particular dread before I ever got pregnant this time. An overactive imagination, perhaps?

63 comments:

Wabi said...

Wow, you didn't want to stick a fork in that lady's belly even just a little bit during lunch? Even if she is perfectly nice, I would have envied the hell out of her charmed life!

serenity said...

Well, if this makes you a freak... then you're not alone, at least.

And I wholly agree with you that the media, and pop culture in general, is obsessed with pregnancy.

I can't quite figure out why.

The Oneliner (Christina) said...

i am sorry that all you wnet through/are going through has also stolen a sense of peace and light conversation from you.
xoxo

Ashleigh said...

Sometimes I feel like a whole different species. Everyone around me gets excited about this pregnancy/baby and I keep thinking "there are no guarantees."

In a way, I wish our culture were more open about the things that can go wrong in pregnancy, maybe then it would have been less shocking when it happened to me. But then again, I probably wouldn't have listened...

Amelie said...

I don't like being asked about details I might not be willing to share, so I don't ask others that are/might be pregnant unless I feel I know them well enough, or they bring it up. Unfortunately some [not necessarily the woman herself] see this as a lack of interest, politeness etc...

dawn said...

thank you for this. I found this post through Julie over at "a little bit pregnant." It is very well said. It helps to know that I am not alone in my feelings of isolation and difference. I too often feel like the freak. I am a mother through adoption (infertile but still hoping) and am part of a moms group where everyone else is a "normal" mom. I often cannot participate in the conversations and sit on the outside. It hurts but is a reality. Thank you so much for writing about those feelings so honestly.

Aurelia said...

It's hard doing this isn't it?

I've sometimes ended up nodding my head and faking this stuff just because I have no idea what else to say and I don't want to bring up my crazy story beyond a murmured "Well, it wasn't easy getting here, and we're high risk, but so far so good." I figure people will either inquire politely or shut up about their own easy circumstances.

I worry a lot internally and in blogland, and I guess I hope that can be enough of an outlet that I can stand listening to stuff like this.

c. said...

I guess it does make me a freak in my normal life. This, of course, is why I bury my head here, in deadbabyland, where being "freakish" is simply a way of life. It's not dissimilar to the I see dead people admission in Six.th Se.nse. I see dead babies...mine, yours, too many, really, to feign excitement or enthusiasm at all.

Magpie said...

We're all freaks. I'm never having another baby, but pregnant women freak me out. And when my SIL had a miscarriage last week, all I could think was "welcome to the club". (And, how sad it was and all that...)

And it still gives me a twinge to think that my younger sister had two children before I had my first (and only) and went on to have an "accident" after that.

Freaks.

Space Mom said...

I think that those who have never experienced the loss or m/c or even troubles conceiving are the freaks.

They don't have the insight to see a couple without a child and not to ask "When are you having a baby?"

They don't know how to approach a gestating woman with caution and to not assume everthing is hunky-dory.

Sending you some warm, nonfreaky thoughts

Lori said...

Well, at least you know you are in good, albeit "freakish", company. :)

Three living children and I still have difficulty with "normal" pregnancy talk. And, as you said, most often it is the assumptions of perfection that get to me the most. I don't want things to not go perfectly for other people, I just want them to acknowledge that the possibility of imperfection exists. Or, maybe that isn't right. Perhaps it isn't fair for me to tread on other people's positive hopes and dreams. Maybe they have secret fears they just don't want to give voice to? I don't know. I just know that I squirm just a little when people talk easily about timing pregnancies and planning for the next child when they are still holding a tiny one in their arms.

Kelly said...

You certainly hit that nail on the head. Wow. I get so tired of being the freak. People who look at me funny - even those who know what I've been through - when I express my concerns for their health and their pregnancy. They brush me off or think I'm getting to emotional. It's so very tiring *knowing* and not having anyone else (around) understand.

thrice said...

I don't think that being jaded or knowing makes us freaks. But what I do think is that when one of those Pollyannas gets a jolt of reality, that there whole world will come tumbling down. Their foundation is make of cardboard.

Cynthia & J-L said...

And now here I am sitting, crying at work. I come from a family of 4. Not one of those 4 had only "shiny happy pregnancies". And I currently sit here with a baby inside of me who has a tumor on his back. I'm not saying I haven't bought some delightful baby gifts for those people who have meandered through "shiny happy pregnancies" but I'm ALSO not saying that I haven't wept a little when I have overheard people whining about some of the minor inconveniencies of pregnancy.

Anne said...

I was directed to your site by way of Julie...

Just wanted to say that I really appreciate this post. Thank you for writing it.

Although I don't know what it's like to experience infertility, I do know what it's like to survive extraordinary parenting experiences so I feel I can relate to what you've written here in a very big way.

My oldest child was diagnosed with Down syndrome and a severe congenital heart defect prenatally. He was born nearly term, but we spent over a month in the NICU before we were transfered to another children's hospital for heart surgery. The heart surgery was difficult, my son nearly died, his recovery was complicated. When we finally took him home he was on O2 and many maintenance medications.

When he was about 18 months old, when I was pregnant with twins, my son was diagnosed with leukemia. I spent the the remainder of my second pregnancy in the hospital with my firstborn, battling cancer.

My second pregnancy with the twins was never normal because it was a multiple pregnancy which lent itself to a lot of monitoring, and also because I didn't know how to be happy about the new babies I was carrying when I was so worried about my oldest baby.

Everything worked out, eventually, and we are all thankfully well and whole now. But it was an extremely difficult time that changed my perspective on life in so many ways, even more than it had already been changed when my oldest son was born.

I have a very, very hard time talking to typical moms who complain about typical things. I'm learning how to navigate our conversations, but I know I still stick out like a sore thumb.

But I do like my perspective. It was hard-earned, for sure, but I like where I am right now.

Again, thanks so much for writing this.

Anonymous said...

You said it pefectly.

I'm wishing you well.

LEB (athousandmiles.blogsome.com)

Coggy said...

But the funny thing to me is that this is their third kid, and not only does she still think they can schedule this, but they in fact can.

That's what upsets me. All these people that make their plans and I just know that everything will be fine for them. That thought never gets any easier.

Anonymous said...

fxaueWe don't walk around talking about how the plane we flying in could crash while going to our favorite vacation spot, we don't talk to newly engaged couples about the likelyhood there marriage will end in divorce and we don't talk about how our little girls could grow up to be tramps but these are all realities and we don't go around talking about them. Why would we then talk about "bad" things happening to babies and mommies over dinner?

Snickollet said...

Eloquent, as always, and spot-on.

It's always surprising to me to encounter pregnant people who seem oblivious to the fact that a "normal" pregnancy is a miracle and that you never know what the person you are talking to has been through. People who have never thought about the fact that many people *can't* schedule their pregnancy. I forget that there is a whole world out there filled with people who know nothing of IVF or the pain of the loss of a baby, so when I encounter them--even virtually--it's a shock to the system.

Hey, friend, you're quite the celeb, being linked to by Julie and all. Woo-hoo!

Foster said...

I think it all has to do with the fact that we all carry different baggage. For you, because you have experienced child loss, this topic became v noticable and sensitive for you. For someone who has never experienced this, there is no real frame of reference. I do worry off and on about the health/safety of my pregnancy, but being someone who planned the timing and easily conceived, it is just not realistic for worry about it to be my state of mind. I, however, have other things to worry about, such as the health of my husband. My father died from cancer at an early age. No one expected it. Because of this, I do not take things such as parental or spousal health for granted. Experiencing this loss has changed my frame of reference. Do you have any idea how many movies and books feature parental death? Just the other night, some friends and I were watching "No Reservations" (horrible movie, btw) and, at the end, I said I couldve done w/out the dead parent thing, but, otherwise, movie was "meh". Well, a friend made a flip comment about plot advancement and I just replied, "Well, it's a sensitive topic for me." And I wanted her to feel bad for being so flip about it. I dont know. Theres always something to envy and always something to be thankful that you avoided.

I do think it's a shame that there isnt more social support for things like infertility, adoption, foster parenting, donation, etc, but, honestly, I barely knew anything about infertility until I started reading infertility blogs. So please keep saying what you have to say b/c infertiles are not the only ones reading and learning how to navigate these strange and terrible waters.

CLC said...

I am sorry you had to sit through that lunch. I know that I am hyper-sensitive regarding anything pregnancy related now, so the freakiness is totally on me. I am mostly just sad though that I won't experience that shiny happy pregnancy experience, should I ever get pregnant again. I will be an anxious nervous freak, who will probably scream at people if they even ask me about the baby.

Anonymous said...

Neither you nor the woman you speak of is a "freak". You inhabit the same universe, you have just travelled different paths to get to where you are now.

At the edge of the cliff where she is standing now, she sees the magnificent view out over the ocean, but you stand along side her and you see the sheer drop down on to the jagged rocks below and know how it feels to fall.

I don't know how it feels to fall, but I am aware of the sheer drop, mainly due to people like you who write about it.

Thank you.

Kate

Beruriah said...

I get it. I miss the two weeks I felt like a normal non-freakish pregnant woman.

Much love to you.

andrea said...

Yes, I am a freak too. It is hard just for me to see pregnant people walking! Walking around - what a novelty. I had the trifecta of infertility, horrendous pregnancy, premature birth. So when my sister talks about timing the ages between her children or how she planned to have two... I just have to grit my teeth. I felt so alone and isolated because of everything... The only silver lining is that I truly don't take what we have for granted, and we appreciate everything we have. I think these feelings leave a mark on us all - but it does make us give new understanding of life.

Julia said...

Thank you, all.
A hearty welcome to all the new commenters. I am so so sorry for all the pain in each of your lives, and so glad for all the hard-won good things. As Foster said, we all have our individual baggage. But what I like to think is that as we learn to live with our individual pain we also learn to be mindful of and sensitive to someone else's.
Which is exactly why the anon at 3:21pm is sort of amusing to me. I wonder how often we would be talking about plane crashes if one in one hundred people who got on one of those didn't make if off alive on the other end. I wonder how often we would be talking about it if at least six out of every 100 people coming to the airport with their tickets couldn't get on the plane? But beyond that, the point wasn't that we should sit around talking about dead babies at a class mom dinner out. The point was that having seen exactly how badly things can go at every turn, I, personally, am not generous enough to sympathize with concerns that don't even begin to register on my radar. Conversely, I am somewhat befuddled that for so many people this seems to be the actual level of their pregnancy-related concerns.

Anonymous said...

A heartfelt thank you for having this site and to all for those who commented and allow us a special little window into their deepest of hearts. I really enjoyed reading the comments about 'normal pregnancy experiences' and some people having no idea what others have gone through or are currently going through. I am very blessed to have given birth to a beautiful & thriving son, the labor was as far from 'normal' as you could get but an emergency c-section was all we needed to find safe ground for my son. I wish it had been that easy for me, the following day I was diagnosed with a raging bacterial infection antibiotic-resistant and after having surgery one day after my son was born the doctor told my husband and family "we'll see, not sure if she will make it" Talk about a buzzkill to new parenthood for my husband.

As you can see by my writing this I did indeed make it to the other side but not without a lot of touch & go and painful few months of physical recovery (emotionally/mentally I am nowhere near recovered but who really is)...my long and meandering point is that it is so sad that we do not talk about this type of stuff at dinner parties or in response to the person at the drugstore who asked "how's your day" because it is not socially acceptable...but my experience sure as hell made me so much more aware that I have ZERO idea what anyone is going through on a given day and so I try to be as open and loving and supportive as I can, and spread the word that 'normal' in terms of pregnancy and childbirth is all relative ;-)

kalakly said...

I don't have much new to add tha hasn't been said by the masses here. I did want to add my two cents to the ridiculous comment by, of course, "anon" @ 3:21. Obviously, you/anon have no idea why we are all here writing, obviously you are one of the reasons we are here writing because you will never understand the life struggles of the women who write here and walk by you in the your "world" everyday. This blog and the many readers who support this mother who is brave enough to write it, is here for her, for others like her who have lost a child and are learning to live without that child. You/anon 3:21, have no business here and your completely insensitive and thoughtless comment show exactly the kind of empty headed individual you are. You would be well served to abide the adage, "if you don't have anything nice to say..."
Sorry Julia, I hope you don't mind that I wrote that in your space. I just hate clueless people, especially now.

kate said...

You know i totally understand and agree with you! And what is UP with the current pop culture obsession with pg? Enough already with all these pg actresses that parade their bellies....you would think noone was ever pregnant before!

Also wanted to say -- it was before you started reading my blog, but in summer of 2006 i wrote a post bellyaching about a woman in our department who had (presumably) put off childbearing until she got tenure -- because she got tenure, and then the baby appeared, perfectly timed and healthy, the next summer. Because, you see, i wanted another live baby, and i wanted tenure, but what's the likelihood of me getting both, and perfectly timed, too?

Well, good luck does happen sometimes, even to us freaks...that's all i wanted to say. Though we are not yet 100% sure on the tenure thing, so i shouldn't say anything about that...

Zookeeper said...

I had my oldest daughter when I was young and na├»ve. We weren’t even trying to get pregnant so I thought I could have as many kids as I wanted whenever I wanted. Just like the lady you mentioned, I talked about things like the perfect spacing between kids and timing things just right. However, when trying for four years didn’t result in a pregnancy, we discovered that we are not in charge of that timing. I felt like a fool for ever discussing these things with other people. I have often wondered if infertility was my punishment for thinking I was ever in control. We decided to add to our family through adoption…three times. Ten years and four kids later, our family finally felt complete, and we even started to feel like we had a little bit of control over that. But then we found out I was pregnant and the idea of being in charge was once again shattered. So the idea that anyone can PLAN a pregnancy is so incredibly foreign to me. I must be a freak as well.

charmedgirl said...

i had about four years of infertility before getting pregnant...and i HATED the small talk about being pregnant. besides the IF and IVF, though, i really was a freak so i guess that figured into it. but still. it was stupid.

now? with a dead baby? if i possibly maybe manage to get pregnant again, i dread the day that my belly shows...i don't want anyone to know. i don't want to talk about it.

and you know, the only reason i'm not that angry at the "planning" crap they all talk about is that i feel like i can plan it too, except with a crapload of needles and hormones and ultrasounds and whatever...(IF it possibly maybe works again)....

Anonymous said...

I did not have trouble conceiving, but I did get blindsided by my daughter having major medical issues at birth. I get a panicky-anxious feeling when I see pregnant women or talk to men whose partners are expecting. It is very difficult when they want to sympathize with typical new parent craziness.

The worst was when I told the daycare provider that we selected when I was still pregnant about what happened to my daughter. She is still on a feeding tube, so I asked the daycare director if there was a chance they could still take her. The woman nearly cried and I had to comfort her. Argh.

In any case, I may not have had the same experiences as other people here, but I do understand the fear. I am also trying to overcome it and find a way to navigate conversations with other parents.

Alice said...

Very well said. I couldn't agree more.

--With you in the trenches,

Ali

wannabe mom said...

the few times i've been out and around friends and family, now showing, i heard that nauseating c word. my husband always says "we're being cautious" which helps to temper people's ridiculous joy. i certainly feel like a freak, and have thus far been fortunate enough to not be in the same breathing space as another pg woman, who is as innocent and naive as i once was and will never be again.

and i might bite my tongue, i might not, should any petty complaints come up. i got your petty, right here.

Piece of Work said...

Here from a little pregnant, and this is such a welcome post. I am currently 14 wks into my 7th pregnancy which will hopefully end in my 3rd child and we have just started telling a very few people. Everyone says "congratulations, that's so exciting!" and all I can think is, "no, it's not exciting yet, I can't even think past today yet, much less to the part where this pregnancy ends in an actual live baby." ANd it makes me feel terrible,for not being able to be excited.

screamofcontinuousness said...

for me the most annoying thing is dealing with the skippy happy accidentally pregnant co-worker who complains about every ounce she gains. and won't drink water, and wont teat right and..........

found you from Julie.

Julia said...

I bet, had the subject of loss somehow come up, that there would have been other "freak" flag bearers there who were just as intent on studying their silverware. But, as you said, in our culture one topic is acceptable dinner conversation - the other... not so much.

But the dichotomy does make it so strange: Why can't we talk about loss that is more common than people realize, and yet, it's somehow okay for the checkout lady at the grocery store to scan my pregnancy test, raise her eyebrows, and ask "So... is this a good thing?" Really, what kind of a response is she expecting? And how in God's sweet name is it her business?

Great post.

Anonymous said...

Wow -- this ranks right there with Julie's post about crying through a childbirth class in terms of resonating with me.

I'm in my 20s, so I have about 3 million friends in various stages of pregnancy. Every one of them has announced her pregnancy to me the day after peeing on the stick. Every one of them is sailing along, well into the supposed "safety zone." Some of them put their unborn babies' names on their Christmas cards. Some of them tell me how they're trying to plan it just right. Some of them call me crying with disappointment because they're having a girl and they wanted a boy or vice versa.

And I feel so weird, so different, and like SUCH A BAD PERSON for holding my breath until they're holding their babies. For secretly thinking, "Things don't always work out the way you plan." For wanting to tell them that I think their disappointment is an insult to the miracle of a healthy baby growing inside of them. I don't WANT anything bad to happen; I just feel so aware that it CAN!

This is why, as a PP said, I love blogworld.

Wishing you strength, Julia, and the knowledge that you're at least in good (albeit sad) company.

--Eve

Tash said...

As you know, I similarly had a run-in with someone who "planned" her third child, apparently to the month. And of course it will work! Why wouldn't it? Isn't this how the body works?

I prefer to live in the bubble of my friends in the computer and think that WE are the standard, WE are the normal, and people who have happy glowy pregnancies and planned children around holidays are freaks of nature that I should avoid at all costs.

Anonymous said...

I know how you feel. To make a long story short, my family does not have happy, shiny pregnancies. My mother and sister both have lost babies. Of course, this fact has clouded my view of pregnancy. I used fertility drugs to conceive my first, and with both pregnancies I was monitored for low amniotic fluid. I had to deliver my son by an emergency c-section a month early, because the fluid had gotten so low. A friend of mine, a very happy, shiny preggo, actually said to me, "you're lucky. You didn't even have to be pregnant for nine months. It's not fair." I must say that I really don't talk to her much anymore...

Anonymous said...

"Perhaps it isn't fair for me to tread on other people's positive hopes and dreams. Maybe they have secret fears they just don't want to give voice to?"

This is my belief.

And I agree heartily with foster's post.

There is no loss greater or less than another. And people do hide their pain and worries quite well. One of the most giddy pregnant women I've ever met was someone who had lost pregnancies in the past.

I think that when people talk about wanting to tell people all that can go wrong - whether it's with pregnancy or health or whatever - that they are really talking to themselves. We'd like to think that by protecting our hearts, by warning others of all the bad that can happen, that if it happened again, we wouldn't hurt as badly. That's we'd be prepared. But, I can tell you from experience, it doesn't work that way. No matter how much you steel yourself for hurt and pain, no matter how numb you think you become, the suffering is still as intense. That anyone says, "I didn't think it could happen to me" actually is the the beacon light of hope in my life. Life does go on. There is real happiness. No one has a charmed life, and to still be able to in some area say, "I believe it can be good and believing that isn't going to make the hurt any more or less...the good is still good and I deserve some happiness in spite of my own personal sufferings" is just beautiful.

Lydia said...

"Wow, you didn't want to stick a fork in that lady's belly even just a little bit during lunch?"

Wow. That is unspeakably cruel to say even in jest.

Julia said...

Julia, I wonder what the cashier would have said had you answered "it's for my 14 year old sister, but we are all SO EXCITED for her!" But you know I agree about the topics for polite conversation. A counselor I saw a couple of times last year asked whether I thought the information shouldn't be given to all the shiny happy newly pregnant women, and my answer was sure, but it shouldn't be my job, it should be their doctors'. I shouldn't be the one they see as a buzzkill.

Everybody, thank you so much for sharing your stories here. None of it is fair, and I am so very sorry about each of the things in your lives that makes this post resonate. There are so many ways to hurt and so many ways people can be insensitive. As I said before, my hope is only that our own pain can attune us better to everyone else's.

Anon at 10:31pm, I do not exactly disagree. In fact I will probably write somewhat soonish about some of the events in my pregnancy with A that influenced how I am (cautiously) beginning to let myself feel these days. And as a general rule I do not ever judge how others from the IF or loss community choose to deal with their subsequent pregnancies. I honestly believe that everyone does what they have to do to get to the other side, and it's all good with me. The part that stuck with me about that conversation was the utter foreignness of it to me. I honestly can't imagine anyone from our little corner of the world talking about planned pg timing, whining about the heat three months before it even arrives, or worrying about going over the due date for reasons other than how it increases the odds of averse outcomes.

Lydia, perhaps you have never had an unkind thought in your life. That would make you a much better person than I would ever claim to be. I am pretty sure, though, that any number of shrinks you ask will tell you that wanting the world to acknowledge your pain and even wishing some level of pain on apparently clueless passers by is a very normal part of grieving. Not to mention that dark humor is sort of how many of us get through the days and nights. Would it have worked better for you had Wabi asked me whether I didn't want to accidentally on purpose drop something heavy on the lady's foot?

Anonymous said...

I'm afraid this may come out wrong, but here goes...I understand that this conversation -- where the timing of a pregnancy is worthy of griping -- would seem foreign (and/or offensive & infuriating) to those whose experiences have been so radically different.

But at the same time, I can't understand wanting pregnant women or their partners or anyone who talks to a pregnant person to always add "disclaimers" to their conversations or acknowledge how things can go wrong or how things could be worse (such as, "everything is going fine but I know it could turn bad at any moment"....or "the timing of this pregnancy is bad for me, but I know that I should just be thankful to be pregnant because things could be much worse", etc).

It just seems to me that would be sad. I didn't have trouble conceiving & my children were born healthy. Or so we thought. Close to his first birthday, my son almost died from a previously undiagnosed birth defect. It was a horrible, horrible time and it has completely changed the way I look at children. Sometimes I stare at my kids and panic as I wonder what ticking time bomb might exist in their bodies that we know nothing about...I see healthy newborns and wonder, but are they really healthy? Those thoughts are awful and I struggle to keep them at bay.

How horrible and insensitive would it be if I voiced these thoughts out loud to new parents with healthy children. It would serve no purpose except to make them worry. And, when the conversation inevitably turns to how worried they are about their kids' diaper rash or ear infection or cradle cap, I tell them what worked when my kids had those issues. And I bite my tongue and don't say "Hey, that's nothing. Just be thankful they don't have X, Y, or Z"....

I think that most people know (intellectually) about the bad things that can happen in life and in pregnancy. They just haven't been there and so those fears and emotions are just easier to put aside....and, really, isn't that a good thing? I know its something I (in my own freak way) envy....

Anyway, sorry for such a long rambling comment....I hope it kinda makes sense!

Julia said...

You know, I have to disagree. For two reasons. One, I strongly believe that sensitivity is a learned skill and that with 12.5% of the US population infertile it is a pretty safe bet that if she talks about this somewhat often, which she probably does as she is likely asked about her due date frequently, she has set a few teeth on edge.

Two, there are things that pregnant women should know because those things save lives. Kick counting saves lives. Making sure to have Non-stress tests and bio-physical profiles as you approach and go over your due date saves lives. I don't want to be seen as someone trying to make them miserable because I am, so I don't butt into conversations to bring these things up, but these are the things doctors should be telling patients. These are things that should be part of main-stream knowledge and dialog, but they aren't.

And yet, even these things are not what I was talking about in the post. Feeling outside of the scope of respectable dinner conversation is, I think, an allowed emotion. As is worrying about the kind of response my honest answers to happy shiny questions are likely to elicit one day.

Anonymous said...

Hi Julia,

I'm not sure if your most recent reply was in response to my anonymous post (the one just above it). Anyway, if it was, I guess I didn't explain myself clearly enough.

I agree with all the things you just said...I agree that sensitivity is a learned skill and that people often say things that come across as insensitive to others...

I also agree that pregnant woman should be told about things that save lives and what they can to to increase their chances of having healthy pregnancies & babies. No where in my post did I mean to imply we should all just hope for the best and forgo medical care/advice/help.

I also didn't mean to imply your feelings weren't valid or allowed or that you aren't "allowed" to say what you are thinking/feeling...

I guess I think that just because people don't always voice their deepest fears or worries, doesn't mean they don't have them.

Anyway, bowing out now...

ms. G said...

Wow, you got a lot of comments on this. I have so much to say about this post, Julia. First of all, the timing. In early December, a friend informed me her and her hubby would be trying to concieve after the new years. Guess what? Just found out she is 8wks along. Yeah, I still can't believe people can plan a baby like that and it just happens!

As for the are we the freaks or they? I think that is a wonderful way to put it. I often FEEL like the freak, but like you, I tend to believe I'm realistic. I struggle with what you mentioned feeling at your dinner. I have nothing to add or say to conversations like that. And, nobody, (except other dead baby moms) would feel comfortable if I said, "If" the baby comes.... I've learned to pretty much shut up and smile.

And yes, we are obsessed with pregnancy. I am terribly uncomfortable with this especially since I associate pregnancy with at least the possibility of death. (is my freakness showing?) :)

red pen mama said...

Julia, I thought a lot about this post since I came over from Julie at A Little Pregnant. A friend of mine just had a baby. I am like you (I even call my older daugher Monkey), and I have had a lot of these feelings. I linked to you here http://albamaria30.wordpress.com/2008/03/07/welcome/ in case you wanted to read more.

Thanks for this post. It was very thoughtful.

ciao,
rpm

Anonymous said...

I had a 15 week miscarriage at 23. At 25, I lost a baby at 24 weeks. At 27, I had two more miscarriages - one at 8 and another at 10 weeks.
When I became pregnant at 30, of course I was dubious. But I delivered the healthy (or so I thought) baby I had been dreaming of at 36 weeks. When he was three months old, he became very ill and was subsequently diagnosed with Hemaphagocytic Lymphohistiocytosis - an extremely rare, genetic blood disorder that required chemo and an eventual bone marrow transplant at 6 months of age.
When my sister in law told us she was pregnant, I cried for a week. My own sister has five children, and only has custody of two.
I totally get how you feel. I do. But the fact of the matter is that most people just don't, and let's all hope for them that they never have to. It would be nice for them to conveniently understand our positions, but do we REALLY want them to? Because there's only one way they can, and that's to go through it themselves.
And none of us wants that for anybody else. Let them be happy until they just can't - I sure wish I'd have been able to do that even ONCE.

Trish said...

I don't think you're a freak. At least not anymore than everyone is a freak.
As for dreading talking about your pregnancy- I get it.
After 2 1/2 years of IF and 2 miscarriages, I'm now 14w pregnant and I can't talk about the pregnancy at all w/o trying to somehow calm everyone down and adding inappropriate info about how "I've had 2 losses.. I'm still pretty nervous." It's my own little way of telling everyone not to get their hopes up. It's bizarre. I appreciate everyone's well wishes, but mostly I'm just uncomfortable when the subject comes up. I keep trying to fake it, and be pleasant, but when someone gets really excited, I get REALLY anxious.

Anonymous said...

I found your post heartbreaking and poignant, and I can't imagine what you have been through.

But I'm one of those "shiny happy women" you mention in your post, which I suppose makes me sort of a pariah here.

You're entitled to your opinion on pregnant woman. I do not want to minimize the obviously painful experiences you have had, but you are not being entirely fair.

You paint a picture of women with healthy pregnancies walking through the world unscathed and happy--as if we take for granted that our pregnancies are healthy. You make us sound selfish and self involved over something that nature has determined for us--something we have no control over.

Unfair, I say. There are women with healthy pregnancies out there who send up thanks every moment, who understand the fragility of their situations, who are grateful for the experience they are having, sensitive to the emotional needs of those around them, who don't go a day without thinking about the many women out there who have lost a pregnancy, or a baby, because they know that every situation is so fragile, and can change in a moment.

So stumbling upon your blog made me sad. It seems that as women, we're always finding ways to separate ourselves from one another, to point fingers, to snicker, to snark, and to cat fight. But what we should be doing is coming together to support one another.

But your post and your comments section presents yet another example of women bashing other women: One of your readers thinks that wanting to stick a fork in the belly of a pregnant woman is funny. Another thinks that women with healthy pregnancies are freaks.

What's happening to us? Why are we allowing our experiences to divide us, rather than unite us?

Beruriah said...

Anonymous 7:48am: Leave Wabi alone already. Dark humor is healthy in grief. Obviously she doesn't bloody want to stick a fork in a pregnant woman. Nor would she really think it's funny. Wabi is an intelligent woman - not a petulant child. And I'm getting a bit tired of the comments here choosing her as a straw woman, in order to get across the underlying message: Yes, you women really are the freaks.

No one is bashing other women here except for the commenters who think it necessary to school us on appropriate feelings and behaviors. Reducing the feelings here to an example of "women bashing women," dreadfully misses the point. And it's an empty cultural trope of which I'm getting rather tired anyway.

Julia never said or implied that the woman wasn't entitled to her feelings - JUST that she couldn't relate to them.

I don't agree that she wasn't, but why should Julia be fair? We walk around every day with the constant reminder of how unfair the world can be, why can't we have this one place to lament that?

Granted I did not have a normal shiny happy pregnancy with my living child Samuel. But if you want an example of how wonderfully supportive and united the women here can be, and how they can be happy for other women even in the midst of their own pain, travel on over to the archives of my blog and you'll find an amazing lesson on how to be compassionate, united and supportive. Without the grandstanding.

Anonymous said...

You know, there are *so* many things things that can go wrong during a pregnancy. This is an obvious fact of life. However, I don't think that it's completely unreasonable for people, in general, to be happy when they see a pregnant woman. Babies are a sign of hope for the future. When people have babies that means that they (in many cases, but not all, admittedly) feel good enough and optimistic enough that they are able to procreate and ... Yes, we have all had painful experiences around infertility and miscarriage. I don't wish that sort of pain on anyone. Just saying that "there are no guarantees" is like telling someone who is expecting that "you just never know - your baby might be born dead ... THEN what will you do? huh? huh? huh?" How uncomfortable would *that* conversation be? At least the "insensitive" people on the street who are obsessed with pregnant women have the idea that they can actually talk about what's going through their minds. There's no way you could ever get away with saying anything you mentioned in this blog to a pregnant woman, or most people, "in general". I have gone through infertility and feeling hopeless and isolated. It sucks, big time. But I don't really think the solution is to wish dead babies on every pregnant woman I see. That spreads the misery even further, and makes me feel even more depressed.

Julia said...

Anon at 5:59pm, you are kidding, right? Where on this blog did I say that I wish dead babies on anyone? That, btw, is a pretty offensive thing to say to a deadbaby mother. Where did I say that I even so much as talk to pregnant women? Let alone tell them that there are no guarantees? I specifically said that I don't feel comfortable talking to pregnant women, that I didn't pipe up during that dinner conversation, for example, and that the things that can save babies' lives should be told to pregnant women by their doctors.

The reason I don't like talking to random strangers who "have the idea that they can talk about things going through their heads" about my dead baby story is not because I am ashamed of it or of my son but exactly because most people don't have the humanity to react to a truthful answer with grace and dignity. Terrible things happen, and if you ask a personal question of a stranger you should be prepared to react with humanity to any answer you get. Expecting only happy shiny answers and only being able to deal with the same, is, in my very humble opinion (NOT), a sign of stunted emotional growth. I don't mind the questions. I do, very much, mind inhumane reactions. And I won't change my truth to save the tender feelings of people who can't deal with the world as it is. But I do not walk around wearing my truth as a banner, and I don't stick it into people's faces, least of all pregnant women. Those who ask, though, well, they asked.

kate said...

Anon at 5:59pm: your comment makes me livid, or ill, or rather...both livid *and* ill. I am not sure where you picked up the notions you are ascribing to here...However this is Julia's space, not mine, and as such i am not about to disgrace it by getting into a flame war with an anonymous commenter. Instead, i invite you to email me privately at kate_baloh(at) yahoo(dot)com and we can discuss further.

Gretchen said...

Thank you for posting this. In my circle, I don't know anyone else personally who has gone through anything like this. I've had one miscarriage, but it shattered me. I had refused to consider that anything could go wrong, I was more worried that I had that mental illness where you think yourself pregnant. The happiest day of my pregnancy was my first exam, where she felt my uterus and said "You feel about ten weeks." The saddest day of my life was ten minutes later when there was no baby on the ultrasound.

After the shock, before I even acknowledged my baby was gone, I grieved that I would never again have a happy shiny pregnancy.

Anyway, I too am amazed that anyone thinks they can plan pregnancy, and thank you for letting me know that if I am a freak, at least I have company.

Jessamyn said...

I just wanted to say that your post was moving, and sad. And thank you for writing it. My first pregnancy was shiny and happy, and looking back, I was pretty shiny and happy, too - but at the time, I remember being grateful *every day* for being pregnant, for not having anything bad happen. Years after that, I spent 15 months trying to get pregnant, only to finally get pregnant, see the heartbeat, and then 4 weeks later go back to find that the fetus had died. And then a few months later, last September, I was pregnant again. And now I have a hard time even finding myself able to be grateful on any kind of regular basis even for this pregnancy - because even though I *am* grateful to be pregnant, and even though I'm now over 6 months along, I know that there is still so much that can go wrong, and somehow I have this feeling that if I get too excited it will seem like I've forgotten that I'm not out of the woods yet. What's hardest and saddest for my life overall is that I am very aware, now, that you're never out of the woods when it comes to anything. Life is not fair, and things don't always make sense. And good GOD, there's so much pain and hurting out there. Thank you for sharing yours, and the ways it makes you feel. That may be the only good thing that ever comes of this type of pain - sometimes, you get love, bonding, friendship, or a community out of it.

Anonymous said...

It's been eight years since my last loss, and I've learned how to cope with the regular "baby" talk, whether pre or post birth. So I could be one of those women commiserating about hot pregnancies, I do hate heat; yet we had seven early miscarriages and a blighted ovum. In my experience, each loss was a greater sorrow than the previous one, each time hit the nail on the coffin of our hopes just that bit harder; and yet each time I hoped, even when I really didn't want to, expecting the grief, trying to minimize it by minimizing hope. It doesn't work. Progesterone supplementation eventually helped me maintain pregnancies, when they got the dose right; but it was so hard and even now, when my eldest is almost ten, I tear up at the fragility of life and worry.

We look normal now; I have had three live births and all three still live; though it was touch and go for a couple months with my daughter, born with a congenital heart defect. I am grateful on a daily basis for her being born in a time when heart surgery works, and that her pediatrician caught it early enough for her to do as well as possible. I also still remember constantly examining her hands, and the relief that flowed through me when they finally chubbed up like a normal baby's hands instead of being so bony that they looked like an adult's hands. It took six months. And I know we are so lucky. She lives, she's healthy; and there were so many babies we saw who weren't ever going to be.

So we look like a normal, fertile family; but we've experienced our own griefs. Others who also look shiny and happy from the outside may also have their own sorrows.

I also swallow my worries about pregnancies when someone else announces their new condition. I worry, but I try not to let them see it. I think stress and worry in their mothers is bad for babies during gestation, and that as long as the mothers are going to their prenatal visits, it's the doctor's job to do the worrying and the monitoring. So I reassure, and give advice on the minor inconvienences and how to make them better. It's a social ritual and connection, it's healthy for the mothers and for society. I can see and understand it. I still remember my first pregnancy and how shiny/happy we were those few weeks. If they lose the baby, if something bad does happen; then it's time for me to step up and begin another type of social connection to help them through their new landscape of grief--to impart the little wisdom I've earned and mostly to let them know they aren't alone.

Antigone said...

Recurrent miscarriage, unexplained stillbirth, and neonate death are under researched areas in medicine. There isn't enough data, studies, and papers to provide us answers. There just isn't much interest in the medical community to pursue it. Maybe a little more awareness by the general population could improve the chances that more research could be funded and initiated. Maybe.

Li Li said...

So, yet again--the "bigger person" has to prevail in this situation. Let's not make anyone uncomfortable--god forbid. Shheeeesh!
I am tired of being the bigger person. I had a MC at 13 wks DURING my wedding ceremony. BTW, I'm a wedding planner. I don't mention it to my clients, since that would put an unnecessary damper on the beauty of their day and I have class & tact, but if asked, I'll say. It is the truth. It is MY truth.
I agree wholeheartedly with this post--the burden is on us freaks to suck it up and filter what we'd really like to say for fear of angering anyone who dare say that things can & do go wrong in pregnancy. And after birth as well. A live birth doesn't guarantee anything either.
I am terrified of getting pregnant again even though we're certainly trying--having laparoscopy for my remaining blocked fallopian tube in a week. When I mention my struggles in getting pregnant--"Oh, your only 33...you've got lots of time....blah blah blah". Where's the reciprocation there? When people are callous--I tell them. Makes them think next time about being a little more tactful, since you never really know what people have been thru.

Tricia said...

Maybe it's just because I'm one of them...a dead baby mama...but I read this post and felt the sadness of loss. I felt the sadness of isolation.

Then I read the comments. I absolutely agree that no matter what you can never be prepared to have to say goodbye to your child. However, you absolutely can reduce the guilt that you will carry with you for the rest of your life if you just listen to our stories...our pain.

I would have known to take as many pictures as I could. I would have known to request NILMDTS. This list could go on and on. But I didn't know these things. I didn't know how often this really happens. So instead of saying I love you most to my son as I held him to say goodbye...I kept repeating I'm sorry because I thought I did something wrong.

It's called education. I just didn't realize with a Bachelor of Science that I would never have learned it.

kib said...

thank you for this post (and thanks to the many thoughtful commenters, too). I have been wrestling with infertility for 5.5 years now, surrounded by friends on their 5th, 8th, etc. children, some who are kind and some who are oblivious (the women, not the children!).

There are 2 of us in our circle who know this heartbreak firsthand (in her case, the hellishness of recurrent miscarriages and a baby who died in utero).

I get angry at myself for not jumping for joy when my SIL announces her pregnancy on day 12. I wish I could be blissfully supportive instead of cautiously optimistic.

I also have a cousin who is a NICU nurse; she's due at the same time as my SIL, and she's a basket case because of all the firsthand knowledge she has about things that can go wrong.

Modern life gives us the impression we can plan our lives, that they can be tidy and neat and orderly, that we have "control" (if only a modicum of it). But it's an illusion.

K-Pax said...

Thank you for such a beautiful post. It made me feel less like a freak to know other freaks are out there.

I've been in infertility land for 5 years now - no baby yet, but hopeful (well, on a good day). I think the hardest part is the isolation of it all. Not even my closest friends really get everything this experience strips you of.

Best to you...

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