so I’m not perfect…

I was out for a run with Muppet and came across a lemonade stand- some neighborhood kids raising money for cancer. I was running by at just the right time, with several families approaching the stand. When the kids asked if I wanted lemonade, I regretfully said I didn’t have any money, but I’ll try to come back when I was done with my run.  Just as I was about to take off, I saw you there. My smile brightened with recognition- a fellow professional in my field and a someone who chose my practice for care.  You have a son a few years older than Felix and I was reminded seeing you there that you live in my town! Since I”m not attending births and you work in a different practice, I haven’t seen you in a while- in the past I crossed paths with other OB professionals on the labor floor, a place I don’t often visit these days. Seeing you with your son, gave me pause. We should be friends, I thought.

I stopped and chatted with you, saying hi to your husband and letting your son pet Muppet.  I learned your son had some developmental delays, something I hadn’t known before.  I straight up blurted out- “I need local mommy friends,” a truth so prevalent lately. I find it a little hard to make mommy friends easily… something I’ll elaborate in another post…but since you’re in my professional community, I’m pretty sure you know my story. You know I’ve lost a baby.

You given me your number and tell me how you have a good group of local moms who get together every now and then. You warn me that the moment you say you’re in the OB field, everyone likes to tell you their birth story.  I laugh in total understanding. You roll your eyes and we talk briefly about yours- how you tried so very very hard for a vaginal birth but it just wasn’t in the cards despite everyone’s best efforts. I could see how frustrated you could get hearing other’s stories especially when you felt frustrated with your own. It’s like hearing how someone has a beautiful birth when yours was traumatic. It hurts a little.

And then I blurted out something I wish I hadn’t.  “Well did you hear about Felix’s birth story? How I didn’t make it to the hospital?” You smiled and laughed a little, telling me how you read it in the paper.

I realized shortly after I said it, that I did exactly what you had just said was hard. I told you my birth story. I’m sorry.

I wanted to tell you, that I often blurt out Felix’s story because I can’t so very easily with Mabel’s because no one likes a story that ends with a baby dying. Blurting out his story makes me feel a bit like a normal person. I wanted to tell you that Felix’s birth story is a tribute to Mabel, because there is no way he would have come so fast had he not been my second child. I wanted to tell you that when I learned your son had some delays, I felt a small kinship with you because Mabel would have had delays too and I imagine parenting a child with special needs is especially hard, but it’s just what you do, isn’t it? I wanted to tell you I shared Felix’s story with you because I assumed you knew about Mabel.

In that brief exchange we had, I am reminded that I am not perfect and sometimes says things I wish I hadn’t. It was a good reminder that others do the same and to give them a little leeway.

Have you ever said something you regretted? Do you hold yourself to a high standard of always saying the right thing?

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Dear pregnant friend,

Dear friend who is pregnant,

I know I have not been a very good friend lately. I realize that by all outward appearances I’m doing well. I see pregnant patients in the office, smile and chat as I put my hands on their growing bellies, listen to them complain about the discomforts of pregnancy or their difficult social lives.  I hold babies and even go to baby showers. I have my own wiggly, squirmy, whirlwind of a living child to fill my arms now. I am living and doing a pretty good job of it too.

It has been 936 days since I held my first baby as she took her last breath. It may seem like a long time, and in many ways it is. Yet, I am still grieving. I have my triggers. One of the hardest hurdles for me is welcoming pregnancies of my friends and relatives in the way that I wish I could. I was once the first person everyone told they were pregnant. As the requisite midwife and true lover of babies, I was the natural early confidante. I miss that person. I long to be her- the one who would squeal in delight and ask a dozen questions about how you were feeling. That all changed when I learned my baby would die. Learning of new pregnancies scares me and brings up some unresolved grief, mostly in the form of anger and jealousy. I am angry that most pregnancies produce healthy living children but first didn’t. I’m angry that most women naturally expect to bring their baby home from the hospital, but I don’t. I’m angry that my daughter died.

When I see you, friend, with your pregnant belly, I am reminded how easy pregnancy can be (and should be!) for most people.  I am jealous. I am jealous that you are likely carrying a healthy child. If you fell pregnant easily or quickly, I am jealous that it didn’t take much work.  I am jealous that you are having your second or third child- because for me, my second is seen as my first.  And my hoped for third child fills the role of second child. I am reminded that I will always be seeking one more- to fill that Mabel shaped hole in my life that can never be filled. I am worried my life will never feel complete… I can only hope that it will simply feel enough.

So my pregnant friend, I want you to know that I have distanced myself. We once talked frequently and spent time together, but I have seem to drop off the face of the earth. I have done it intentionally, to protect myself and to protect our friendship. I worry that that by being constantly exposed to your pregnancy, all my dark ugly grief feelings will surface and I’ll spiral out of control. So for now, I have put space between us.

I want you to know that I miss you. I miss the the quick chats and long evenings spent on your couch. I want you to know I am happy for you…just sad for me, and those two feelings can exist in the same world. I want you to know that I hope your baby arrives safely and I will love him/her even from a distance.  I want you to know that I know this distance might not be the best way to deal with my feelings, but it feels necessary at the moment. I am hard at work trying to figure out how to overcome it… support groups, therapy, and mental toil.

My pregnant friend, please be patient with me as I continue to figure out how to navigate this crazy world in which my baby has died. 936 days later and I’m still learning.

Meghan