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.