My son will be turning three next week and is a pure joy. Of course we battle over what shoes to wear, the amount of TV to be watched, and what’s for dinner. But he also says, “I love you”, snuggles, tells awesome stories and makes the most brilliant observations, “My head is a circle!” Overall he is a wonderful, smart, compassionate little boy and I am truly blessed to have him. I cannot wait for him to have a living sibling to play with. It's not that we haven't tried to give that to him.
When you are pregnant, people seem to lose a filter and say whatever pops into their minds and can occasionally lose control over their bodies and touch your growing tummy at a moment’s notice. This being my third (fourth counting the early miscarriage in November) pregnancy, I’ve heard and experienced this a lot. “No, there aren’t triplets in there.” “Yes, I am waddling as I walk.” “Yes, I understand things are about to change in our lives and become a little more hectic in the beginning.” I have been felt up (i.e. violated) by strangers and acquaintances. I even watched recently as a man pretended to make a large arc while walking around the apparent hugeness of me. But I usually shake it off, even if my feelings are hurt. This time is different though. I'm not sure people know how to talk to a pregnant women who has had a child died.
I was taking my son to daycare this morning and he just HAD to jump down every step instead of walking. A line of parents were forming to leave and I apologetically looked at them and said, “Sorry! You know everything is a game!” A mother looked at me, one who knows that Ellie died last year, and said, “Wait until you have two.” I smiled politely and nodded my head. But I cried and screamed inside, “I HAVE TWO CHIDLREN. ONE IS NOT HERE, BUT SHE EXISTED. SHE COUNTS! DON’T FORGET ABOUT HER!”
If you have suffered the loss of a child and are pregnant, or if you have a surviving/living child at home and lost another child, you understand the conundrum I am in. For 12 months, I had no hesitation when answering how many children I had: Two. Period. If people asked, I gave out more information. I didn’t try to guilt people, but I do have two children and I’m proud of that. (Please note that if a woman loses her first and/or only child, she is STILL a mother. I don’t even feel that deserves an explanation as it is common sense.) But now that I am pregnant, I find it hard to explain. People are usually smiling and excited when they talk to me as most are when a new life is about to enter the world. They will ask if this is my first, second, etc. pregnancy and I always say third (I feel so guilty for leaving out the miscarriage…I think I will start including it from now on). Then the question of what do we have and how old follows with "What do you hope this one is". I want to answer the last question with, "Alive." Whatever I do, which is try to stay true to myself and babies, I have to watch as they uncomfortably shift or look away, desperate to get out of the situation. It's a repeat of the months after Ellie died.
And there is more. Those that know I have a son will say, “I bet you hope it’s a girl” or “I hope it’s a girl.” It is bittersweet. We find out next Tuesday if the baby is healthy and the gender. If it is a boy, I will be sad because I will never have my living daughter. If it is a girl, I will be sad that is wasn’t Ellie and scared that in some way I am replacing her. Hearing people talk about hoping and wishing for a girl hurts more than them thinking it is a boy for some reason. I want my Eleanor. I know it may seem irrational to some. I know you may think I need to just be happy and stop worrying. Maybe you are right. But until you’ve been in my shoes, I’d ask you to refrain from sharing those thoughts. I try to avoid talking to people about how much pain I am in. How I fear getting close to this baby in case it will die too. How I am worried others will forget about my Eleanor or two lost angels, Pizza and Baby K, when this baby is born. I really try to be optimistic, but the unimaginable has happened…multiple times. I can’t just think happy-puppy-dog-and-sunshine thoughts and magically be okay. Of course I want this baby. I know that stress can affect your body and pregnancy. I wanted ALL my babies. But I am terrified. You tell me how to stay calm after all we have experienced! I'm willing to try it!!
We have decided to wait a little while to tell family and friends the gender of the baby. I need to process it. I need to celebrate with my husband and grieve for the lost babies in our lives. Whether this is baby #5 or baby #1, it is wanted and loved. I so hope the baby is healthy. I would appreciate your good thoughts, fingers crossed or prayers to whatever you pray to that it is.