It’s a foreign feeling for me in the long duree view of my life, to be sad without knowing exactly the reason why. I suppose now I always have a reason, but I’m still not familiar enough with the new rhythms of my moods to recognize why one day is fine, another very good, and a third bad.
The night before we realized I was in preterm labor, we were out at dinner and I saw a woman who was about as pregnant as I was at the time. She was holding a little girl’s hand and they were rushing to the bathroom. It was so normal, mundane, and I felt the most ferocious jealousy. It surprised me – even after the miscarriage I’d felt more sadness than jealousy at the sight of big round bellies. Where did that feeling come from? What did I know?
I know that yesterday my mood turned because we received an email sent out to all of the graduate students in our department. Someone’s wife had had a baby. I shouldn’t have read it, I know. I didn’t read most of it – but I didn’t recognize the name – and not realizing at first that everyone had received it, I thought, “do I know these people?” and clicked on it to figure that out. It was such a cheerful message, all I saw was the joke that labor must have been brought on “by the long walk home from [someone’s house].” Mostly of course the father was just incredibly proud and happy to have his wife and child safely delivered. But I thought, “How incredibly comfortable he is that birth is always a happy event.” Not to mention the assumption that a random announcement could only bring joy to recipients. Or that we’d otherwise ignore it. I could only think about how I’m not taking any long walks in this pregnancy and I’m keeping my social engagements very limited. About how I’m strategizing about the shortest possible routes from the parking lot to the classroom where I’ll be taking my “job market skills” course starting next week and how happy I was that the professor recently moved the classroom to a spot closer to the doors and elevators.
In my own sad way, I’ve considered that not everyone in the world will want to hear our happy news when it happens (at least I can consider that happy news might be a possibility). We’re certainly not going to send the message out to multiple dozens of graduate students, most of whom are strangers to us (we generally only know the students within 1-2 cohorts of our own), and who for all we know might find the news to be only a reminder of their own pain. No matter how busy we might be if this new baby comes home to us, the message will go out only to those people we know would want to know. I can take the time to type in the individual addresses.
Additionally, I’ve spent too much miserable time in the L&D waiting room or lying distraught in a hospital bed, to think it would be at all appropriate for family members and friends to show up loudly celebrating and bearing gifts. Josh will never be making loud ecstatic cellphone calls a few feet a way from a woman or a couple who have already lost their child or are worried they might be about to.
I’m going to have to have a hard conversation soon. Every time I speak to one of my advisers, she brings up other pregnant graduate students. One in our department, another in an affiliated one. I’m going to have to ask her to stop. I have no desire right now to make friends with someone based exclusively on our pregnant state. Partly because of my fear that it will create simply another baby I have to celebrate in my own state of grief, but also because I can’t imagine how it would help me. I’m not in the mood, ever, right now to make new friends. I like the ones I have just fine. I can’t pretend that this pregnancy isn’t hard, that I’m not terrified, that I don’t have bittersweet feelings towards other women with easy pregnancies, while at the same time I don’t want to tell anyone new my story.
I hate these feelings though. Because I’m beginning to wonder if there’s too much bitterness to my grief.
I’d like to think though, that instead I’m learning about empathy. That my feelings about not celebrating too loudly and publicly aren’t about myself exclusively, but rather about acknowledging that the moment is not a universally happy one just because I’m there. That it’s not just about knowing the world doesn’t revolve round me, but acting like it doesn’t.