Few things are worse than having a cold when pregnant. That’s not really true, but in the minor scheme of life, few things are worse. Stuffy head, sneezing, coughing, and you can do nothing for it but go to bed. So that’s what I’ve done today. I am dreading when Samuel comes home in 1.75 hours because he’s confused and sad about me being confined to lying down while home. I hate to add sick and cranky to the mix. It’s so much easier to be alone when sick. Plus coughing and sneezing only add tremendously to my anxiety as I consider each one as putting pounds of pressure on my cervix. Argh.
I am holding strong, however. If I’m honest, I have to admit there have been times I’ve thought that perhaps it was a mistake to get pregnant again. Not because a living child would be a mistake, but because the process of getting to that is so laden with risk, expense, and is taking months off of time I could spend being an involved, healthy, and happy mom. And the end result could be grief, misery, pain, and loss for Samuel. Not to mention that it’s becoming increasingly apparent to me that pregnancy, pregnancy loss, and baby death have done a lot to determine my personality. A lot more than I’ve grasped in the past. Some people probably think it’s saddened me, possibly at times making me border on depression. I think those people are living with blinders on, that they’re unwilling to go beyond the bare surface of how I’m different. They don’t see the person they once knew, but they’re also not willing to look for the person I am now. In part, that’s my fault. I like to make people around me comfortable.
The realities of preterm birth, pregnancy complications, stillbirth, infant death, and maternal death aren’t happy topics. Most people see them as something from the past. Thankfully, they so are so much more less common now than in the past. It’s much more fashionable and exciting to talk about reclaiming birth and women’s bodies from the medical establishment. And babies babies babies! Who doesn’t love to talk about fat, healthy babies? I was really upset with a relative when she announced my pregnancy on Facebook in a very enthusiastic way, and then told someone who asked that it was our second. That was a hard kick in the chest. She was supportive when Natan died, so I don’t think she forgot. I don’t know if she really thinks of this baby as our second, which no matter how you look at it, he’s not. He’s either our third, or our potential second. Possibly our potential fourth, but I don’t think of the miscarried embryo that way. S/he had no chance of ever coming home with us. This baby does; Natan did. What I think is most likely is that she saw no reason to share that private information with her friends on Facebook. I feel, if you want to share in our happy news, you should have to share in our sad. I make myself very vulnerable, however, in being willing to talk about it. I think I am judged for it, frequently.
It is, quite frankly, humiliating to be vulnerable in front of people in the way that this pregnancy makes me. In a world where people congratulate women for their achievements in pregnancy and childbirth, it’s humiliating to fail at that. It is deeply painful to hear people credit their healthy children and their easy births to yoga and good eating. Of course, these things are important, but they’re rarely definitive. It would be antisocial for me to call bullshit on people as often as I’d like to for the boasting about their birth plans and birth stories. Yet I do often wish they had the discretion that I strive for in conversation.
I’m hoping that I’m moving towards being able to be more open, less awkward in discussing my past. I do not actually like talking about my grief for Natan in public. Not at all. But I do feel like I should have a louder voice when it comes to what his death meant for my future health, my future pregnancies, and my vision of myself as a woman and a parent. I am fiercely passionate about protecting women’s access to medical care. I try hard to balance the reality that many women can have uncomplicated pregnancies with what I consider to be much more important–many cannot.
My biggest fear right now, however, is that this country is moving away from the progress that’s been made in the past century towards making pregnancy and birth healthier. My biggest fear is that we’re moving towards making all pregnancy, but especially a complicated pregnancy a moral failure for which a woman must pay with her health, her well-being, her financial stability or her life.