A blogger I’ve just started following, who has struggled with multiple losses, one recently at 22 weeks, posted about wanting a refund for all the weeks she’s been pregnant. It’s a bit of dark humor, familiar to many of us whose pregnancies completely or far outnumber our living children. She said she should have a “baby and a half.” I knew the feeling well. I can’t find the post, my blog is archived so badly, but at some point I mourned feeling like an elephant, I had been pregnant or post-partum for so long. By the time Samuel was born in December 2007, I had been either pregnant or within a few weeks of having been pregnant, for 22 months of my life.
Something has happened to me though. When I was counting up weeks and months in reflecting on the blogger’s post, I forgot the miscarriage. In no way am I dismissing the trauma of miscarriages. It’s just a crazy brain trick, the ranking of my own personal losses, and a gradual apparent dismissal of that one.
After we announced this pregnancy, people began asking if we’d told Samuel. When I told them, no, they began asking when we would tell him. And asking and asking. Even people I’ve witnessed and experienced denying Natan’s existence were asking. I do not have a rational explanation for why we waited until after my 20-week ultrasound, and after Samuel asked me why my belly was getting so fat, to tell him. I just didn’t want to tell him. If we were going to lose this pregnancy before it was obvious, I didn’t want him, or really anyone else, to know. This blog and Facebook posts notwithstanding, I have become a person who does not want to talk about it. It’s more out of a feeling of solidarity with other families who’ve lost children that I do so at all. And I’m hardly an active participant in the loss blogging community anyway at all anymore.
Perhaps, as much as I love being a mother, I just have no patience whatsoever anymore for being a pregnant woman, or a woman who has and is known for having difficult pregnancies. I hate being the dominant exception to the narratives of my friends who advocate for “natural” pregnancies and births. I know that sadly, historically, I’m not the freak that narrative outlines and excludes but emotionally I’m made into one every time I have to engage in conversation about being pregnant. Pregnancy is not an illness, but I’m not that exceptional for experiencing it as a dangerous and life-threatening (to either me or the baby) time. It’s risky, natural, and beautiful, no matter what.
So for me, despite my public announcements, my pregnancies are fiercely private. I do not like my belly on display. I just want this damn period over, and I hoped that if it wasn’t going to end happily, that it would end before Samuel knew, before I met a semester’s worth of students would guess that I don’t just carry weight around my middle. I’m realizing that even now, at 29 weeks, I have very different emotions about this baby than I did Samuel and Natan. I am attached, obviously, and we’re displaying the ultrasound images of him we get every few weeks on the fridge. He’s very cute, has more of Josh’s nose and chin than mine from what we could tell. Both Samuel and Natan had very distinct piggy noses like mine even in the womb.
But anytime I have concerns about whether the baby’s moving enough, or my cervix, my first thoughts really are for Samuel. Now that we’re at a pretty good place for survival if the baby were to come early, I do think about the financial cost of NICU time, what it means for our plans for buying a house and my working part time next year. (That wasn’t a concern last time, with our superior insurance.) Despite the 4-year wait between these babies, I am damn sick of being pregnant and thinking about pregnancy. I just want it all to be in the past, and for me to no longer have the “how much of my life have I spent pregnant?” calculation on the tip of my tongue. I’m not looking to deny the past, I’m just so ready to leave the ranks of trying to finish my family.