I Don't Expect to Arrive

I think of everything that could go wrong.

a watercolor of a zoo far off in the distance
Image Created via Midjourney

A few weeks ago, we went to the zoo. By all accounts a normal family outing. I packed snacks and lunches and we left the house early in the morning. The zoo is about a 45-minute drive, and a drive we've taken many, many times.

But here's the weird thing about "going somewhere" after having experienced pregnancy loss: I can't picture us arriving safely.

It could be the most normal thing, like a trip to the pediatrician's office or a date night. Or a trip to the zoo. But if I feel any kind of anticipation (excitement or otherwise), I always feel that I don't know what will happen. My brain doesn't allow me to go there.

Instead, I think of everything that could go wrong. A car accident. A blown tire. Getting Covid and being forced to change our plans.

It's now been more than 7 years since Nelle died and those feelings haven't changed. I'll be sitting in the car, wondering, "Are we going to make it? Will this go as expected? Or will something bad happen?"

Most people probably assume things will be fine. Or don't think about it at all.

But I'm always haunted by the pregnancies that should have been normal. Routine. And then they weren't and we never learned why.

Maybe if I'd only experienced pregnancy loss once it would have been different. But twice just broke me. I was told "Everything will be fine" and then it wasn't.

I first started to notice my apprehension after Autumn was born. Before she was born, I was understandably nervous about everything. And when she was an infant, I had fears that something would happen to her when we were in the car. But I told myself it wasn't much different from the fears of new parents.

She got older and I was no longer scared for her specifically, but realized that I had a generalized anxiety around events. I remember when Ger got us tickets to see "Hamilton" — a show I'd been dying to see for years. I bought a new dress and shoes... but even as we got into the car to drive to Chicago I thought "What if..." It wasn't until we had entered the theater that I began to calm down.

Recently, I thought about Theo learning to drive in a few years. I was driving myself, along a long stretch of road near our house, when suddenly an image flashed through my mind. A fatal car crash. Theo was killed and there was nothing I could do to protect him.

The imaginary scenario was so real that I sharply inhaled and started crying. I couldn't picture anything safe and secure about him learning to drive... just the worst possible outcome.

There's little I can do to calm myself in these moments. And time ticks by at a glacial pace. I stared at the clock as we drove to the zoo, wondering why 45 minutes felt like 5 hours.

It's not horrible. Most of the time I'm slightly anxious and nothing more (other than the recent thoughts of Theo as a drive). But I can never feel anticipatory joy. When I was pregnant with Autumn, it was the same: I couldn't allow myself to enjoy any moment of her pregnancy because I was so overcome with "What if..."

I'm probably missing a lot of good moments. Excitement. Thrills. Or even simply enjoying a car ride.