Learning Not to Turn Away
Turn turn away
From the weight of your own past
It’s magic for the devil
And betray the lack of change
Once you have spoken
It has become an almost automatic reaction. See a pregnancy announcement – usually accompanied by photos – flinch, hide the announcement. If the parents-to-be start to inundate my feed with cutesy photos, or complaints about the discomforts of pregnancy, then I am done. I remove it from my sight until I am sure the baby is born. I’ll provide the requisite “Congratulations” and then whether I bring that baby back into my feed depends on whether or not there are any other triggers.
With other loss mamas, it is different. I anxiously watch for every update and mark every milestone. On the day their rainbow will be born, I can feel the flutter in my chest, unsettled until I know that the baby has arrived safely.
There are certain children that will always be triggers for me: the ones who were born around Nelle’s due date or Iris’s due date. I was pregnant with their mamas. We should have had newborns at the same time. We did prenatal yoga together, or compared stories about morning sickness. Yet they went on to bring their babies home, and I did not. Seeing their children age to a year, two years, three years… always a reminder of where my daughters “should have been.”
A few months ago, I saw a photo of someone I know. I have a radar: I instantly thought “she’s pregnant.” There is something telling in the knowing smile, the secret behind the eyes. I was right, and she made an announcement a few weeks later, along with her due date: July 28th. My due date with Iris was July 28th.
I had to take a step back and ask myself if I could continue to watch her pregnancy progress? She had her own set of struggles, as a cancer survivor. So I knew what it meant for her to be in a place where she was pregnant, but it did not make it easier to know that her pregnancy would follow the course that mine should have taken.
February 13th arrived, the day that Iris was born. For so many reasons, her birthday was hard this year. A few days later, there was another pregnancy post, reaching 17 weeks. And I never made it past 16 weeks, 1 day. I should have been reliving memories from my own pregnancy “this time, three years ago” but instead mine was over. I thought again that maybe it would be too hard for me to see her pregnancy continue to expand.
A few more weeks went by, and another update, with an ultrasound photo of baby feet. Excitement was intermingled with another sentiment. She wrote that she knows many mamas who are not able to have babies, have babies gone too soon, or children with special needs. She wrote “We are not taking this for granted and are celebrating every day we get to spend with this blessing, knowing that nothing is guaranteed.”
I needed to read that. To know that she was aware that while her pregnancy has been fortunately healthy, so much of the experience is out of our control. If only doing everything “right” would mean earning the privilege of being a parent. As I have seen it said so often in the loss community “If love could have saved you, you would have lived forever.”
I made a decision to reach out to her, and wrote: “I wanted to tell you that your post today meant a lot to me, as a loss mom. Seeing photos of pregnancies is always hard for me and it is nice to be acknowledged that it is not to be taken for granted. Your due date – July 28th – is the exact same as mine was with Iris, so you are in the place that I wish I had been in 2016, except she was born in February 13th. All of my best that your baby arrives safely.”
I knew that I was placing a burden on her by telling her that her baby and Iris share a due date. I did not want her to forever intertwine that date for her baby with the death of my baby, but in some ways I felt that she needed to know, as she knows the stories of my girls.
And so – I will continue to follow her story. It is a conscious choice to not turn away, and one more tiny place of growth. Three years ago, two years ago – it would have been much too hard for me to watch a pregnancy week after week, growing ever closer to that due date. It is still hard. I cried as I wrote to her, thinking about my sweet baby girl, and I’m crying now. But pregnancy isn’t something I can avoid forever and I can choose how to let the joy that other mamas experience back into my heart.