It’s really hard for me to talk about this pregnancy without talking about, or at least thinking about, my first pregnancy. This has made “normal” pregnancy conversations surprisingly painful to navigate.
Now that I’m almost six months pregnant and starting to look like it, more people are starting to talk to me about pregnancy. I probably have an average of 1-2 pregnancy conversations per day, about half with people I don’t know well (or strangers). But it’s so hard to have these conversations without also talking about our experience with our first pregnancy. I mean, just think about how a standard pregnancy conversation tends to start…
“When are you due?” – This one is pretty easy to respond to. I can just say “February.” But there’s always that painful deja vu moment as I think about how many times I’ve told people that my due date is “February” over the past year and a half. My daughter was due in February too — whenever I got the question during my first pregnancy, I’d gush about how she was due on my birthday, and since my husband is born in February too we’d have a February family, isn’t that great! This time around, I keep it short, but all the rest of it goes through my head anyway. So I mostly just say “February,” and then follow it up with a silent “… I hope.”
“Do you know if it’s a boy or a girl?” – Again, pretty easy one-word answer: “Boy.” But having given the other answer last year, I pay attention to people’s responses, and I notice the differences. When I told people I was having a girl, I’d get responses like, “Oh, girls are great,” or “I recommend girls — I have two of my own,” or “Oh, you’re lucky, I’ve always wanted a girl, they’re so much easier than boys!” When I tell people I’m having a boy, the responses are never as unambiguously positive. “Oh, you’ll have your hands full!” or “Cute!” or the ambiguous one from my primary care doctor this week, “Oh, stop!” (I still have no idea what she meant). I have yet to hear anyone tell me “Boys are great!” or “Boys are easy!” or “You’re so lucky!” Aside from freaking me out a little, these responses are anthropologically fascinating to me — are we really in such a girl-positive culture these days? Or is it mostly because I have these conversations far more often with women, and women tend to want daughters?
“Is this your first?” – First emotional land mine! Nope, not my first baby. But I can’t really say that… If I tell you about my daughter you’ll think I’m an oversensitive weirdo and we’ll both be awkward and uncomfortable (or you’ll tell me how common miscarriages are and that you’re sure my current baby will be fine, since you don’t know that I had a placental abruption and am now going through a high-risk pregnancy). But if I just say “yes,” you’ll tell me all sorts of things that are awkward for me to respond to. I’ve had people give me labor and delivery advice (I’ve actually been through L&D once, thanks, even if I didn’t have to dilate all the way), or tell me that my next pregnancy is going to be totally different from this one (actually, both my pregnancies have been remarkably similar), or they’ll start giving me parenting advice — at least that last one is something that’s theoretically relevant, if still not exactly a conversation topic that I have much to contribute to.
And it goes on from there. The more detailed things get, the more I feel I need to skate around the subject of my dead daughter. Maternity leave? Oh, yeah, I requested that last year and then had to cancel it. Got a nice handwritten sympathy note from the university provost, but then a couple months later she had clearly forgotten, and asked me conversationally about whether I have kids — ouch. Daycare? I got off the wait list for campus daycare last spring no problem — but unfortunately my daughter had already died and it’s not like they could hold the spot. At least they tell me my odds are looking good again this year! You get the idea.
Sometimes I do tell people, but more often I don’t. They’re mostly just trying to be excited for me, or they want to tell me about their experiences with pregnancy and birth, and all of that is great. I get it. But somehow these pregnancy conversations when I don’t bring up my daughter make me feel lonely and sad. I miss her, and these conversations make me miss her more. Even when I talk with people who know what happened in my first pregnancy, most of them get really uncomfortable when I refer to it, so I feel bad about it and stop. The few precious people with whom I can have uncensored conversations that include full answers about both my pregnancy are just awesome, but they’re rare.
Oh, well. These are really good problems to have, since they’re the kind of problems that come from being visibly pregnant with a kicking, rolling, growing little baby. It’s just one more way in which pregnancy after a loss is bittersweet — the sweet outweighs the bitter, but there’s plenty of pain to go along with the pleasure.
It’s been a while since I last wrote, so here are some assorted bulleted updates:
- At our 25-week MFM appointment this week everything looked great on the growth scan and we got a peek at our son’s cute little face and saw him waving a fully-formed hand at us. Ultrasound is really magical, and one of the silver linings of a high-risk pregnancy is getting more frequent glimpses of our growing baby boy.
- I’d started to wonder about the end game for this pregnancy, so this week I tentatively asked the MFM what she recommended about how late we should let the pregnancy go before inducing. She recommended inducing at 39-40 weeks if I don’t go into labor on my own before then. I’m pretty OK with that, since it matches up with the research I’ve seen in recent studies showing that once you’re full-term the risk of a C-section is no longer higher for induction than for spontaneous labor (which our MFM confirmed during our conversation), whereas the risk of stillbirth starts to increase after your due date (still low overall, but having had one placenta mega-fail in our first pregnancy I’m still terrified of something going wrong with the placenta in this pregnancy too). I think I’d probably try to ride it out to my due date (so, push them on the 40 weeks instead of 39), and obviously I’ll hope for spontaneous labor before then, but it’s reassuring to me to know that they don’t want to let me go past my due date. At that point, I feel like the kid is safer out than in, and as long as the risk of a C-section is no higher, I’m willing to put up with the more painful contractions and the higher risk of non-C-section interventions that comes with induction.
- We started childbirth classes on Monday. We’re not wild about the instructor, who is sort of scatterbrained and has a lower information-per-unit-time style than we’d like, but I think it’s useful enough that we’ll keep going. Honestly, I don’t have much to say about it other than that!
- At 25.5 weeks, I am officially carrying a “viable” fetus. I’m honestly not sure how to feel about that — I know that if he was born now, he’d face a so-so chance of survival and a high chance of lifelong disability, so I’d really rather not test the whole “viability” thing. It’s also scary because I know that if I have another abruption, viability will be a moot point since he could very well just die before I even know what’s happened. But I guess it’s a milestone of sorts!
- The third trimester is in sight! I’m having more pregnancy symptoms, like a bothersome back and waking up in the middle of the night. But bring it on! I’m mostly excited for all the new stuff I’m experiencing, even if it is uncomfortable, and just want to plow through to February and meet our little guy.