This week has been a vacation week for local schools, the university, and university-affiliated daycare. As a result, faculty parents are bringing their kids to campus with them — the kids are playing with each other, the parents are looking frazzled, but everyone is generally running around and having a good time between semesters while the grown-ups try to get a little work done.
Several times this week, as I’ve wandered the halls 7.5 months pregnant, I’ve gotten comments from frazzled parents along the lines of, “See, this is what you have to look forward to” — usually while their kids are screaming, hitting each other, or otherwise misbehaving. Another variation includes, “Just be grateful yours is still on the inside — they’re so much harder once they’re out.”
I have to admit that in my hyper-emotional highly pregnant state, some of these comments have brought me to the brink of tears. Pregnancy, especially late pregnancy, isn’t easy for anyone, but it’s particularly emotionally fraught when it’s a pregnancy after infertility/loss. Here’s what goes through my head when I hear these comments:
- What if I’m making a mistake, and nearly three years of dealing with infertility and pregnancy loss on our way to a living baby is only going to make me miserable?
- How am I going to deal with highly physical boys like these? Why did my daughter have to die?
- God, I hope I have this to look forward to and that my baby doesn’t die again. Don’t you know how lucky you are to have two or three living children to annoy you?
In my saner moments when I’m able to sit down and think things through rationally, I realize that this is all silly. I know that none of these parents would, for a moment, give their kids back. I know that they love their kids with their whole heart, that even when it’s tough they value the time they get to spend with their kids. So why are they making these hurtful comments, the ones that make their kids sound like monsters, in my very pregnant direction?
Of course, there are all sorts of moments that they might have chosen to highlight instead, where those very same words would give me strength and hope instead of insecurity.
When they’re snuggling together — “See, this is what you have to look forward to.”
When those sticky little hands give them a hug, a little mouth gives them a kiss, and a little voice says I love you, Mommy — “See, this is what you have to look forward to.”
When their heart bursts with pride to see their child being kind and generous to someone else — “See, this is what you have to look forward to.”
I recognize that it’s part of an entire genre of things that people love to say to freak out pregnant women: “Sleep now, because you’ll never get any sleep again after he’s born!” “Boys are such a handful — say goodbye to your clean house!” “You’ll never know what hit you.” And then add 1,000 horror stories about labor and delivery. These things are normal. They’re mostly just good-natured teasing. I know that I’m extra-sensitive, especially right now. But wouldn’t it be nice if people could make the positive versions of these comments instead?
I know it’ll be hard to have a baby. I know that I don’t know how hard it’ll be. But I also know that most of my parent-friends feel that despite the difficulties, parenthood is one of the best decisions they’ve made. It’s something my husband and I very deeply want to experience. We are so looking forward to welcoming this new little life into the world, and to all the good and bad experiences that come with being parents. As January begins and my February due date looms ever closer, I’m trying to look past the negative comments, and focus on what I truly have to look forward to. To think about looking into my son’s eyes for the first time, to think about holding his little body safe and snuggled into mine. To think about watching him grow and change and learn and discover all the beautiful and amazing things the world has to offer. That, along with a million other little things, is what I have to look forward to.