There’s one thing that has happened to me since I’ve experienced pregnancy loss. Dread of other people’s pregnancy announcements.
They come out of the blue. I can be scrolling through social media mindlessly when *wallop* I’ll see a 12 week ultrasound scan. Or *smack* I see a photo of the happy couple, man gently cupping his partner’s stomach, with a paragraph explaining how overjoyed they are about Baby X. Even worse is when they include the due date and it’s the same as one of mine should have been.
Hearing about another person’s pregnancy brings with it a huge swathe of emotions, some positive, some negative.
Starting with a positive, I am genuinely pleased for people when they get pregnant. How could I not be? Making a baby is amazing. I understand peoples’ drive to procreate, to want to carry a tiny human and then raise them into an adult. And when a baby is born, it should be celebrated.
However, while that celebration is happening – when the pregnancy is announced, at the baby shower, after the baby is born – I just might not be there.
Jealousy has become my ever-present companion through my pregnancy loss journey. It arrives in a flash when I realise another person will be getting the baby that I so desperately want. Cute pregnancy announcements on social media stop being so cute when it hits home I might never get to make one. Admiring adorable baby outfits loses its appeal when I realise I may never get to pick any out for my own child.
I also really struggle with the prospect of being left behind.
Many of us – particularly girls, I think – grow up dreaming of our major life events happening in tandem with our closest female friends. Whether that’s buying a house, having a career, getting married, travelling, or having children, doing them at the same time means we will always have someone else in our life to relate to. What it also means is that, when comparing ourselves to our friends, we will feel on an equal footing. We are all progressing at the same time and can therefore judge ourselves, and our lives, as successful.
So when I look at myself and what I want, then compare that to my friends with children, I feel lacking, like I am failing at life. It’s an everyday reminder of what I want but don’t have.
When I went through pregnancy loss for the second and third time, I found it difficult to relate to my friends with children – and sometimes it would physically hurt to hear them talk about about their families – so I began to find my tribe in other childless people and miscarriage sufferers.
Being in the childless-not-by-choice club isn’t something any of us want. But when we end up becoming members, the support we provide each other is essential. Crying together, sharing the distress of miscarriage, discussing our fears for the future. All topics that are generally not easy to broach in normal circles.
But when someone in that club gets pregnant again, the foundations start to crumble. I begin to question it. Can I still rely on them in the same way? Will they secretly wish I’d just get over it and move on? Will we drift apart now our lives have gone in these different directions?
The worries leave me feeling insecure and alone. Not only have I not got what many of my friends have, but even the person who was with me in this situation is now getting a child. They were in my club but now they’ve gone and joined another one. And it’s one I want to join too, but every time I think I get the password right, it changes.
More often than not, my friend will end up with a baby, while I‘m adrift. I can’t share their experience. I’ve only ever got as far as 10 weeks in a pregnancy. I can’t talk about how much my back ached in the third trimester. Or what Braxton Hicks contractions felt like. I haven’t felt the rush of love so often talked about by new parents when they describe the moment of birth.
And it hurts because these are all things that I want to experience so badly.
So sometimes I have to go into self-preservation mode. I’ll unfollow pregnant people on social media. I might see less of a friend while she’s pregnant, saving up the visits for when I’m better able to cope with my feelings. It might take me a while to visit friends with a newborn – not because I don’t want to meet their new arrival, but because I don’t want to allow my feelings of jealousy, loss, and grief to overwhelm me, or to ruin their joy.
There are also ways in which friends have softened the blow for us as a couple when they get pregnant.
First off, sensitivity. Me and my husband are so lucky to have friends who know of our struggles with miscarriage. Most of the time, they have given us advance warning of a pregnancy before we see it on social media, before we’re in a group announcement situation, or before we meet them one on one. Otherwise, in these situations we’d be forced to smile and congratulate, when all we’d really want to do is hide away and cry.
Language is also important. I look back at the time before I first got pregnant and miscarried. Without knowing it, I committed almost every possible faux pas when talking to friends who had lost a pregnancy.
‘At least you know you can get pregnant.’
‘It was probably just nature’s way.’
‘You can try again, I’m sure it will work out next time.’.
‘No, no, no!’ I tell myself now when I recall the things I’m pretty sure I said.
Most women who have lost a wanted pregnancy don’t want to hear any of these platitudes. They come from a good place, a place that wants to help, to fix what went wrong. But now I know this can’t be done.
So I try not to judge when people say these things to me – which they invariably do – because I know how utterly useless you feel when a friend is going through loss.
The advice I would offer, having been on both sides of this unenviable situation, is by all means express how sorry you are. Offer your support. Let us talk about our lost baby, our emotions. But please don’t tell us how we should feel, how we should behave, or how to move forward. We’ll figure that out for ourselves, in good time.
Just know that, if you happen to announce your own pregnancy and someone close to you is not vocal in their congratulations, I’m almost positive they’re pleased for you – it’s just that they may also be sad for themselves. And sometimes that sadness can just be too much to bear.