The lovely ladies over at Glow in the Woods have posted 6 X 6, a self-serve meme for deadbaby-related questions and topics. I thought I'd opt in:
1) In a word, how would you characterize yourself before your loss, and then after?
Before: Lucky. After: Cracked.
2) How do you feel around pregnant women?
It's been over two years since my loss. I feel pretty ok around pregnant ladies most of the time now. Having living children undeniably helps me on that front because they are the band aids that cover my old wounds when I go out in public. Socially speaking, they buffer me from a lot of questions and interactions that previously hurt. For instance, nobody asks a lady who is nearing age forty who has two small kids if she plans to have more children. People assume the baby making went ok for you, and that you are now done by design rather than because of medical mishaps. And most of the time, these assumptions are exactly what I prefer. It's very relaxing, to pass as "normal" and not wear my gored heart on my sleeve. That feeling of naked emotional exposure that comes with early grief was terribly disconcerting for me. I'm glad it's mostly gone.
Occasionally a naive, lucky pregnant lady yammers on a little too long about hating stretch marks or about how their 27-page birth plan is going to ensure a drug-free birth, and at those times I still feel exasperated at the inequities of the universe. But the anger I used to feel for the actual women has gone away. I think it's because I know it could all turn on a dime for them. It did for me.
3) How do you answer the 'how many children' question?
I only tell about the kids who were born alive in 95 percent of the situations where that question gets asked. That's no disrespect to others who count differently. It's just how I happen to do it.
4) How did you explain what happened to your lost baby to your living children?
Big A had just turned two when we found out her in-utero sibling had Trisomy 18. Big A was young enough to not understand the reason for Mommy's growing belly, and we hadn't told her she was going to be a big sister before I terminated the pregnancy. We continued avoiding all dead baby discussions with her in the immediate aftermath.
Some might say this was good for Big A because of X reasons, while others might counter that it was bad for her for Y reasons. But why I chose that path had nothing to do with Big A, pathetic as that may sound. I just wasn't up for explaining how babies were made in the same conversation where I explained death to a 25 month old girl. Big A's age allowed me to punt, and so I did.
That said, I've always viewed Big A not knowing about her lost sister as a temporary situation. Some day both Big A and Little A will know about their other sister. I think I'll tell them about her existence first, and then when the girls are older and more sophisticated, I can explain about the termination part.
5) What would another pregnancy mean to you, and how would you get through it—or are you done with babymaking?
Little A is my "happy ending" -- a pregnancy after the loss that resulted in a live baby. Unfortunately her pregnancy was a complicated nightmare that ended with my uterus being so damaged from the rupture that I can't ever carry another child. I'm lucky to be alive now, and Little A is even luckier on that front.
If I'd known in advance how dangerous another pregnancy would be, I never would have attempted it. My parenting of Big A suffered greatly when I was so ill during pregnancy, and the idea that I also nearly orphaned the girl just because I had the urge to have more kids seems utterly ridiculous.
Yet I got away with it -- somehow, I got my Little A even though it all went so wrong. That contradiction is the duct tape that holds my life together today, actually. Because I don't feel like the world owed me this child. I don't think she is any sort of cosmic payback for what came before. But she's here, she's awesome, and I'm going to enjoy the hell out of being her mommy for as many days as I am lucky enough to have her. I own my relationship to the world in a different way because of her existence.
6) Imagine being able to step back in time and whisper into the ear of your past self the day after your baby died. What would you say?
I would tell myself, "Today is Christmas Eve. By this day next year, there will be a healthy baby in the bassinet by your bed. This era of waiting and wondering and worrying about these particular issues will be over. You will hang a lantern in your window to remember your dead, and hang two stockings on the mantle to celebrate the living."
But I do not think I would have believed myself. I probably would have thought I was one big, fat, equivocating jerk!