So, about a week ago, this happened.
For baby loss moms, pregnancy announcements are a tricky thing. You see the happy couple, the gush of congratulations, and they seem so smug. You envy that sense of innocence and invincibility. You want to shake them, to shout, Just because you’re 3 months along doesn’t mean you’re safe! Don’t you know your baby can die at 26 weeks? At 37 weeks? At 39 weeks 6 days? During labor? Right after they’re born? It’s not a sure thing! WHY ARE YOU SMILING???
But you keep your mouth shut and don’t say any of that because, you know—asshole. Plus you then remember, oh yeah, it’s perfectly normal to be happy about a pregnancy. In fact, there was a time when YOU yourself were. And most babies are born perfectly normal and healthy, including yourself and your daughter.
So instead, as the expecting couple heads into the third trimester, you gingerly, or not so gingerly depending on the relationship, approach them with some information about kick counts. Your doctor’s office will never tell you this, and ever since Luke’s death I feel like it’s my obligation to let pregnant women know …
It’s even harder when the pregnancy is your own. You look down at your BFP and instead of throwing up your arms and shouting with joy, you feel like you want to throw up the contents of your stomach (and “morning” sickness hasn’t even kicked in yet). The enormity of it rushes at you, all the ultrasounds, the BPPs, the NSTs, the kick monitoring, the trips to L&D, everything that will be needed to hopefully, mercifully, bring a baby into this world alive. After those have passed by in your mind’s eye, the unknowns start their parade. All the this could happen, that could happen scenarios that could possibly manifest in the mind of a mother marooned on Planet I Delivered a Dead Baby.
But 40 weeks is a long time, even longer when every single moment is wrapped up in anxiety and fear over things that 99 percent of the time you have no control over anyway. So I’ve come up with a strategy for pounding those stupid, insidious unknowns back into the miserable holes they popped up out of.
It came to me one day recently as I pulled the recycling can up our long, steep driveway. (This is a driveway that’s so long and so steep that even after only carrying up the paper, you’re out of breath and your ass is sore.) Partway up, I decided to turn around so that I was facing the recycling can and the street, with my back to the house. I continued to pull the can, but from the opposite direction—walking backward.
This simple change made the walk a little less physically strenuous and a lot less mentally so. Instead of seeing how far I still had to walk up the driveway, I was seeing only all the milestones I had already passed—the portion where the driveway gets even steeper, the neglected flower box erected by some long-ago owner, the brush pile we built after an autum storm. And just like that, I was at the top of the driveway. Focusing on what I’d already accomplished made the walk seem to go much more quickly.
Contemplating this suddenly reminded me of a frequent dream of mine in which I’m running away from someone or something that’s chasing me, only it’s like I’m slogging through invisible thigh-high mud and I can make barely any progress, mustering all that I have to inch forward with each step. For some reason, every single time in the dream I decide to turn around and walk backward, and suddenly it’s like I’m walking on air. I speed away from my pursuer and wake up.
As I stood on the driveway and pondered this sudden memory, it occurred to me that’s how I should approach a subsequent pregnancy: by walking backward through it. Instead of focusing on the milestones and appointments ahead, I’m only going to focus on those that have already passed. For right now, that means the positive pregnancy test, and not whether I should get a home Doppler or what the nuchal translucency test will reveal or how to give myself heparin injections should that become necessary.
So far, I’ve found that it’s a bit like meditating. You have to pay attention so that you notice when your mind starts to wander. Then you snap it back to where it’s supposed to be.
This is my strategy for now, anyway. I discovered it in a dream I’ve had for many, many years, the meaning of which as always eluded me. I don’t know how or why it got lodged in my brain, but at this point, it doesn’t matter. I’ll take it.