Saturday, February 16, 2013

Lost In the Fire

When I was 12 years old I use to check out books about pregnancy from the library, just because I found the subject fascinating.  I'd hit puberty and I found it amazing to think that my body was developing into something that could grow another human. It seemed almost unreal.

My best subject in University was embryology.  An entire course on the first 10 weeks of pregnancy.  It was detailed, with intricate drawings and charts. We started off with the sperm and the egg, and by the end of the course we were into embryonic hearts, brains, intestinal tracts and thyroids.  All of that is formed by the time you head for your 12 week ultrasound.  I got a 96% in the course.

When I dreamed of going to medical school I wanted to go into Neonatology, and when that didn't happen I headed to nursing school with only one desire: to work in the NICU.  The care those fragile newborns needed was fascinating and so high tech and complex for such small patients.  I wanted my career to revolve around babies.  There was nowhere else I even considered working. 


It seems almost farcical that someone like me who has loved the idea of pregnancy and babies since before I can even remember, now finds the whole subject kind of depressing and sad.  I own my pregnancies, and I'm not ashamed of them, and it doesn't bother me to talk about them, or about Aidan...but they weren't happy times.  They weren't joyful or amazing or full of excitement.  I remember them as some of the most stressful, saddest and depressing times of my life.  It continues to amaze me that the wonderful being that is Kaia even came from those disastrous circumstances.  I look at her and marvel sometimes that she's just so normal, so herself.  She has none of the taint that was her pregnancy.  She is goodness and happiness and light.  That Acorn, the baby I worried for and cried so much for is actually the same person who toddles around our house, exasperating us by throwing her food on the floor, whines to be picked up to look out the window, and (on a good day!) falls asleep in my arms at nap time...seems almost unreal.  She's so could I ever have worried otherwise?

But I did  Oh I did.

One of the hardest parts about being back at work, is the constant surroundings of co-workers who are pregnant.  On my unit I work with 150+ women, most of child bearing age.  At any one time a dozen or more are off, going off, or coming back from maternity leave.  I can't go a day without bumping into a baby bump or hearing about so and so's ultrasound or baby shower, or other equally normal, happy pregnancy details.  I have very little to share and feel very "other" when these conversations come up.  Nobody else can relate to pPROM before viability.  Nobody knows what never ending weeks of bed rest is like.  Nobody gets what it's like to hold your dead child in your arms and live in fear for the life of the next. In truth, I have way more in common with my patient's parents than I do with my co-workers.  I wish I had happy stories to share, but my happy story starts months after the second pregnancy ended, when the baby finally came home, relatively unscathed.

So maybe it's no wonder that today when we found out at my nephew's 1st birthday party that my sister-in-law is 16 weeks pregnant with her second, I had to force myself to smile.  Truly, I'm glad for them, I'm happy they are happy and I'm excited to meet my future niece or nephew...but it just brings up so much sadness for me.  Brian and I talked about it on the way home, and we both feel it.  That kick to the gut that is the happy announcement.  The healthy pregnancy.  The anticipated delivery.  The plans for a living, breathing child.  We never had any of that.  WILL never have any of it, because when your first dies and you have a shit track record in the pregnancy department, well you just don't DO happy and excited anymore.  You do "cautious" and "anxious".  At your happiest you might do "pleased". And at your worst?  You might be left with "Not unexpected".   

"Things We Lost in the Fire" was the title of a movie released a couple years back, but I feel it could perfectly describe my feelings towards pregnancy now.  Sure it can produce wonderful, fantastic results (of which Kaia is but one example)...but it will never hold the same joy for me again.  Pregnancy lost all it's magic, all it's innocence and joy.  It's a source of jealousy and depression and anxiety and sadness.  It didn't work right for us.  It wasn't easy or carefree.  My son died and my daughter just barely escaped.  

Pregnancy, while a source of wonder and excitement for others, tastes like ash in my mouth.

How do you experience pregnancy now, both your own or others?  Does it still hold any joy or wonder?


  1. This post is spot on. I too look at my living children with wonder and amazement that they are the same beings I fretted and worried and stressed over for all those months. Seems impossible.
    And the joyous pregnancy news and birth announcements still still, even nearly five years on. I think it always will.

  2. I really really miss being excited about pregnancies. I used to love it when someone, anyone, I knew was pregnant. Now it hurts, it makes me jealous or at best I don't care. Also, I never know what to say to someone pregnant. 'Enjoy your pregnancy' feels false, but I can hardly say: 'I hope the baby doesn't die'.
    I envy my friends who happily decide to try and have another baby. That naïve, cheerful excitement. No overwhelming fear. I wish I could have that back.

  3. I have been a silent reader of your blog for about 2 years now. This post is perfect, I couldn't have said it better myself. I lost my first born son to pre-eclampsia and a placental abruption at 31 weeks in 2011 and I have just recently brought home my second born son after 2 weeks in the NICU. Apparently I have trouble with the placentas aging too quickly. I've been advised not to have a large family. It breaks my heart. I so badly just want to be normal, to have a normal pregnancy, just once. I always wanted two children, I just didn't realise I needed to specify "living" in that request. Now, we have to decide whether or not to try a third pregnancy. Like you, I don't like pregnancy. It has never been easy, carefree, or naive. Why does it look so easy for everyone else?

    By the way, after having a child in the NICU, I must say you nurses are amazing people. You have a very important job and us parents are grateful for your work. Thank you for what you do.My second son probably would not have made it without people like you.

    1. Thanks for the lovely comment. I'm glad to hear your second child made it through the NICU experience. It's not an easy place to work. It's stressful and tiring and is a lot of responsibility, so it's always nice to hear we are appreciated.

  4. Every pregnancy I have is met with stress, anger, and bitterness that this is how it is for me. I'm appalled at the joyful 8 week announcements. It's a foreign language, incomprehensible to my ears.

  5. I struggle when I hear about new pregnancies (specifically when, as Amelia mentioned, they are announced at conception or shortly there after.

    Heck, I am jealous when people birth their healthy babies and they get to keep them! I sit there watching FB status updates and am genuinely surprised when they're child becomes two weeks old... Because why them and not me? GAH.

    Pregnancy is such a magical thing and the development of sperm and egg into a fetus and then an infant is incredible. But there are just so many things that can go wrong between conception and a possible delivery (and obviously beyond) that pregnancy will never be quite that innocent and amazing experience it once was for me. I'm jealous for those who still get to think of it like that... And angry, too!

  6. That is cute that you used to check out books about pregnancy at 12. My Mom was a nurse and kept all her nursing text books. I would take them down all the time and look at pictures and do some reading.

    I have Emily now, but I still feel pregnant when I see pregnant women and women with more than one child with them. I do wonder if they have ever had a loss, but I still feel jealous. It seems like most people I know in real life who are or who have recently been pregnant have no major problems and they assume that they will have a second, third, fourth, etc with no problems. Physically I can probably do it, but because of what we have already been through and how many years it has occurred over, even trying for another baby isn't a given and that makes me sad for many reasons.

    There are a bunch of women at church right now who are pregnant and I'm relieved when I see them and see that they are still pregnant and I hope that things continue to go well, but I'm very scared for them.

    Pregnancy does still hold joy and wonder for me, but so much fear that the fear overpowers all other feelings most of the time.

  7. Hey there mamma! What a great post- and well timed. I know of a few newly preggo's (first babies) and seeing all of the joy, the anticipation, the expectations.. it's a lot to take in. It will never, ever be that way in my world again.
    Pregnancy is so very different now....

  8. That Acorn, the baby you worried for and cried so much for is actually the same person who toddles around your house, exasperating you by throwing her food on the floor, whines to be picked up to look out the window, and (on a good day!) falls asleep in my arms at nap time...seems almost unreal. She's so could I ever have worried otherwise? it is very reasonable.