Since my first loss I’ve struggled with most, if not all, of my relationships and specifically with my friendships. I’m not the same person I was before and thus my friendships aren’t the same as they were before. Pregnancy loss and grief have been a very isolating experience for me. I am mourning my babies who never existed outside of me. I carried them and loved them. Nobody else, except The Husband, saw them (I never shared ultrasound pictures). A lot of my friends have living children and have never experienced second trimester losses or pregnancy loss at all. They can imagine how it must feel but they don’t know. And I don’t tell them because I don’t want to hear platitudes. And a lot of times that’s what you get – platitudes. This isn’t to say that I have horribly insensitive friends, or that they all tell me things that don’t help like “It just isn’t your time” or “When it’s meant to be it will be” or “At least you can get pregnant” – don’t get me wrong, I do love my friends and think they are great people. And I do have a few that have been very supportive and sensitive to what I’ve gone through. Anyway, I am not a natural extrovert and I don’t particularly enjoy discussing my feelings and emotions. With the exception of this blog I’ve been very…. stoic. If someone asks how I am, the answer is “Fine.” If someone asks if I plan to try again, the answer is “We haven’t decided.” I am quick to shut down any conversation about pregnancy, my losses, and my feelings or emotions about these topics. The most I think I have said is that “Some days are more difficult than others.” I don’t want pity. I don’t want to be a cautionary tale either – “My friend once went to her 19 week ultrasound… and her baby had this wrong, and that wrong… and then she lost a second baby later that year… and blah blah blah…. those things really do happen” or “See, you can survive those things” or “See, this is why you should get testing.”
I’ve mentioned before that work has been my distraction from how poorly I perceive my personal life to be going, and a distraction from thinking about my losses. Going to work gave me something to do, something to think about, something to keep myself busy with immediately after my losses. Most of my social interactions, outside of family, have been with my friends from work. No one in my core group of girlfriends at work have any children. We talk about work, work politics, our husbands/significant others, our pets, our “work crushes”, our favorite TV shows. It has been my “Pregnancy Free Baby Free Safe Zone.” I have four friends that know about my second loss – two of them are from work (N and J). I can’t avoid my work friends – we spend 8 or 9 hours in the same building every day. We work on the same floor, share the same bathroom and refrigerator and water bubbler. They are a 30 second walk away from my office. N, in particular, is someone that I consider more than a “work friend” and just a “very good friend” in general. She got me the very beautiful bouquet of flowers when I returned to work after my second loss; she bought me a beautiful Anchor Me Bracelet after my first loss. She has seen my cry; I’ve seen her cry. We’ve been happy and angry and sad. We share most everything with each other.
Now she is pregnant (11 weeks? 12 weeks? I don’t remember) and we can’t share that.
She told me when she was 6 weeks. She had been going through a rough time with morning sickness, and other things were going on that I won’t share here since it’s not my story. She was in tears when she told me – she didn’t want to upset me, and was nervous to tell me, but was so sick with morning sickness and her general anxiety that she wanted me to know because she was scared/nervous for herself – and I’m her work person. She was crying about it all – me, her sickness, her other situations. I wanted to cry for myself but didn’t. She has anxiety and I wanted her to be okay and I didn’t want to upset her any more than she already was. We talked it through, and I hugged her and let her cry, and tried to comfort her. In my mind I knew this could happen – I knew when she went off birth control, I knew she and her boyfriend had been trying. I knew each month it didn’t happen. So I knew that one of these months it could happen. I told her I was happy for her, but sad for me.
Happy for you but sad for me.
Intellectually happy for you, but emotionally sad for me. Intellectually happy because I know I should be happy, because two years ago I would have been, because if I hadn’t lost my babies I would have been. Emotionally sad for me because I feel sad about my losses, sad that I am not pregnant, scared I may never get pregnant again, scared that if I do get pregnant I won’t ever have a healthy pregnancy. Envious that yet another person has what I want. Mad at the world. Angry at the universe for allowing loss to happen to me twice. Feeling like a failure because I set out to do this nearly a year before she did, and I’m no closer. Feeling like a failure because I haven’t been able to produce a healthy baby but it seems like everyone else can. Bitter that for some reason the universe elected me to go through second trimester loss, twice. Guilty because I didn’t feel as happy for her as I knew I should.
So that was a few weeks ago. Since then I have been slowly but surely withdrawing. Not stopping by her office as much. Not sending as many instant messages. Not as many lunch dates (but this could be her as much as me, since she’s been sick and uninterested in lunch.) When we talk about it the conversations have been quick and pretty much one sided – I haven’t been asking at all, but she’s been bringing it up. I can feel my face get tense, my stomach clenches and I brace myself. And I care, because I want my friend to be healthy, and I want her baby to be healthy and I don’t want her to go through what I went through. But I can’t bring myself to ask questions or have the excited conversations – nursery ideas, name ideas, doctors appointments, ultrasounds. And I’m certain she hasn’t been telling me as much as she wants to because she doesn’t want to upset me. Of course this is exciting for her, and she wants to share her excitement and happiness. But I have not been feeling like I can be that person who can share in it with her. Or that I want to be that person. I tried for a few weeks but it’s exhausting for me. It’s exhausting to hold yourself together and fake it. I can’t outright avoid her, like I did with M when she was pregnant, because I walk past her office (or the general vicinity) every morning on my way in, my way out at night, and multiple times throughout the day as I attend meetings.
So I struggle with how to handle this. Do I tell her that I just don’t want to hear about it and I need my space? I don’t think she would be offended or hurt, maybe just sad. Do I fake it ’till I make it? Put myself through the emotional ringer and suck it up for my friend. Do I just continue to slowly disengage? I don’t want to lose our friendship or change the dynamic in our group of friends.
So thank you, pregnancy loss. You’ve cost me my babies, a lot of my hope, a lot of my happiness, and now yet another of my friendships is suffering.