Before I got pregnant with Lucia, seeing pregnancy announcements or bump photos or babies was hard. That was jealousy. I wanted to have a baby and begrudged those who either were in the position to have a baby (married, out of school, stable job, whatever) when I wasn't or those who had babies even though their positions were less than desirable. In fact, I can't say that I could even feel happy for those who were having babies while I was not. All I could see was myself - my desires, my fears, my anger, my hurt, my jealousy. I wanted what they had and if I couldn't have it, I didn't want them to have it either. I don't feel good about admitting that. Those feelings came from a less than charitable place. That jealousy was sinful and soul-eating.
After my miscarriages, it's often very, very hard to see pregnancy announcements or bump photos or babies. But it's not jealousy. In fact, my feelings have very little, if nothing, to do with the women who are making those announcements or in those pictures or holding those babies. For them, I feel happiness. I feel joy at the beauty of new life. Having Lucia, I know the immense blessings of motherhood and I am so happy that other women get to experience it. I truly wish motherhood was available to all who desired it; infertility breaks my heart and I cannot begin to imagine the pain carried by the women who suffer from it.
The reason these things cause me pain is not because of jealousy. No, I do not begrudge other women their babies. And I don't want their babies for myself. I want my babies. The ones I lost. The unique human beings that I carried in my womb. They have their own souls, their own personalities. Their own DNA. They cannot be exchanged for another's child. Those announcements and pictures and sweet little babies simply remind me of what I lost. What I can never have. Even if I get pregnant again and the child makes it to birth and I get to hold that baby in my arms and I get to hug and kiss and raise it, that baby will not replace the ones I've lost.
And I imagine if the day does come when I get to birth another baby, that too will cause me pain. That too will be a reminder of the moments that I'll never have with two of my children. And it doesn't mean I'll love that child less or that that child herself will be the cause of my pain. Again, the feeling will have little to do with her. For her, I will feel joy and love and the million other complex emotions that come with motherhood. But it will still be a reminder of what once was and what could have been.
One of the most important things I've done for myself in this healing process has been to acknowledge that these feelings are not bad. Unlike the jealousy I felt years ago, these feelings don't come from sin. These feelings come from grief, loss, pain. They are not cruel or angry or hurtful. They simply are. I know not all women who've had miscarriages struggle with pregnancy announcements or visiting new babies. We all grieve in our own unique ways. But I do struggle. And that's ok.
Not all pregnancy announcements bother me, nor do all newborns. I've had several friends announce pregnancies or have babies since my miscarriage in October and I was unaffected by the news. The most difficult reminders have been the ones that are the most obvious reminders - those who have due dates similar to mine. Watching their bellies grow throughout pregnancy is kind of like watching the ghost of my pregnancy. What would have been. What will never be. I imagine as we near my due date and those babies are born, it will become even harder. I often wonder if I'll see those children five, ten, fifteen years down the road and still feel sadness, still imagine what would have been, still try to imagine how my child would have been similar or different. Only time will tell.
In addition to acknowledging that these feelings are ok, I've also allowed myself to block the reminders that have caused me pain, at least for a time. I've unfollowed the blogs of women who are due within a month of my due date and hidden friends from my Facebook newsfeed for the same reason. I've left groups where pregnancy talk was too difficult to bear. At times, I've left Facebook and stopped reading blogs altogether for a period. At first, I felt that I was allowing myself to be weak. Or letting my weakness rule me. Now I'm starting to realize that we need to honor our feelings and protect ourselves. Maybe it is weak to not be able to see cute bump photos. Weak or not, right now, that's what I need. I know it won't be forever.
I'm coming up on a difficult time - one of the pains of miscarrying so early in a pregnancy is that as a general rule, people don't announce pregnancies that early. So in a few weeks, I'll start seeing announcements that correspond to my due date. And not long after that, the due date of my first miscarriage will be here. And if it ends up being too much, I'm not going to force myself to be strong. I'm going to turn off my computer and let myself cry.