Sunday, August 20, 2006

Farewell privacy

What is better than sharing your news of a subsequent pregnancy with 200 of your family's closest friends/relatives? Let me see: life as a male praying mantis, being trapped with snakes on a plane, working on Christmas Day, skinning your knees and then falling into a vat of rubbing alcohol...

I think you get the idea.

This past weekend was just so uncomfortable. Most people at our family event were kind and excited and simply wished us "congratulations", which I could (sort of) deal with using a fake smile and quickly walking away or changing the subject. Then there were the ones that wanted to carry on the conversation...when's the big day, how have you been feeling, no morning sickness? I seriously considered making a placard to wear that said "thank you, end of January, fine, not really", but certainly that would have prompted more curiosity. I was going to tally the number of "how are you feeling?"s, but lost count early on in the day.

One family friend who really wanted to talk about this pregnancy accosted me when I sat down for a little rest (lordy, I was tired). She wanted to know all the details. When I was a little curt and evasive, she looks at me knowingly and says "You are nervous" to which I agreed. She then assured me "don't worry, they will monitor you really closely and everything will be okay."

OK, trying to be nice, I know. But I had 3 non-stress tests, 3 OB visits, and 3 biophysical profiles done in the week before our son died. I saw our GP the day before he died. He was being monitored. This woman knows none of this and was trying to be comforting. I just wish that people didn't feel the need to do that. They are talking to a person that lives in a different reality than they do. I just don't perceive the world in the same way that they do.

Another woman, a dear family member this time, was wholely drunk at the end of the evening and wanted to talk about the pregnancy when I was making farewells. She started off with "You take care of yourself so that nothing happens to this one" then proceeded into something like "don't worry, you're not going to do anything so that this one dies" then ended with a resounding "it'll all be okay". Or something like that. When I saw the direction the drunken spiel was heading, I tried to pull away and leave, but she had me by the arm. My brain went into panic mode and I honestly don't remember what all she said. I simply remember being mortified and astounded, all at the same time. The brain doesn't always remember specifics when you are in retreat mode.

I sound so much like I am telling stories to garner sympathy. But what I feel like I am doing here is writing it out to see if I feel the same way about the situation when I see it in black and white. For now, I think that I do. I feel like, now that people know that there is a new little human growing in my belly, all the respect for privacy that I may have had in the past is eliminated. I know that that is a part of any pregnancy - I have done this before. It is just that I feel as though I should be afforded extra respect in light of the fact that I have been here before, with an empty crib and broken heart to show for my troubles.

Much of my discomfort comes from two sources. First, I have spent the better part of the last 19 months building up a little castle of security around my life and my heart. I have my handful of people who understand me and don't judge me. I have learned how to deal with and distance myself from those who don't understand, but that I have to deal with on a regular basis. A blooming belly seems to instantaneously destroy that shelter that I have built in my life. My life and my family is now open to the prying eyes of the world. Strangers feel free to ask you all sorts of uncomfortable questions. Family members read this as the signal that I am ready to move on and it is okay to treat me as if I am the person that I was this time 2 years ago. I am not. And it scares the living daylights out of me to have all that security, false as it may be, so suddenly ripped away from me.

The second source of discomfort is likely the sensation that I am now supposed to "move on". I am constantly feeling as though this baby is seen as a replacement in the eyes of the world. I do not feel that way and it maddens me to think that anyone else might feel that way. Of course, I don't know what anyone else is thinking and I am not giving much credit to the people around me. But it is that faint possibility that anyone might think "well, good, enough thinking about that dead baby - she can forget about him now" that makes me cringe around everyone.

I should spend less time worrying about what anyone else thinks. I know what I think and I know what my husband thinks. And frankly, we are the only two that matter. But a lifetime of concern about the impression that I leave with others (gee, thanks Mom for that character trait) is impossible to abandon when you are suddenly feeling exposed and defenseless.

I guess what I am saying is that I don't know how to be so happy about the Babe and so sad about our son all at the same time. And making it a public affair makes it harder for me.


Julian's Mom said...

Congratulations--you've managed to articulate something I don't think I ever did in my subsequent pregnancy. The loss of privacy, and the feeling that everyone around you takes your pregnancy as a sign that you are "over it" (as you get the feeling they think you should have been AGES ago) can be overwhelming. And yes, grieving one baby while trying to grow another one with all eyes on you is extremely uncomfortable, to say the least. Your "snakes on a plane" reference cracked me up. We've been keeping the radio in the nursery tuned to NPR all day and night, and have heard all the stories in circulation--somehow I hear all the "snakes on a plane" jokes, but managed to miss hearing about the film...

kate said...

What's with the snakes on a plane? I am so out of touch these days...

Ugh, what a horrible thing to have to do -- to be in a situation where all those (well-meaning but idiotic) folks all know at once. I must say i was spared this indignity with my sub pg -- there were no family events attended. Heh.

I know this is kind of wierd but during my pg with Chloe i found the implication that i had 'moved on' rather liberating. It made me feel more free to talk about Nicolas. Because i had demonstrably 'moved on' in the way that society expects us to -- by trying to have another baby, a 'replacement' in people's eyes perhaps -- i felt like i could talk about him and what happened to him without people thinking that i 'had to get over it'. And hopefully some people would see that ALL my children are the most important part of my life, and none of them are 'something to get over'. Doubt it did any good, but one can hope ;)

Bronwyn said...

Sometimes people should just shut up :) I think it makes other people feel more comfortable if they think that you're "over it". When of course we all know that it's not a question of getting over it, it's a question of finding a way to remember and not fall apart. (((Big hug)))

rach said...

grief and joy certainly can coexist in life. and they often do.

don't try to figure that one out. just go where your feelings take you, and know it's ok to feel the way you do.

**enter new age musical chimes** :)

delphi said...

Thanks for the support, everyone. Also, thanks Catherine for the alternate view of your pregnacy with Chloe. I am going to try on this "liberation" approach and see if it fits.