I was toying with the idea of quitting the blog. I have the feeling that nobody is reading it other than my husband, who has to spellcheck it. On the other hand, even if nobody is reading it, I still feel like writing. Therefore I will continue rambling by myself in the forest. I might just convert it to a private diary if I am the only one around here.
Anyway, this is another post that was intended for other women struggling with infertility, miscarriage, stillbirth or infant loss. How do we deal with other people's bellies and babies. This post was inspired by the privilege and simultaneous hardship of holding a baby on my lap and rocking her to sleep tonight. This happens to me on a daily basis (minus the rocking to sleep) since it is part of my job. I work in large part with pregnant women and babies. How do I do it? sometimes I don't know myself, but I will try to put it into words.
I think what has helped me the most was exposure. When I first went back to work 1-2 weeks after losing Adrian, I expected to have a hard time. I took a moment to acknowledge my feelings when it was hard. I cried a little in my office. I phoned my husband for support sometimes. I congratulated myself for getting through it one step at a time. I allowed myself to feel proud of doing an incredibly difficult thing. I told myself that if I cannot handle it, I will give up my job if need be, and become a shepherdess (ok, not quite).
And of course it was hard. The first couple of pregnant bellies at 18-22 weeks gestation were like a punch it the gut. Touching them, I could imagine the babies inside, alive and well, and thought of how mine wasn't. I felt inferior in a primal way to every pregnant woman that had made it further than I had. For the longest time, when people's ultrasound reports would come in, my eyes would dart straight to the cervical length and I felt awe and amazement at the huge accomplishment of maintaining a 4 cm cervix at 20 weeks. I mean c'mon, it is something, isn't it, especially when my cervical length is 2 cm at the best of times (i.e. when nonpregnant). These women were amazing goddesses. I was a hobbit.
Then, slowly, I got bored of putting myself down and started thinking. First of all, who is this person in my head criticizing me all the time? Why is she here to begin with? And why am I letting her? Is it because she sounds familiar? Do I have the power to ignore her painful monologue? Can I sometimes prove her wrong?
This voice in my head which was so old and familiar that I had never even begun to question had now a distinct identity. I thought of her as the-critical-me (also known as my father - just kidding, dad). I started saying hello whenever the voice would appear. (Note to any psychiatrist friends that might be reading my blog, I am not talking about an ACTUAL voice, you know...). In time, I have learned to work alongside this voice, to accept its monologue and even to smile at it. Yes, it can be done!
And then, something wonderful happened: I started enjoying babies and bellies again. A baby's smile and sweet smell is something I did not want to deny myself. Pregnant women's excitement and optimistic happiness, even not ever to be mine again (I plan to be a complete basket case with worry and anxiety during my next pregnancy, if it ever happens) can be enjoyed in moderate portions. And the feeling of helping babies get on this side of the world safely gives my life purpose and meaning.
Yes, sometime it is hard. It still is. However, it gets infinitely easier if we learn to say hi and bye to that critical voice. Then, all that is left is pain, and pain is manageable. Feeling like a hobbit, on the other hand, is not a way to live.