I mentioned briefly in my last post that at the height of my grieving, I had to watch a coworker living out the timeline of my own failed pregnancy: I was due April 17th, she was due May 1st. She was a nice enough girl, but I couldn’t stand to be around her – especially given the facts that she was five years younger than I am, and was in the process of getting a restraining order against her future baby’s father. Comparing my situation with hers, as I’d done with Monica’s, I shook my fist at God and asked, “Why her and not me?”
So there was her, then Monica, then my sister Dawn, who, immediately after celebrating her son’s first birthday, decided to get pregnant with her daughter. There were a few other coworkers whose wives were pregnant, not to mention all the pregnant customers who, it seemed to me, singled me out like trauma-seeking missiles. I was working primarily in the vitamins section of my store at the time, and every time I had to order a new case of Prenatal Multis, it was like there were 18 invisible pregnant women there, taunting me. Ultrasound photos kept popping up on my facebook – people I’d had no contact with and relatively little interest in for ten years suddenly came to the forefront of my consciousness because they were pregnant, and I was not. And forget watching TV; suddenly, every show decided it was a good idea to throw in an “unexpectedly expecting” story-line. More recently, all of Doug’s cousins got pregnant at once, followed shortly thereafter by my cousin’s wife and another college friend of mine, both of whom got married within the same week that I did, as though to show me that if I had done things the way I was supposed to, I could be pregnant now, too.
Somewhere along the way, I started prejudging these women, sizing them up to see whether or not their pregnancies should upset me. (Never mind that they did – could I justify it?) If the woman was older, or married, or already had a kid or two, she became less immediately offensive. It was the young, single, “but I never thought it would happen to me” types that really stung.
And they still do, though now it’s more of a dull ache. I avoid all pregnant women if I can. I actually try to prevent these close-encounters by checking out stomachs the way straight men check out boobs; I stare at questionable bellies, trying to determine whether they belong to actual pregnant enemies or harmless chubby girls – which means I’ve probably inadvertently caused many a chubby girl to go home and cry, a side effect for which I am truly sorry.
The statistics say that something like 1 in every 4 pregnancies ends in miscarriage, closer to 1 in 3 for first pregnancies, but the statistics have not proven themselves in my experience. Where before, pregnant women seemed few and far between, now I encounter them everywhere around me (welcome to my late 20s, I guess). And although I heard many miscarriage stories – from people in the last generation, who now had healthy children of their own, or from people who had friends or relatives who’d miscarried – none came from primary sources currently experiencing the pain that I was experiencing; I still considered my particular brand of grief to be totally singular, and I still felt totally alone.
Until one day, suddenly, it wasn’t, and I didn’t.
Because not long ago, my domestic, I-just-want-to-be-a-housewife friend, Beth, had her own miscarriage. And although I confess that I’ve fantasized, more than once, about someone else miscarrying so that I would have someone to talk to and heal with, I never would have wanted it to be her. Her life is perfectly primed for a baby: she has an amazing husband, owns property, loves to cook and clean and do all that other stuff I’m horrible at. If anyone deserved (because my judgment scale has a lot to do with perceived merit) to get pregnant and stay pregnant, it was Beth. And now I know that misery does not love company, and loss is no less lonely when you have someone to share it with.
Her experience was vastly different from mine, too. While I spent weeks dreading and preemptively grieving my loss, hers was very sudden. Everything was fine, and then, in the course of a weekend, everything was gone. It follows that the things she’s thinking and feeling should be very different from the things I thought and felt at the time (and/or have thought and felt since). Yet she’s been checking in with me for validation, telling me parts of her story prefaced with the line, “I don’t know how it was for you, but…”
Which is hard to reply to, since I still don’t really know how it was for me, either. If nothing else, she’s forcing me to think about it – how do my feelings measure up? It’s like we’re experimenting with some sort of a grieving litmus test.
The one that caused me to think the most, perhaps, was the last line of an email she sent me the other day (in which we were also trying to plan a dinner party for ourselves and our male counterparts, and which contained the promise of the most beautiful dessert I’ve ever heard of: smores pie).
“I dunno emotionally how you were,” the end of the email said, “but I was very very very bad. Like lowest point of my life.”