“What would you say to her, if you could express your truth, and there would be no consequences?” my therapist asked.
We were talking about how I want to quit choir this year, now that I know my closest friend there is pregnant. I’d told her how I can only imagine the anxiety and dread I’m going to feel, having to watch that pregnancy develop, week by week – even though, theoretically, I should be happy for my friend: she’s married, she’s my age, she’s got a good career. There is nothing to argue that pregnancy is not her right.
But it bothers me that my friend is pregnant. When I found out, my heart sank. And I cried to Doug, who tried to find a way to “fix” it, and when he couldn’t, got frustrated and snapped at me. “[Learning of another woman’s pregnancy] never hurts any less than it did the first time,” I told my therapist. “I keep waiting for it to get easier, but it doesn’t. Every single pregnancy gives me that sinking feeling, that anxiety. Except for my sister’s.”
So I told her the story of Dawn’s second pregnancy, and how I’d initially reacted (“You were supposed to wait for me!”) and that from then on, everything was fine. And she said she thought maybe that comment, joking as it was, expressed my truth: I did not like that Dawn was pregnant; and because Dawn knew what I’d been through and because she understands me, she heard my truth without me having to say it exactly; and so we connected and formed an unspoken understanding; and because of that, I was able to move on and feel normal for the duration of her pregnancy.
“I think you get caught up in your words a lot,” my therapist told me. “I think you get too wrapped up in trying to explain, or say things in a way that won’t hurt people – because there are those social conventions telling us that a pregnancy is something to be happy about – and so you never really get to express your truth. And what I’ve learned about you today is that you need to express your truth in order to move forward.”
And suddenly I realized she was right. If, two years ago, I had just said to Monica, “I don’t like that you’re pregnant” – Monica being a friend whom I’ve never had to explain my emotions to, because she usually just gets them and knows what to say automatically – we probably could have avoided all the awkwardness, all the hurt feelings, all the misunderstandings, all the tip-toeing around each other, as we tried and failed to navigate the irony and proximity of our lives. Instead we could have made jokes like we would have otherwise, and actually been there for each other when we needed each other. Well… fuck.
Why have I been going around all this time lying, saying, “Pregnant women make me uncomfortable,” as though this is something that’s always been true for me, when really I was fine with them until a few years ago? Why have I tried to convince myself that it’s okay for other people to conceive based on their age/financial situation/marital status, or that there are specific reasons that pregnant women bother me, such as their sense of entitlement or their inability to cover themselves? Those things are all just symptoms. Really, pregnant women bother me regardless of their stats, regardless of their level of tactfulness, because they remind me of what I lost, and cause my heart to break all over again. What’s so wrong with me knowing that, admitting it, owning it, and sharing it?
“So what would you say to your friend right now, if you could express your truth, and there would be no consequences?” my therapist asked.
“I would say, ‘I hate that you’re pregnant,'” I answered immediately, my throat closing over an unwanted sob.