Have you ever sat at a group of people who are sharing stories or discussing topics that you are completely unable to relate to? You sit quietly on the side, with nothing to contribute, awkwardly awaiting a welcome change in topic to something more relatable, something that you can share in?
I’ve always struggled to be a part of most conversations which revolve around the stereotypical feminine conversations. I couldn’t find anything more tedious than shopping or discussing the perfect pair of stilettos ( and I loved stilettos). I always found myself gravitating toward mixed sex groups or even the guys only groups at parties, the topics of discussion were more appealing for me, and not about ‘Sharon’ who’d shagged so and so, boyfriend/husband or who had the best sale on shoes that weekend. Yeah, I’m stereotyping, but bare with me for a little bit longer. Not being able to relate or contribute didn’t mean that I didn’t want to. I longed to fit into one of these little cliques. With pregnancy I saw a window of possibility. For once I would be able to relate, share stories and not just sit on the side-lines, struggling to understand why a specific topic was so damn interesting to everyone but me.
My pregnancy and our daughters’ birth was not easy. It was terrible to be perfectly honest. In between first trimester sickness, low blood pressure from the summer heat and being diagnosed with a life threatening illness I had possibly two weeks of pregnancy bliss. In the early days of this blog, when there was still a glimmer of hope of being able to carry Charlotte to term, I shared a bit of my pregnancy ‘glow’, which was more like being torched at the stake like a Salem Witch than a joyous pregnancy glow.
My pregnancy was downright horrific. So much so, that the idea of ever falling pregnant again has me losing my breath and raising my body temperature.
The trauma we experienced as a result of my pregnancy complications and her early birth is not something that I ever expected to have such a lasting impact on me. Once we’d walked out the NICU I somehow expected it to be put to bed, a chapter that had ended to be replaced by the blessing of having our daughter alive and healthy. That having her home would be enough to vanquish the demons of our experiences. But as most preemie parents will know, it never truly leaves our hearts and minds.
Don’t get me wrong. I’ve made peace with our journey. What is done cannot be undone. I’m completely comfortable in the knowledge that another child is not likely to be part of our family’s story. I’m proud of our journey and all that we have overcome. But our story is a difficult one for many others to process.
And with my pregnancy came a few weeks of meeting with similarly expectant mothers in online support groups and coffee dates. Discussions about weird cravings, the glow everyone experiences, the flutters and kicks, increased hormone levels. I felt nothing but sick all the way through to 26 weeks and 3 days of pregnancy. I couldn’t stand the sight of meat. I felt permanently nauseous. I felt feint in the summer heat. My feet swelled. I was a downright miserable mess.
And for two beautiful weeks I felt it, I could relate to other expectant women! It felt great to finally feel like I fitted into something special that so many other women experience. And then it all went to shit as you know by now. And the group of women and parents who I am able to relate to dwindled, dramatically, to a small niche circle of women who share experiences and stories that no family or person should ever have to experience.
I still see it when I’m in a new mom group that I’ve met. When everyone is sharing their birthing stories, the laughable moments relating to the first poop, maternity pads and when almost everyone in the ward sees your breasts when you first try breastfeeding. I share in the laughter and can even relate to a few of them, there was a time where I couldn’t even sit through one of these discussions.
Through the natural progress of development which comes from child rearing I’ve met new mothers, new groups of parents and find myself joining little meetups and coffee dates.
But there always comes a point at these meetups when someone new turns to me and asks how our birth story was. Along with the question, inevitably someone will blurt out that we have a miracle baby, or give a look of pity in my direction because our story is not easy to hear. The moments that I now deem laughable are either unrelatabele or are overshadowed by the rest of our story. If I do go ahead and tell our story it’s more often than not met with uncomfortable faces, condolences and awkward silences. So instead I tend to sit back silently and listen to others tell theirs or simply say that mine is far too boring to chat about.
Sharing a story like ours can be tricky. It is one of the main reasons why I love to share on Instagram and on my blog. Because there are so many like-minded parents out there who have experienced the same and sadly, far worse than what we have. Who understand how uncomfortable sharing our story can make others. They understand that we do want to talk about our journey for sympathy hugs and looks, but because it is our story, it’s all we know, it’s what we experienced and for us it’s likely the only pregnancy experience we will ever have. We fought for our children, and they fought to survive. It’s something to be proud of, but talking about it publicly makes many people uncomfortable.
I find as well that I’m fairly reserved and quiet about pregnancy when friends announce they are expecting. I’m beyond thrilled for them. I cry tears of joy for them and sorrow for us in the privacy of my bathroom. When they reach mile markers that for us resulted in diagnoses or delivery I’m torn between absolute relief that they are unlikely to travel our journey, envious that they were able to get so far without falling ill like me and then wracked with absolute guilt for being jealous over their health and great fortune.
I have statistics and facts ingrained into my head from weeks of research on the topics of pregnancy related problems, preeclampsia and HELLP syndrome. I find myself catching my breath when someone says they have crossed the 12 week marker and are now considered a ‘safe’ pregnancy. I know what can go wrong. I experienced it first-hand. I want to warn them that up until the day they hold their babies in their arms that they are not safe, that something can still go wrong. But I keep quiet, because striking fear in my friends is not something I want to be responsible for. When a friends pregnant feet swell up, I immediately want to rush them to a hospital for a urine test my brain jumps to the worst case scenario, because that was my only experience in both pregnancies. I know no different and am unlikely to ever experience a ‘normal’ pregnancy.
Whether we have picture perfect pregnancies, pregnancy related problems ranging from minor to severe, whether we are fortunate or not to have our children survive or pass on, we want to share our stories, because they are our stories.
So spare a thought for the mom who is basking in all the glory of the perfect pregnancy, she is truly blessed and fortunate and deserves to be proud of it, even if you are tired of her one hundred daily posts about how blessed she is, because she honestly is blessed. Share in the moment with her. But don’t forget to validate others experiences, even if they make you uncomfortable. I guarantee we all want to share our journeys, no matter the ending result. Don’t ignore friends who have experienced a tragic loss because discussing the death of their child makes you uncomfortable.
We all have a story to tell!