Labor Pains: Sure, I Was Happy To Be Pregnant – But I Missed My Barren BFFs
One miscarriage into my (sorry, our) quest for a child and I was a wreck. Well, aren’t we all? It’s not the sort of occasion one wants to commemorate, really. But my experience post-miscarriage turned out to be fairly bittersweet. Because once you start coming out with it – murmuring your news to friends, responding to relatives’ foot-in-mouth remarks – it becomes clear you’re not the only one who’s been there. Not by a long shot.
While statistics show the UK (where I live) was entering a baby boom in 2006, my straw poll revealed a baby bust. It seemed everywhere I turned someone was losing it. There must have been something in the water, quite literally.
And so, without realizing it was happening, eventually my misery found company. There were four of us, officially, in our pity party, though honorary members came and went over the following months: fortysomethings between their last-gasp fertility treatments; thirtysomethings like me, wondering if it was a fluke or if they’d naively waited too long; even twentysomethings, thrust into adulthood by such a loss at an age when they’d believed a successful birth was the thing to be feared.
Our alliance was particularly comforting at family picnics, Sunday brunch and, of course, baby showers. Like a gang of Sex and the City Charlottes, we collectively rolled our eyes at smug parents. We avoided pregnant women like the plague. Some days it seemed as if everyone and their mother (not as unlikely as you’d think in my lowbrow neighborhood) was With Child.
And then, suddenly, so was I.
I felt all those emotions that overwhelm you when you first see that “plus” on the pee stick. “Yes!” “No!” “Aaach!” “I am woman!” “Oh, god, why did I have to be a woman?” “How much will it hurt?” “What will we name it?” “Do my tits look bigger?”
Hormones aside, though, I managed to slow down and consider what – and who – I was leaving behind. Sure, they were dreadful, those ominous months when I wondered if I would forever be known as The Barren One. But I spent them with kindred spirits. And I couldn’t very well just walk back into the fold and carry on brooding while, well, physically brooding. The British call the period of gestation “antenatal,” which, when you say it aloud, sounds like the kind of birth you are dead set against. I can’t say I was “anti-natal”; I was just a tiny bit nostalgic for my pre-antenatal days.
It took weeks beyond that cagey first term before I was able to face those women with my positive result. They met the news with the graciousness that comes from those practiced in disappointment: a big smile, a big hug, then a big glass of something highly alcoholic. Sometimes I joined them, but mostly not.
And so those early days of pregnancy turned out to be as bittersweet as the early days of miscarriage. Something was lost just as something was gained.
I got over it. And so did they, for the most part. One by one we joined the late-aughties baby boom, except for my closest ally (at least formerly). She’s gone through everything – every procedure, every drug, every herb – without luck, and she has (sorry, they have) decided to give up. I still see her, regularly; she’s still gracious, still hugs a good game. But there’s always going to be an elephant in the room. And I think we’ve both come to the conclusion that it’s wise not to confront an elephant. Particularly when babies are involved.