a walk among friends

Today's post comes to us from Louise of Radar of Chance. She writes: "...'After' began in May 2009. Laura was a gift: a surprise pregnancy when clomid was the order of the day, a 40th birthday present, a second daughter to a mother with six brothers, new life and hope when our lives had veered off the path of plain sailing. She was all these things and before we knew it she was gone...."

photo by maine momma

My friend is pregnant.

I am not.

With every bit of my being I yearn to be pregnant. My fantasy is not of some cute child to dress up and show off, when I think of pregnancy. My fantasy is labour. I want to feel a baby being delivered out of me. I want to feel the effort and pain of labour, and feel it with the hope that the baby who slithers out of me will roar, will nuzzle, will pee, will stare at this strange new place with big, dark, all-knowing, out-of-focus baby eyes, will breathe…….

But my friend is pregnant.

I am not.

There are two people in this world that are allowed to be pregnant, two people whose pregnancies I could genuinely rejoice in. Everyone else is in a category somewhere between envy and so-can’t-deal with-this-at-all. This friend is one of the two people.

She has been pregnant before. This time two years ago, she was bubbling over with excitement for the life that was growing inside her. She had asked me to be her birth companion (if I wasn’t pregnant. Why would I be pregnant? That was not on our agenda.) I was bubbling over with excitement for the life that was growing inside her.

I got a phone call after her twelve-week scan. “My baby has died.” Not before a lifetime of plans and dreams had been made for this child and her love for this child had taken root and entwined itself deep deep down in the depths of her soul. I had never seen someone hollow with grief before.

She became pregnant again and miscarried again, this time just before I found out I was pregnant with Laura. We could have been pregnant together, she just a week or two ahead of me. Our babies could have been friends. Telling her I was pregnant with Laura – an unplanned, most unexpected pregnancy after three clomid babies – was one of the hardest things I have ever done.

Throughout my pregnancy with Laura, as she journeyed with her own loss and sorrow, this friend was a constant presence. She talked on the phone with me for hours when we were told, after our twelve-week scan, that Laura was high risk for Down’s Syndrome. In all her pain she still accompanied me. She rejoiced in my blooming body. She came shopping with me for maternity clothes. She stayed on the phone when I had no words and only tears were flowing.

And then one day I called her and said, “My baby has died.”

She was there instantly. We walked the hospital grounds together, the sun shining, me still beautifully pregnant. She left me a notebook and pencil, just in case…. I woke at 5.00am the following morning and began to write.

While I was in labour she went shopping and bought the babygros I had spotted, but hadn’t yet got around to buying. We didn’t ask her, she anticipated the need and offered. They were left at the front desk of the hospital for us as I delivered Laura into this world, perfect tiny girl babygros.

She came to meet Laura. She couldn’t hold her – not because she was afraid to hold a dead baby, but because her own yearning to have a baby was so strong, she was afraid she would not be able to let her go if she did hold her. And yet she came and sat with me and cried with me and stared in wonder at the beauty of our little Laura.

My friend is pregnant. I called to visit her a while back and wondered, “Is that a pregnant bump?” She was only six weeks, but it is twins. She is allowed to be pregnant and I am able to rejoice in this pregnancy, but……

In the time since Laura has died, I have been learning a lot of things about myself. Most of this learning, this unfolding of who I am now, has come after the fact – after I have found myself in a familiar situation, but reacting differently from before. I don’t know this world anymore, or I don’t know who I am in it.

I gave my pregnant friend a bag filled with my maternity clothes- it will save her money and they’d just be gathering dust with me. Yesterday I met her and she was me – my top, my trousers, my pregnant bump. This is the unknown territory. These are the things I don’t know. I’ve always passed my maternity clothes around. But this time it is different. This time there is Laura, in all her absence at the centre of everything. When does hard become too hard to bear?

I will walk with my friend through her pregnancy because there is nothing I would rather do more right now. I can handle the clothes. It hurts, but I can handle it and frankly a pretty high proportion of life hurts right now anyway. A few clothes won’t tip the balance either way.

The other day she started talking about doulas. I reminded her I was here if she wanted me to be her companion this time. She had been afraid to ask. She is acutely conscious of how hard it could be for me. I am too, but I’ve never been at a birth that wasn’t one of my own children. Does losing Laura mean I have to step back and deny myself a whole range of life experiences just in case they might be too painful for me?

My friend is pregnant and I will walk with her through her pregnancy.

I am afraid because I am a different person now and I don’t and won’t know a lot of the differences until situations reveal them to me. I don’t know how I will react and that is a risk that I am taking. But, I will be walking with my friend and her growing babies, carrying joy and fear and sorrow and hope with me every step of the way.

How do you feel about other people’s pregnancies since your loss? Do you have friends who make you feel differently about pregnancy? How do you cope with the challenges that other people’s pregnancies present to you? How do you look after yourself and offer support simultaneously?