My department's administrative assistant is a very, very nice woman. I chat with her almost every day when I come into the office to check my mailbox or to pick up what I sent to the printer. Last Friday towards the end of the conversation she mentioned that she'd just been by to see her niece the day before, and that it was because the niece is due any moment. Not my favorite conversation, but I made a supportive noise. "And you know, the cord is wrapped twice around the baby. So they are going to take the baby on Tuesday if she doesn't go before then." I felt my eyes go wide at the "twice." It's an involuntary response, and it comes with the throat tightening. I am pretty sure my blood pressure jumps too.
I am, though, by now able to remain at least outwardly calm. I asked if they were planning induction or c-section for Tuesday, I nodded to her saying that the niece might go earlier as she'd already lost the mucus plug. I didn't jump in with horror stories, mine or anyone else's I know. Because in truth I know that nuchal cord occurs in a relatively sizable percentage of pregnancies, and that most times it presents no problems at all. And because this is not the way I want to tell people about A. The administrator, she doesn't know. It sounded like the doctors were aware of the risk and managing it. So I stayed mum. I thought about them on and off through the weekend. And Monday I made sure to stop by "to check my mailbox" even before dropping my stuff off in my own office. Because as rational as I am trying to be, taking pregnancy and birth related things for granted is just not something I can do. The niece is fine, by the way-- she had a healthy baby on Saturday.
It's not that I am a mess about every single pregnancy I am aware of. In fact, it's a lot harder to expect bad pregnancy-related things to happen to other people than to myself. When my sister was pregnant, she was a lot more nervous than an average bear. Understandable, as she was so very present for us, and in fact was the only person other than my husband and myself (and hospital and funeral home staff) to have seen A. But me? Not until one of the nurses called a doc about the heartbeat strip looking a tad too regular during delivery that I really really worried that something horrible may befall her too (it didn't, my nephew was just taking a little nap amidst contractions). I don't mean I assumed she'd be fine, but I didn't have the horrible pit in my stomach for her the entire time.
I think I assume other people's normal pregnancies will go normally. (Other babylost mamas are the exception, of course-- I worry there. But then none of our subsequent pregnancies are really considered low-risk, are they?) But throw in a hint of trouble, the barest, tiniest hint of trouble and this person, whether a friend, acquaintance, a blogger I just heard about, or a complete stranger begins to occupy a large chunk of my thoughts. I don't want them to know what we know. I don't want them to have a reason to google in the middle of the night. I don't want them to become one of us. Nothing I can do about it, of course.
Or mostly nothing. I once made a pregnant friend call her OB's office when we were on vacation. The friend had a stomach bug, and I was pretty sure the office would send her to the nearest hospital for fluids and monitoring. They did, and when we got there, her dehydration was so severe that there is a good chance getting there when we did prevented at least a bout of contractions. And I think that if I heard of someone who sounded like they were not getting good care or not reporting important symptoms, I would likely raise an alarm and try to get them to do something. But for more minor things I have now trained myself to stay out of it.
It doesn't take a shrink to know why signs of trouble in even complete strangers' pregnancies bug me. I mean, I had a pretty busy weekend, and I still thought about this niece I've never met more times than I've thought of most of my own friends. And because living in my own head is what I do, a lot, I also think about how it is that I react outwardly, and why. Five years on, many conversations are still not very comfortable to me. The "when" the baby comes ones are particularly not my cup of tea. But in most situations, I just look for the shortest or most graceful way out. Early on I was more likely to think of these conversations as a way to tell A's story. But now it's almost as if I am afraid that a pedestrian conversation might be beneath his memory, might get the dust of trivial onto the sacred.
It's weird, I know. One thought that used to drive me bonkers in the early months and years was that most people in the world don't know he existed, and never will know. That as important as he is to me, he is nothing to them. They can go on about their business unencumbered by the thought of him, of all this promise gone, of all the potential not only unrealized, but never even hinted at. And now I don't want to use his name in vain. It's not that it doesn't bother me anymore that others don't know. It still does. But now I don't want to shout about it from the rooftops. I want to tell, I think, in a way that gives dignity to his memory and to him.
A friend once said that she doesn't always know how to speak of A because, she said, "he is your pain." "No," I replied, "he is my son." This, I think, is why I don't talk about him every time I could-- I want him thought of primarily as my son, rather than that very sad thing that happened to me. So when I hear of a pregnancy complication, I don't want to brandish A's story (or any of the other babylost families' stories). I think I worry it would be seen as a prop. I don't want to get attention that way. But I still worry.
Have you been in a position to discuss someone else's risky pregnancy? How do you react? Do you tell everyone about your child(ren) or are you selective about it? Has that changed with time?