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Parents of lost babies and potential of all kinds: come here to share the technicolour, the vividness, the despair, the heart-broken-open, the compassion we learn for others, having been through this mess — and see it reflected back at you, acknowledged and understood.

Thanks to photographer Xin Li and to artist Stephanie Sicore for their respective illustrations and photos.

for one and all > Good friends pregnancy

I posted this originally in the not TTC forum, but then of course discovered the general forum and thought it may be more appropriate here. Please excuse the double post.

Our son died 3 and a half years ago. He was stillborn, no real reason was ever given. We got to the hospital and he was fine at 39 weeks, and then all of a sudden he wasn't. This happened in a foreign country, a European country, where I was living and working at the time. My relationship ended a few months later and 6 months after that I was back in the States. The pregnancy was unplanned, and I consciously have not yet tried to have other children (though it takes all the self-control I can muster!)

I've made a new life for myself- new career, great friends, some puppies along the way. But one thing still strikes so much fear into my heart....I'm at the age where my friends are just starting to have their first babies. Career oriented and driven, I've unconsciously surrounded myself with women who have delayed childbirth until their mid 30's and I've been lucky so far- the ones who have had babies have all been acquaintances. And finally it happened, the moment I've been dreading. My dear friend told me she was pregnant, over a text message, saying that she "didn't want to lie to me."

I listened to her complain about her morning sickness, gave her some advice, and then gracefully exited the conversation. And then I started to plot. How quickly can I disappear from this friend's life? How many times will I have to ignore her texts before she gets the message? How many plans will have to fall through, how many times will I have to fake illness? Will she even notice, or be too wrapped up in her pregnancy to see that I've withdrawn?

She is a good friend. We are cut from the same cloth. I like her. We have enjoyed years of friendship- sharing drinks, dinners, movies, books. And all I can think about is how to escape- how quickly I can abandon her, how quietly I can go. I don't want to hurt her feelings, but I know I can't be the friend she needs. If she complains about her pregnancy, it will annoy me (I'm not the right audience for pregnancy complaints!). If she gloats, It'll make me angry. If she tries to be nice and never bring it up, I'll be annoyed by that too. If she talks of nothing else, I don't know how I'll cope. She can't win, my poor friend, and I feel like a monster for admitting this.

It's so hard to have been traumatized by something that most people view as the greatest joy in life.

She is a dear friend but I never want to see her again. I too have been pregnant, I know the 6-month road that lies ahead of her. But I also know that our roads will diverge. Her baby will be fine (other people's babies always seem to be so fine, so alive, so fine.) I can't bear to accompany on her journey, knowing that hers will have a happy ending.

How do you guys cope? Sometimes it feels insurmountable.
July 11, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterOlive
This is really hard, Olive. I too waited a long time because of training and work to become pregnant so most if not all of my friends had already had one baby by the time I was pregnant last year but many were also pregnant simultaneously with their second. It was fun to feel like I was joining this club. And then my baby died at almost 38 weeks after a normal healthy pregnancy, while all our other friends went on to have their children who are all healthy in the subsequent weeks and months. It made me nuts. At first I wanted to be "normal" around them and do my best to maintain these friendships that were supportive to me particularly in the early days of grief. But every time I encountered one of their happy, complete families, it just highlighted what was missing for us and how far we are from that vision now. So I started to try to put some distance there. I felt guilty about it at first, but it has been out of a sense of self-preservation. I have reached out to some of my closer girlfriends and have just been honest with them-- telling them how hard it is for me to see them pregnant and to see their babies that would be so close in age to our son. I have apologized-- I wish I was stronger. They have all been totally respectful and given me space. And so now I take that space. Fortunately pregnancy is not forever, nor is this child-bearing period in our communities of friends, so I am hopeful that as the babies are born and grow, I can start to come closer to them again. I worry about how different our lives will look over time, as they are in the early infant period now with their second and I am still grieving the loss of my first, and how I won't have peers going through different life events with me the way it was lining up so nicely last year, but alas, sometimes survival and self-compassion and gentleness with ourselves is more important in the moment.

Be gentle with yourself and give yourself space. If she is an understanding friend, share your worries with her. I suspect she will be there for you when you are ready to be close again in time.
July 11, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterSteph
I agree, Olive. Sometimes I feel like I just don't want to have to deal with any of my friends with healthy babies ever again. Most friends, I have just told them I miss them but don't know how to be with them and that I hope that one day we will be able to reconnect. You are further along in this process than I am (only 9 months), but one thing I have done with my closest friend (whose daughter was born the day before mine), is that I said that if she still wanted to have some connection, I would email her with my news, thoughts and ranting but that I couldn't cope with hearing about her family because it reminds me of everything that I have lost and is just too painful. I acknowledged that this is a difficult, totally one-sided arrangement and it would also be fine if we chose to just not contact one another for a while. She chose the one-sided conversation option and said she still wanted to hear from me as much as I wanted to share. I occasionally email or text her and she is extremely diligent in never mentioning anything about her daughters or parenting-related stories. Every now and then she has asked me whether I would like more or less contact and what I would like her to do. I'm grateful to her for being able to be so selfless with me, and hope that having this occasional, one-sided communication channel will mean that one day we will be able to reconnect. It might be quite a long time. This has only worked with this one, close friend. Others I've said I'm not able to stay in contact right now. I figure that if it is a friendship worth saving, it will be able to endure a period of being on hold.
July 11, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterK West
Olive, thank you for your honest post. Outside of the simple sadness of losing my child in the first place, the second most difficult aspect of this experience has been watching almost all of my peers have endless babies like it's nothing. This very topic is heavy on my heart today, as one of my closest friends had another live baby today, her second. I've been trying for a baby for about three and a half years, before she was married. I have little to show for it besides a broken heart and the memory of 41 weeks with a child only I knew.

I definitely agree that there's no good way to handle the conversations with pregnant women or those with living children around the should-be age of our children. If they say very much about their lives, I don't even know how to respond. I can't relate at all, and I end up speechless, unable even to think of basic questions to ask. I think there's some sort of self-protection going on, where I feel ridiculous about not even knowing what to ask (since I should be in the same boat as they are, just having natural conversation about what's going on)... so I end up saying little, and usually they volunteer very little, too. If I hear complaints, I am furious. If I hear sweet stories, I'm angry as well. If we dodge the enormous elephant in the room, I feel like the whole interaction seemed fake in the first place. So, there's no right way. Like many aspects of this loss, it's one of those "just how it is" things, and it simply sucks.

The short answer to "How do you cope?" for me is that I mostly have to avoid people. I'm certain many are avoiding me some, too. No one knows what to say - not my friends, not myself. It's been really hard to accept the dwindling of friendships in loss. It feels awful to lose even more people after already losing my daughter. However, I simply don't even have the emotional energy to talk to most people anymore. I really do best with email, where I can take my time with it and can step away and then come back if I want, and I can think before I speak. In real conversation with people who cannot relate, I feel like it's harder to just leave the talk in the gutter where my feelings actually are. There's pressure to put a spin on it or to hear all about the other person's non-tragic life. I can address what I want and ignore what I want when I use email.

I agree with Steph and K West about friendships being on hold. That's how I always describe the whole concept when I'm asked... that almost all of my friendships feel like they're on hold. I don't know when or if they'll be off hold, or what they will look like then, or who will remain. I just know that for now, I feel the cruelty of the universe in grand fashion when I see or hear or think about friends whose lives went as planned. It's too much to bear, and I am no longer a pleasant person, at least mentally, when I think of the way my life should look but doesn't - but that seemingly everyone around me does indeed get to live out while I sometimes watch and sometimes avoid it. I get furious. I can go from a decent, nice person to an angry, F-bomb-dropping ball of sass and hatred - all in an instant when I picture the way others are getting to live the life I worked just as hard for and wanted just as much. I know there's no sense to the world and to the tragedy and "why" it happened to me instead of someone else, but even with the complete randomness of it, even if I think I wasn't hand-selected for hell - I'm still mad that there are undeserving parents out there or crackheads with babies, and then seriously some of the most loving humans I've ever met are in the baby loss community. It is SO messed up. And it makes it really hard to relate to, or even to talk to, people who do not/cannot get it.

The shift in friendships is so awful and hard to deal with. I think I've slowly begun to accept that it is what it is. I'm not happy about it, no more than I'm happy about almost any aspect of my life right now. But I don't know what to do about it. Others' lives are moving on as planned, and I'm left behind. I can't expect people to put family planning on hold until I can catch up, if I even can, but nonetheless I certainly feel left out. It's one of those things like soooo many aspects of this loss where I guess I just bear it. I don't know what else to do except to acknowledge that indeed most friendships took a few steps backwards ever since my daughter died. Luckily I like time alone, so I'm really not that sad to spend time by myself in my free time (except, of course, I miss my child). But in terms of friendships, what's hard for me is not AS much the time spent with friends but that I just don't feel like a normal person in my peer group in the first place. Whether I had a live baby or had not had a baby at all, I would know people in my shoes. Having had a baby who died, I don't. Even if I imagine having more, my story sets me apart on an island. It's so, so, so unlikely that I'll ever randomly meet someone down the road who can relate to this. I feel like I'm forever going to be on my own in that sense. I've had to accept it. It's hard.

If you do have friends who are receptive to it... I have one friend who's really set the bar in terms of understanding the new me. She had her own daughter eight weeks after I did, but she exercises extreme caution in what she tells me about her motherhood. She also checks many of the same blogs and Instagram pages I do and regularly talks to me about those stories and my grief. We definitely have a lopsided friendship for now - I've only seen her daughter once in person in the past entire year of her life... while she talks to me about my daughter and my life all the time. I think for having a better idea of what this life is like, it does help if a friend tries to step into your puddle and read what you read, follow what you follow, etc. I occasionally stumble upon a post somewhere (sometimes here on Glow!) that so accurately captures what I feel. Then I will send the link to others when I'm emailing them or catching up or whatever... just a way to show, in someone else's words, what I'm feeling. It's hard, though, to know that no matter how deeply we try, people who have not lost children in this way will simply not get it, ever. There's a hollowness - "hollow" is the best word I've ever been able to find for it - that follows me everywhere now, and it surpasses words or other experiences I could relate it to. It is an entirely new, unique feeling of deprivation. My "normal" friends are not able (luckily for them) to know it, but it consumes my every moment.

Hugs to you all. xo
July 12, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterCameron
Cameron you get me on levels that I can't vocalise with anyone else. Unfortunately for me I have a few friends who are still expecting ( I loss my son 8 weeks ago at 35 weeks). And I fight the bitterness cuz I honestly don't want anything bad to happen to their babies but it hurts so bad hearing about them. This is still surreal to me. Some days it has dream like characteristics and maybe that helps me function a bit. When it feels real I am paralysed. I still have figured out absolutely nothing about this new life - of being a childless mother but I don't feel as crazy knowing that I am far from alone. So thank you ladies for sharing your vulnerabilities with me.
July 23, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterMrs. Antoine
Dear Friends,

I have taken some time to read and re-read what you've all written before responding.

Steph, KWest, Cameron, and Mrs. Antoine: thank you. Thank you for taking the time out of your day to respond. Thank you for letting me know that I am not alone, that I'm not crazy, that I'm not the only one seemingly marooned on this island. As you all so elegantly and kindly relayed- this seems to be an issue for many of us. It hardly seems fair, does it? And it isn't anything I ever expected. nearly 4 years out, I've stopped wishing my son would come home, I've stopped wishing he is alive, I've stopped dreaming of him, I've stopped imagining him at the dinner table, seated with my parents and grandparents at Christmas. But I haven't stopped trying to figure out how to live in the world, how to go forward.

If any of you ever come to New York City....please reach out. It'd be my pleasure to grab a coffee or a cocktail.
July 25, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterOlive