It’s taken 9 months, but I have finally basically nailed down what I want to tell people when they ask about Brock. I have had time in the last month or so to refine my strategy because, now that I’m very obviously pregnant, I’m getting more questions and people asking those ever-tactless questions – “Is this your first?” and so on.
I have known from the beginning that I would not feel right about not acknowledging Brock in pretty much any situation, even if it makes people a bit uncomfortable from time to time. The silence surrounding pregnancy and infant loss is beyond baffling to me, and we bereaved parents deal with enough other stuff in a day to also have to worry about censoring ourselves. So, when people ask, I tell the truth in the most tactful way I have been able to come up with: this isn’t my first. And, when they inevitably ask how old my first is, I tell them that he would be 9 months, but he passed away shortly before birth. Why bother lying about it or stepping around it?
Usually, people will get contrite at this point and regret bringing it up. 90% of the time, they’ll say “I’m sorry” or “that’s really sad” – something akin to that – and I will say “thank you”. (It took me a while to figure out to say “thank you”; for a long time, all I knew was that I couldn’t possibly say “it’s okay”, because it’s not.) Usually, that’s the end of it, and people will leave it there.
In the other 10% of cases, things get really, really weird. Some people just like to have opinions about everything, I suppose. After the basic conversation has been covered, a couple of my favourite follow-ups have been, “Well, it could have been worse” (they went on to explain that I could have lost a toddler, and “at least I’m able to have another”) or “I guess it just wasn’t meant to be”. I will usually just grit my teeth and concede, because I like to think I am a pretty reasonable person, and, as I often remind myself, people don’t mean to say horrible things. They are honestly trying to help me, and they don’t realize that their comments are hurtful. If our situations were reversed, I’d have no idea what to say or do either, so I can’t fault them for being tactless.
My most awkward encounter to date came up last week at a very inconvenient time, while I was doing in-car driving lessons with my instructor, a middle-eastern man in his late thirties or early forties. I suppose I am finally becoming a relatively skilled driver, because instead of being given constant direction, my instructor and I have moved on to small talk while I drive around town and practice techniques. He finally asked me about my pregnancy, and the truth came out: it wasn’t my first, and my first had passed away.
I realized it was going to be a very long lesson when he almost immediately rebutted that losing my first was God’s way of testing me, because what was the purpose of life if it was always easy and we never encountered trials?
I find these comments the hardest to swallow for a couple of reasons. One is that arguments like these just don’t make us feel better. They don’t make the hurt go away, and as much as I’d like to believe in a relative karmic balance existing, telling a good person that they’re undergoing a horrible, life-long trial because bad things just happen sometimes, or because some deity or another wanted to help you build character, doesn’t make you miss your child any less. I don’t want character, perspective, or strength – I’d rather just have my baby, thanks.
The second reason is simple: I’m not a religious person.
I have avoided mentioning as much for a reason, and I am no longer totally sure why I felt that it was the best course of action to take. If I can be so candid about the rest of myself, why did I feel like I needed to hide that? I’m not sure, honestly. I think it’s just that religious views are such a heavily controversial subject that I really didn’t feel like having to defend my choices, and I certainly don’t want to debate it with people. My philosophy on the matter has always been to live and let live, and respect the decisions of others as long as they respect my own. I am not a confrontational person and I really don’t mind if other people’s opinions differ from my own.
Unfortunately, after a while, this also came up. When asked if I was religious, I admitted that I wasn’t, and that I prefer to leave people to make their own decisions about those sorts of things. This cued the beginning of an hour-long rant about God’s grace, the meaning of life, where we go when we die, and his insistence that, if I searched hard enough for the meaning of life, I would also find God and eternal salvation.
That’s great and all, but… I wasn’t really looking for someone to try and coach me on existentialism, and it was quite a distracting conversation to try to have – neutrally, no less – while trying to work on my driving skills. I don’t think I really learned a whole lot that hour, but I did glean that, in this man’s mind, my loss was perfectly justified and I’d come to realize that if I looked hard enough. It’s hard to not be insulted when people try to tell you that you were meant to lose your baby, or ‘everything happens for a reason’, or other such comments. I like it a lot better when they just express their sympathy and we move on.
He hasn’t called me back about scheduling my last lesson. I have a funny feeling I’m going to have a different teacher for the last two hours of my in-car practice now that my instructor knows I am a soulless, moral-free heathen. 😉
I know that people tend to feel very strongly about their religion, and I hope that those of you who are religious aren’t overly offended by my decision to not practice. I hope we can all agree to disagree, and realize that just because we aren’t in complete agreement about some things doesn’t make us any less human. I have always liked this church sign in particular, and I hope some of you will, too!
I have received some interesting information about my pregnancy since I last wrote about it, so I thought I would provide a few updates on those things since I’m writing anyway:
I ended up going for my 2-hour glucose test a week and a half ago, and received the surprising news the following day that I had passed after all – no gestational diabetes for me! Absolutely not what I had expected, but I was definitely happy to hear it! I have still been making a point of eating healthier and being more responsible about my choices, because eating better is never a bad decision. I didn’t fail my first test terribly badly, and I think the results were skewed because I’d eaten a bagel and had a big sugary tea less than two hours before my test started. That made me quite happy; however, I’ve received a lot more news that’s not quite so sunny.
I had my second biophysical profile on Friday. Unfortunately, Nate’s kidneys are still a bit dilated, and I still have mild to moderate polyhydramnios (excess amniotic fluid). Additional bad news was that, at the time, he was breech and he is growing exceptionally fast. They estimated him to be a little more than 3 lbs already at 28 weeks, which is in the 90th percentile for weight. Brock measured large for a lot of my pregnancy, too – it seems like I just make big babies. It is what it is, I suppose.
I am starting to get a bit annoyed because I haven’t seen my regular OB in almost 2 months now. There’s been a stand-in at the last two of my appointments, and she won’t be there for the next one, either. The guy who’s standing in for her also made a couple of questionable decisions on her behalf (things that my nurse raised her eyebrows at and called “overkill”): he has sent me for additional testing to check for other conditions because of the polyhydramnios, and is sending me to see a dietician anyway – even though I am not diabetic – because he still thinks that dietary decisions might be affecting Nate’s size. We also talked about scheduling a c-section “just in case” if he is still breech at my next appointment. I really, really, really want to avoid a section if at all possible because I won’t have much help at home (my husband is a contractor and can’t afford to take more than a week off of work) and I think I’d get pretty overwhelmed with trying to keep up while recovering… and, let’s be honest, who really wants major abdominal surgery? I’m not overly thrilled about any of his decisions, but I’ll do whatever needs doing in order to have a successful delivery this time.