It’s pride month. All over the country, rainbow flags and hate crimes are going up, rising with the temperature and the political climate. I want to celebrate, to scream, to remind everyone that the first Pride was a riot, to remind everyone that my son should be here now.
Last June, I was seven months pregnant. My wife and I decided to forgo traveling to Boston for Pride.
I had just been released from the hospital with kidney stones, and was carrying an additional 12 pounds of fluid in my belly and around my ankles. I got winded when I walked any distance, was intolerant of the heat, but so excited to carry our baby at Pride. I bowed to the physical demands of my body, and shared every rainbow on Facebook.
Our son Oscar Prince was born still a little over a month later, on July 19, 2018 at 6:33 in the morning. He had stopped moving two days before, when I was just under 36 weeks. He came into the world, silent, with the cord devoid of jelly and wrapped twice and tight around his neck. Seven pounds, one ounce, 21 ½ inches long. He was perfect, and would never have a chance to be anything different.
This year, pride feels different. I am 15 weeks pregnant with our second child, hopeful and terrified in vacillating measures.
We thought we were safe when we hit 14 weeks last time, then 20, then 28, 35. But we learned, as so many do, there is no point where things are safe. Navigating the world as a queer couple offers us a different perspective. We’ve seen the hatred people can perpetuate. We’ve felt the loss of family members who refuse to accept us, and we’ve been held up by the strong, wide love of our chosen family. We even had some company while pregnant. There are resources out there for queer couples conceiving and parenting; not enough, not nearly enough, though they exist. But we found nothing about loss; no guide, no net, no shared experience with other queer folk experiencing loss, miscarriage, or stillbirth. And now, nothing about pregnancy or parenting as a queer family who has suffered a loss.
It seems a special kind of hell sometimes. We fought for marriage equality, we moved states to have more rights for our intended children. We researched the laws around parentage and the medical practices. We saved money. We collected references, and worried about second-parent adoption. We were lucky; I had no issues with fertility and was a good candidate for pregnancy. We worked with a queer-informed fertility clinic and on our second round of intrauterine insemination, we became pregnant. We were immediately in love with the tiny cells growing inside me, confirmed at just 5 weeks. We were too ecstatic to worry very much about miscarriage, but we felt pragmatic. We both come from a health services background; we understand the statistics. But no amount of didactic information could sway us. We loved.
And after all this – the years of fighting for our rights, crossing state lines, giving up homes and family members, watching loved ones pass – our son was born still.
We had done everything right. We had fought the man and won in the political arena. We had followed the midwives’ and doctor’s every recommendation. I offered up my bodily autonomy to the life growing inside me, deferring to scientific evidence and morality policing. I managed my gestational diabetes with an app, a spreadsheet, and a total of 12 needles every day. I managed my blood pressure with medication and deep breathing exercises. I managed my stress as best I could. My wife was a saint, and knew my needs often before me. Was I thirsty, or did I need a nap? She had her own thoughts and doubts about parenting, as we hear is common with the non-pregnant parent-to-be. We did all the right things, and we lost our beautiful child to a cord injury.
And so, now, here we are again. I am already heat intolerant. I’m just starting to show. And I love, but oh, I fear.
Nothing is the same. My weight gain is vastly slower; my anxiety is ramped up. I take a small dose of the antidepressants I started after Oscar’s birth, with the wholehearted agreement of my medical providers. With Oscar, almost from the moment I knew I was pregnant, I felt this bone-deep contentment that never faded until he passed. I find myself searching for that now. Some days, I catch the edge of it; a settled calmness, that small smile you get when you feel the life growing inside you. Some days, I can hardly bear to talk to this little one. One of the amazing women I’d met whose son had also been stillborn asked me this: if I tried to protect myself, protect my heart, and I were to lose this pregnancy, would I truly be any less devastated? Though I can almost feel, brick by brick, the walls inside me growing, the answer is no. I already love, whether I am letting myself access those words or not. I already protect, and care, and encourage this tiny heart to keep beating.
Pride is a month for rebellion, for rising up against the oppressor, for celebration of how far we’ve come while still acknowledging we have so far left to go, and for honoring those who came before us in the fight. For this June, this Pride, I’m taking this opportunity to rebel against the trauma that tells me to not get attached. I will celebrate this pregnancy, this new chance at life, and understand that the journey must be taken day by day. And I will, and will for eternity, honor the child who came before.
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Editor’s Note: If you are looking for resources for LGBTQ+ families experiencing pregnancy loss, pregnancy after loss, and parenting after loss, we encourage you to also follow Jessica Clasby-Monk of The Legacy of Leo. She wrote for PALS during her pregnancy after loss. She also has a wonderful #LGBTBabyLoss series on her blog.