Something about being asked, “How are you feeling?” or “How is the pregnancy going?” has always irked me a bit. Now that my stomach is making it more obvious I’m expecting, I get the question even more. Both this time and with my son, I’ve always been quick to reply, “I’m fine” or “Everything’s fine,” and move the conversation along.

Mary's 18-week bump - "How are you feeling?"

Author’s Personal Collection/Mary Mathes

I know I shouldn’t get irritated. It’s a common enough, even understandable, question to ask. And I know they mean well. And yet.

I think I’ve finally figured it out. It bugs me because, the vast majority of the time, all they’re asking is how I feel physically. They just want to hear if I puke multiple times a day, or crave bizarre foods, or have random aches and pains. Sometimes, they even seem a little disappointed that I’m not nauseated, or that I don’t have anything (physical) to complain about.

What they’re not asking, because the answer would make them uncomfortable, is how I feel emotionally. They don’t want to hear that I’m anxious and worried because my first pregnancy ended in miscarriage. That I don’t know how to be happy and carefree and just assume everything is fine. That cheerful optimism was stolen from me.

They don’t want me to remind them this isn’t my first time being due in October, and that I wonder if this time will end differently. They don’t want to hear that the cruel irony of all this is that I’m great at physically being pregnant. It’s the getting pregnant, and the being confident of staying pregnant that’s difficult.

Or perhaps I’m not giving “them” enough credit.

I admit I don’t have a lot of faith in people who haven’t “been there” to understand. I fear that, even if they know about my miscarriage, they don’t remember when I was due. And if I remind them, rather than respond with empathy, they will dismiss my concerns.

Maybe if I answered more honestly more often, the responses would surprise me. But the few times I’ve taken a chance and tried that approach lead me to believe my instincts are right. Better to just say, “I feel fine,” and move on.

“Lucky you!” were the first words of an email I got recently. This in response to my sharing that I feel pretty good physically, but the timeline of this pregnancy being so similar to my first makes me anxious. Apparently, to this person, the fact that I don’t feel sick and had a healthy pregnancy with my son means I have nothing to worry about. Sure.

Part of me wants to fight the good fight and explain why that attitude is not helpful.

That it dismisses my concerns instead of validating them. That it’s the opposite of empathetic. And that having one healthy pregnancy is no guarantee of another.

But another part of me doesn’t want to bother. This part wants to pick my battles and leave that one be.  Chalk it up as evidence that I’m right to just answer “I feel fine” from now on and leave it at that.

But I also know if I do that, if I take the path of least resistance, it makes it more likely that we in the pregnant-after-loss community will continue to hear unhelpful things. That we will continue to feel unsupported outside of this unfortunate club we all belong to, and that nothing will really change.

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