There are two plastic bins of maternity clothes on the floor in front of my dresser. They are both open, with clothes hanging out of them. For the past 8 weeks, I have been digging through them every few days, looking for clothes that I know I want to wear. I have been wanting to sort through them, choose the ones I want to wear regularly, and put them in my drawers, but I haven’t been able to do it yet. You may wonder if this is because I have been too tired or haven’t had the time, but those are not the reasons.
Any parent who is facing pregnancy after loss has things they just can’t bring themselves to do.
Some people wait to buy any items for their child until their little one has arrived safely. For others, it is sharing the news with others, planning a baby shower, or setting up the nursery. Even things that may seem simple and exciting for those who haven’t experienced loss, such as taking bump photos or registering for gifts, can feel like tempting fate for loss parents.
Putting my maternity clothes in my drawers so they are organized and easy for me to find is one of the things I haven’t yet been able to will myself to do.
Your body changes so much sooner in subsequent pregnancies. In my first pregnancy I was able to get away with using a belly band with my regular jeans until about 16 weeks. In my current pregnancy, I couldn’t stand to wear my regular jeans past 11 weeks and I found myself wanting my maternity shirts soon after, so the bins came out early this time.
Around the end of my first trimester, my partner and I pulled the maternity clothes bins out from the basement. While I didn’t have a choice – I needed these clothes – it still made us nervous.
You see, twice in my life I have had to pack up these bins of clothes, no longer able to wear them, far prematurely than I had expected.
At one point, I had a coworker who was pregnant and due about 5 weeks after I had been due. As her pregnancy progressed after mine had ended, I had to watch her wear some of the same clothes I had bought and had worn between 15 and 20 weeks but was no longer able to wear.
Losing our two sons, two years in a row, was devastating to us, and there are so many difficult memories related to their losses.
Even though we were lucky enough to find a specific genetic cause for our losses; even though we successfully used IVF to test embryos for the mutation I carry prior to transfer; even though we have a healthy nearly 3-year-old daughter who was born at 37.5 weeks, the trauma of our losses is still with us.
Some of my maternity clothes never got put away after my second and third pregnancies, especially the pajama pants, jeans, and work pants, but the bins contain many clothes I love and some clothes that have very specific memories. Some are painful memories, while some are happy memories. And some are a combination of the two, the happy memories having been tinged with the pain and bitterness of our sons dying. There is the shirt we used to announce our first pregnancy, and the shirt I wore for our last bump photo with him at 20 weeks, when we didn’t know yet that he had already passed about 3 weeks earlier. There is the dress I had planned to wear to a baby shower the day we found out we lost our second son and the sweater that I wore when we went into the hospital to deliver him the day I turned 21 weeks.
With my current pregnancy, we have had good ultrasounds at 16 and 18 weeks. I am feeling this baby move far more than I ever felt the sons that we lost. Logically, I really don’t expect to get bad news at our anatomy scan one week from now. And still, I can’t bring myself to put away the maternity clothes just like I can’t bring myself to put all of my doctor’s appointments (that are already scheduled through April) on my work calendar. I don’t want to have to delete them if things go badly.
I don’t want to have to once again pack away the maternity clothes that I was excited to wear, that I thought I would be wearing well into the spring and likely still over the summer.
I feel like I can’t do it again. The reality is that I know I can do it again if I have to, but I shouldn’t have to. No one should have to. I am afraid I will have to, and I know how traumatic it is. I want to avoid that if I can.
And so, there they sit, at least until after my anatomy scan. And that is okay. It is one of the little things I can do to try to protect myself. Although I know there is really nothing that can guard me against the pain of loss if we again find ourselves in the unlucky percentage, like all loss parents, we do what we can. We take the little steps that we need to make something about this process feel like it is in our control. And hopefully, as this pregnancy continues and I get past 21 weeks, I will be able to put away the clothes.