We had a plan. It was a just-in-case plan, the kind you make because, you tell yourself, if you don’t make a plan, that thing you dread will happen. Our plan was simple. Instead of waiting the traditional 3 months to tell anyone we were expecting, we would tell a circle of close friends and family. Just in case, we said. Just in case something goes wrong. That way, we’ll have people around us to support us. That way, we won’t be alone.
And besides, when your whole body is filled with the joy of good news, it’s nearly impossible not to share it with the world, not to want to shout it at the top of your lungs for the whole world to hear.
We’re having a baby. We’re having a baby. We’re having a baby!
We told our friends and family, filling our already joyful lives with the joy of our loved ones. His sister screamed with excitement over the phone. Our friends embraced us and imagined what life would be like for me, 8 months pregnant in Texas in August. I imagined with them, seeing myself in shorts and a tank top pulled up above my round belly, sweating like a pig.
And then, that thing we dreaded but couldn’t imagine happening…happened. And only a week after telling our friends that we were having a baby, we went to our friends with the news that we had lost the baby. And like the wonderful friends they were, they surrounded us, embracing us with kindness and sympathy, holding onto us and offering us the support we needed. Though we hated the loss, we were grateful for the plan. It had worked. We had not been alone in that moment of great need.
When we learned a second time that we were pregnant, we decided to stick to the plan. Surely it would not happen a second time – the first had been ectopic, after all, not a miscarriage. Surely all would go well this time. But just in case, we told our friends. We were joyful with them, excited for the future, imagining the child that would come. And a second time, when we learned that the pregnancy was not viable, we were surrounded by those friends and their love. Again, we had not been alone in our moment of need.
It was different the third time. After two losses, I found that I could not be joyful. I did not want to imagine what this child would be like. I did not want to risk those thoughts, because to think them was to hope, and to hope was to be let down and hurt. I could not be joyful, because I did not want to lose that joy. We told friends, asking for them to pray. We told more people than we had before, hoping that if we gathered a community around us, not for support, but for prayer…maybe then, the baby would survive.
When a friend asked me what she could do for us, beyond prayer, I told her “Be excited for me. Be happy for me. Because I can’t be.” I thought, maybe if I was surrounded by happiness, then I could find that happiness in myself.
As the weeks passed and the baby survived, I found myself accepting the possibility that our baby might survive. I embraced the joy our friends had, and began to hope. I started imagining the child, holding him or her in my arms. I had hope. I had joy. But at 8 weeks, the baby left us, and with it, my hope and joy.
When I imagine the next pregnancy, I find myself wondering: will I tell anyone? In my heart, I know that I will. I cannot imagine us going through these pregnancies or losses without the support of our loved ones. Through our joy and grief they sustained us. And yet, a piece of me feels guilty for bringing sorrow into their lives. A piece of me feels like the boy who cried wolf – except I am the woman who cried “Child!” Will there come a day when I tell a loved one that we are expecting and they do not respond with joy and excitement? I fear this almost as much as I fear losing another child. Because it is through the joy of those around me that I am able to carry on and hope for a child.
We cannot do this alone.