Week 32. Eight weeks left to go. The anxiety and panic that has been present throughout this pregnancy and, well, life after loss in general was high this week, but in a very different form than I have gotten used to. This week, the panic of how to be a parent to a living child is right at the surface.
It just occurred to me that we are very likely to be bringing a baby home in eight or so weeks. Now, I know that obviously, we knew 40 weeks was coming and that we were getting closer and closer to the date and to our goal of bringing a healthy baby home, but it really clicked this past week that we have to prepare for a baby in the home.
I think this is the problem with pregnancy after loss.
While most people expecting a child think about what happens when the baby comes home, we have lived in a world where we are awaiting the drop of the other shoe. To protect ourselves, we have not assumed a baby comes home, to forget about planning and to just take it a day at a time. Yes, we rode the highs, the excitement of planning, of thinking about a baby that comes home and grows and thrives, but otherwise, we just tried to protect ourselves. Most parents expecting a new baby do not think about what if baby dies, but we did. The panic and terror of every appointment and ultrasound has been omnipresent as we have held hands and our breaths, waiting to see and/or hear that things were continuing to be on track. Then, add to it that I am not feeling the baby inside me or my belly grow (at least not outside of the normal Covid quarantine weight gain), and it feels even more imaginary and not like something that will actually happen or that you can plan for.
We haven’t been completely in the dark, we bought nursery furniture and picked out paint colors. We bought car seats and a stroller, clothes and books. We talked about what it would be like when LL Cool T was here. But, we did the same thing before. We got pregnant the first time and dreamed of a baby arriving, joking about how our due date was January 3, but since we had gotten engaged on January 2, how fateful it would be if baby arrived a day early. We bought things for Sweet Pea, talked about names, laughed about plans, until the world stopped and those plans came to a screeching halt. So, to protect ourselves, when we got pregnant with Colette, we only told a few people, tried not to plan too much, didn’t buy anything, and waited with bated breath to get through the “scary” time of the first trimester.
With LL Cool T, it has been tough because we are naturally a little removed by the fact that I am not carrying this time.
While I am thrilled to not be exhausted and having all day morning sickness, those activities kept me connected to Colette, reminded me that we were expecting a baby. But, with those things happening to someone else, there are days where it is easy to almost forget we are expecting or to know that, but not really understand it. That is the tough side to surrogacy, to having a gestational carrier.
With pregnancy after loss in general, there is a balance of trying not to dwell too much on the side of well, this baby will also die, while being unable to live in the naivete we once had, but lost, that pregnancies result in healthy babies and that all babies born survive and come home. That balance has served us well, protected us from getting too overexcited, overstimulated about when baby is here, but also prevented us from planning.
This is all to say—I am a little panicked now.
I didn’t read the baby books, I didn’t think about the things we know we want to do with baby, and the things we don’t want or shouldn’t do. We haven’t had discussions about all the different things that parents would normally have and figure out. So, now, there really isn’t much of a plan. Mark and I have taken to repeating the words from the first season of Friends, when Phoebe says she doesn’t even have a “pla.” Because that truly does sum up where we are at right now in our journey and it makes me sad, it scares me, and it makes me feel guilty that I haven’t done more.
My mom asked me this week if I was planning on swaddling the baby. After a long pause on my end, the only thing I could say was, ummm…I don’t know. Afterwards, I thought, I’m awful, why have I not thought of these things. Then, I remembered what my experience to date has been and reframed those thoughts. Swaddling? How about living? That’s what I’ve been focused on.
Baby classes? Oh, right, we should take those, but after Colette, when while I was in the hospital, I was calling to cancel the classes we signed up for. I held off and now am trying to figure out how in the midst of a global pandemic that has meant a continued shutdown for our state and a phased plan that does not see life returning to normal until long after LL arrives, how to make all that happen.
Do you have a pediatrician? Oh, yeah, we need to figure that out, but we’ve been too worried about making sure a pregnancy continues and that there is a baby who needs a pediatrician that we put this on the back burner.
As I write this, I keep thinking of oh, and that, and that too, and yes, that one, over and over, to the point where it can drive me crazy. I remind myself that I have eight weeks, that no parent, no matter how prepared they are, can plan for everything and that plans can always, especially with children, go out the window, but it also causes me some guilt to think that we got this far without these plans.
I think all loss moms feel guilty all the time and that’s what I’m experiencing, especially in relation to LL.
I feel guilty that it was my body that didn’t protect Colette enough to allow her to grow and develop properly, I feel guilty that before LL is even born, he or she has the baggage of a sister who is not here, that LL may be seen and may even feel like an only child because I do not rely on being able to have a third child, that the explanation of where babies come from will have an additional complexity as I explain how G carried instead of me, and that LL will have an overprotective mom who will hover at the sign of any sickness or injury. Then, add to that the fact that I have not made plans and will definitely stumble quite a bit and it feels like it is my fault, that I might as well start a fund to pay for LL’s therapy bills now.
In the meantime, I will remind myself that planning is just hypothetical, that things won’t go according to plan because that’s not how life works, and that I will just have to take things one step at a time. I will try to acknowledge the guilt I feel and then remind myself that we’re all doing the best we can. And most importantly, I will try to take care of myself now and after LL arrives because this mom guilt is real, especially when one of your babies lives in heaven.