I don’t believe that there are any mother-to-be books out there that enlighten readers on the darker, unforeseen happenings that can occur during pregnancy. I’m almost sure of it. My husband and I took a trip to Barnes and Noble recently and as I stood uncomfortably in front of the “Parenting” section I read the covers of several books that touted key insights to child planning, successful deliveries, and “beautiful beginnings.” I remember paging through a few of them during my first pregnancy and don’t remember any chapters that discussed the possibility of losing a child. Nobody warned me that you could reach 40 weeks, progress into natural labor, and leave the hospital empty-handed. I thought the most difficult part of pregnancy would be getting pregnant, which, in our case, ended up being the easiest part. Not once did I see the word “stillbirth” in writing, nor did I hear anyone speak it out loud, before May 12, 2013. Since that time I’ve learned that 1 in 160 pregnancies in the United States result in stillbirth. Unlike what I’ve heard from most medical professionals, the occurrence of stillbirth sounds far from “rare” to me.
While 37 weeks pregnant with our second baby and full of uncertainty, I scanned the shelves for “what to expect in the first year of parenthood” books. I contemplated my upcoming purchase for 20 minutes as I stood there in a frozen gaze, covers of happy moms and dads holding their newborns staring back at me. I may as well have been standing in the “fiction” section for how surreal those images were at that moment. Here I am with only a short time before active parenthood finds its way into my arms and I still can’t believe that it’s 100% achievable. I’m actually afraid to buy a book that has anything to do with planning because I’m superstitious that my small purchase (and tiny shred of confidence) will bring about a flop in the universe, causing us to lose another child. I wrestled with my craziness for awhile, grabbed up one of the well-known titles, and tucked it under my arm. Another obstacle overcome.
It doesn’t seem fair. Not that we lost a child. Not that we lose more than our children. We lose our way. We lose hope, and for some, the will to live. Connections to people we love—to the world around us. We lose ourselves—who we thought we were. In the face of loss we must rally ourselves to keep moving—and do it with a forced smile. We sober up to the fact that life can hand you rotten limes and still expect you to make lemonade. That’s how I feel at this moment. While personal experience urges me to approach this pregnancy with the utmost fear and uncertainty, life is asking me to proceed with confidence and faith.
Wow, Life, you’re asking a hell of a lot. Count me in.