This is part of my series 100 Days: Waiting for a Rainbow.
I love my sister. She has this really unique way of asking a very blunt question, and not at all offending you. I’m the queen of Not-Very-Blunt. I tiptoe around and sort of hint and nudge, which generally drives people up the wall. But my sister – she can shoot bullseyes with her questions.
The other night I called her to grill her about alternate vaccine schedules, and we got to chatting about mommy things (she has the most adorable 10 month old I’ve ever seen – as in, Squishy had better be super cute, because my nephew will give him a total run for his money). As we’re chatting, almost out of the blue, she says to me, “So, are you happy?”
I was so taken aback, I thought she was talking to the baby. Seriously. Or maybe one of her crazy dogs. I never even ask myself that question, let alone someone else ask me. So I stammered around a bunch.
I’m not unhappy.
I’m…. wait – are we talking about life, or love, or work, or babies, or the general state of my emotions, or…. how do I answer this question!?
In particular, how do I answer it when my hormones are nuts (cry over cute videos of the elderly, check; cry just because, check; cry because I don’t know why I’m crying, check), and I can’t tell what is feeling and what is hormones and what is I’m so stinkin’ tired that everything feels overwhelming and exhausting and terrifying. Even things that are good make me cry.
I just couldn’t bring myself to a direct “Why, yes, I’m happy” answer.
Pregnancy after loss can’t really be described in such simple terms: are you happy, are you sad. I am both. Because when I’m decorating Squishy’s nursery, I’m reminded I never decorated William’s. When I look at little baby shoes, I see William’s tiny little feet that never even wore socks and I wonder if Squishy’s fate will be the same. When I open that door into my sunshiny bright nursery and can’t help but smile, I also see all the shadows of William’s unused things that lived in that room while he never did.
But there’s more.
I get on Pinterest to look for good newborn photo ideas, and see all these toddlers kissing their newborn siblings’ foreheads. I go to Meijer to scout their BOGO baby clothes, and there’s a precious little onesie proudly declaring “Little Brother” – and I cannot decide if I want Squishy to have one. And I can’t seem to close my eyes to the fact that there is a two-year-old missing from my life. A precocious toddler who should be asking all sorts of questions about the baby in mommy’s tummy and getting a bit clingy because his time as only child is nearly up and who maybe is about to evicted from mommy’s lap because he’s bouncing around too much.
When a piece of your life is missing, it’s hard to view your life through any other lens.
Unhappy is the wrong word. I’m not unhappy.
Life in the world babyloss can be described as nothing other than bittersweet. Life in the world of pregnancy after loss…. I haven’t found the right word yet, but if the masters of the English language would allow me the privilege, I would call it sweetbitter. The bitter part shouldn’t come first. The sweetness of this new baby, this little rainbow, cannot be negated by William’s death. But just like any mom comparing her pregnancies and enjoying the differences between her children, I am doing the same. And that is where the bitterness comes in. That tang on the tip of your tongue reminding you that something is horribly, dreadfully, irreparably wrong.
Because of the terrifying facts of William’s birth and life, pregnancy will always be a sweetbitter and often frightening thing for me. Think of the fear you feel getting back in a car after you’ve been in a car accident, or how hesitant you are to go back to the restaurant that gave you food poisoning. Even after you’ve been in a car accident, you can probably still find joy in a road trip. You may never go back to the same restaurant, but you will probably find a new place to grab your favorite take out.
That’s what this pregnancy has been like. It isn’t like pregnancy for someone who has never lost a child. There is much joy to be had in the promise of this new little person, but every day, every baby kick, every doctor’s appointment, every baby-prep-list item – they all remind me of before.
So am I happy? I am so happy this baby will be here soon and that he appears healthy and well. I am so scared that this baby will be here soon. I am so sad that this baby will never know his big brother. I am so worried that things won’t go well. I am so excited to have baby snuggles. I am overjoyed it is finally “my turn.” And I am so sad that I can’t just sit back and enjoy being pregnant.
Yes, I am happy. Along with a thousand other emotions at the same time.