Lately, I’ve been wondering if pregnancy without loss is even a possibility.
The world may make you think so. A round belly is almost universally beheld as a blessing, a gain. New babies make even the most cynical among us feel something like hope. Each unborn child contains multitudes, the potential for what they will one day be feels unlimited.
I’ve certainly not known pregnancy without loss personally. My first two pregnancies ended abruptly, unexpectedly. This inevitably makes the whole pregnancy experience feel tenuous forevermore. The early weeks have their symptoms and discomforts, the things that make your body feel distinctly not yours, and yet these side effects persisted even when the little lives inside me flickered out – proving they weren’t reliable indicators, nothing like the steady kicks you can rest your hand upon in the home stretch.
And when everything did fall into place, when I experienced a pregnancy that led to a healthy baby, I was reeling from a different kind of loss, grieving my dad. The two experiences were so proximate that they had nearly complete overlap. My pregnancy was a time of saying goodbye. Within hours of hearing my father had taken his last breath, I was in labor. I’ll never know which notes of the symphony that swelled inside me were the result of life ending and which came from life beginning. Did the sadness the eventually descended deserve the label of PPD or just plain old grief?
It’s hard for me to come up with the right word to characterize the feelings I have towards women who simply regard a positive pregnancy test as a blessing, who actually enjoy the experience of being pregnant, who may know that it doesn’t always work out on an intellectual level, but they somehow never entertain the possibility that it may not work out for them.
What I have begun to realize is that there are fewer of these women out there than the prevailing narrative would lead you to believe. Growing up, you internalize a natural progression of things. Marriage, then children. It seems almost inevitable. Your own existence can be confirmation that procreation is just what happens.
But as an adult, especially one who knows the intersection of pregnancy and loss, a new narrative takes shape. It took them two years to get pregnant. They had to do three rounds of IVF. She was pregnant with twins, but one of them didn’t make it. They lost a baby at 29 weeks. She miscarried the day after posting her pregnancy announcement on Facebook. Tidbits that could be idle gossip actually morph into confirmation that maybe it isn’t actually straightforward for everyone but you, maybe those who know pregnancy without loss are in the minority and not the majority. Maybe we are all a little less alone than we feel when we’re in the thick of it, struggling with heartbreak and uncertainty and the disquieting pitter-patter of why is this happening to me?
What I wish is then that we figure out a way to make these experiences less isolating. That we share our stories with a purpose of changing our cultural expectations around inevitable motherhood. There are so many women out there who know the distinct weight of a baby they never got the chance to hold, and this is a burden better carried by our collective arms. These days, when I hear of someone struggling to get pregnant or someone muddling through a trying and fraught pregnancy, I feel the urge to sweep them into an embrace. I will things to progress forward. I wish for them to find an outlet for the love and hope in their hearts, for them to realize their wish to be a parent whether or not biological children are an option. I grieve that they won’t get to experience the simplicity of an uncomplicated, straightforward foray into one of life’s defining experiences. I understand if they need time to process their heartbreak, that withdrawing may feel essential. Yet I hope that one day, they’ll feel a calling to lend their voice to this necessary conversation so that in time a young woman blindsided by a grief she never anticipated feels the small comfort of knowing that she’s not the aberration, and that there are in fact many different roads she can take onward when she’s ready to make her next move.