Pregnancy After Loss: Friendship

Today, I begin a series of posts entitled Pregnancy After Loss to explore some of the things I've been thinking about the first half of this pregnancy, as I deal with the reality I mentioned in my last post:  pregnancy does not always result in the birth of a living child.  The first post in the series follows below.

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A friend from high school wrote recently to tell me about some of her own struggles with fertility issues.  In her e-mail, she mentioned that she often feels like her world is divided into two groups:  friends who can have babies and friends who cannot.

I can relate.  When we struggled to get pregnant with Ellie, I was the only woman in my small group who didn't have children, and I felt terribly alone in that context.  It was much easier to relate to my friends from other places, friends who didn't or couldn't have children.  After losing Avaleen, I struggled too, even though I had one living child of my own.  On playdates and at mom's group, I often felt surrounded by women who seemed to pop out babies effortlessly, who to my knowledge hadn't experienced a pregnancy loss, and I felt not only envious, but also unable to participate in casual conversations about pregnancy aches and pains and newborn care, even though I could on one level relate.

One of the difficulties for me about this pregnancy is that I feel like I've shifted from one club to another without fully belonging in either.  I'm pregnant with my third child in three years.  I can no longer really claim that we've had significant struggles getting pregnant.  This pregnancy seems to be progressing well.  I am a woman who can have babies.

And yet my year of infertility and especially the loss of Avaleen have forever shaped the way I think of conception and pregnancy.  I know what it is like to watch month after month pass by with no plus sign on the pregnancy test, to struggle with the news that yet another friend is pregnant when you are not.  I know what it is like to lose a child, to be forever shaped by the absence of a life you once carried inside you and by the fearful knowledge that it could happen again.  The truth is I don't really feel like a woman who can have babies, but rather a woman whose family is growing through struggle and tears.  And even though my first child plays with her Daddy and my third is growing inside me while I write, I still very much identify with the woman who can't have babies.  I've lived some parts of her story, and while my pain has been lessened in ways that her's has not, I feel a kinship to her.

That's part of why it's hard for me to announce this pregnancy so publically, even though I want to write honestly about all of my life.  I've spent the past 7 months talking to women (and men) who've expeienced disappointment and loss related to having children.  I've interviewed them for my book, and many of them have reached out to me because of my book - aquaintances from high school and church, friends from college I'd lost touch with, even friends of friends I'd never met previously.  I carry their stories with me, and my joy in my own pregnancy is tempered by my awareness that I've been given a gift many of them have not.

I pray for them often, and I grieve with them.  I don't have any easy answers for the pain they must sit in.  Part of me feels like I am betraying them with this pregnancy, like I'm losing my ability to identify with and to speak to them.   I don't know.  Perhaps that is true.  I can only be faithful to share from the experiences I've been given.  But today, I just want to say to all of my sweet friends who are struggling to have babies, you are on my heart and in my mind.  I may be pregnant, but you are not forgotten.