One of the things I’m most dreading about this pregnancy is the questions from strangers. Even back when fear didn’t shadow every aspect of pregnancy, I sometimes hated going out in public and dealing with all of the questions. No, I’m not having twins. Yes, I am having a C-section because I have a messed up uterus. How did I end up talking to a stranger about my uterus?

Our society treats pregnancy very publicly. And we tend to assume that pregnancy is a happy and healthy time for women. For some of us, even those of us who desperately want a baby, it’s an ordeal. People always want to know how many babies I’ve had, and that is a messy question. I know that for the next five months, I’m going to have to decide on a daily basis whether to be honest and pop that happy bubble that people live in or whether to grit my teeth and leave the bubble intact.

I went for a blood test on Monday, and the nurse began the happy pregnancy banter. How far along was I? Which number was this?

I told her it was my third, frustrated that I had to answer such questions after being stuck three times with a needle because of my minuscule veins. Of course, it’s actually my fourth pregnancy. That’s too much to unload on a stranger though. I explained that my last baby was stillborn, which was why I was at the doctor’s office having a big container of blood drawn for DNA tests.

“I went through a lot of fertility treatments,” the nurse said. She went on to explain that she had a miscarriage and then more fertility treatments. Finally, she had adopted. After she spoke, her face looked softer and more fatigued. Open.

I carry such a heavy suitcase that I’m never sure whether I should let the contents spill out. Then I have moments like that, where I open the suitcase for a stranger, and she has some of the very same stuff in her suitcase. Instant kinship. It feels like I’m doing that other person a favor, and she’s doing the same for me. Those rare moments of connection make all of the other startled stares worthwhile.

I can’t tell by looking though. I can only dump out the mess and hope for understanding.

2 thoughts on “Baggage

  1. All I can say is I’ve been there and I so appreciate how brave you are to open that suitcase here and whenever you do out in the world. My first son was stillborn, and my second pregnancy was extremely challenging emotionally for all of these reasons. My second son is here and healthy and even that is still emotionally challenging (of course, I tell most strangers he’s my first). But when someone lets me know that they’ve been down the same road that I have, it’s wonderful. I rarely take that first step, so I appreciate that you do.

  2. This is lovely. It amazed me after my daughter was stillborn how many people I knew had losses that I wasn’t aware of. Our neighbor lost his only child to SIDS; my co-worker had two miscarriages; my aunt had a stillborn daughter that no one had talked about in years. I was stunned at the community of loss, and grateful for the support.

    But you’re right, you can’t tell who is a member of this awful club by looking at them. Our wounds are on the inside. I have started a new job, and sometimes wonder what I will say if I ever do get pregnant.

    I love your analogy of a heavy suitcase. I’m normally hesitant to talk about it, not because I don’t want people to know, but because it feels like I’m opening a window into my heart to my most sensitive place. I am careful who I let see that place.

    Sending you good thoughts.

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