Have you ever playfully asked a woman when she will have kids? Or joked about why a woman is childless?
Many of us have without even thinking about it, but I am here to (not so gently) say:
Now, I will say before I had my daughter Chidera, I too was guilty of these oversights. So I am not judging anyone, if you also have made the mistake of asking a woman about her child status. Now, if after reading this blog, you still decide to ask women these types of questions, then I absolutely WILL judge you (I’m only half way kidding).
I quickly learned, through a very unpleasant series of life experiences, that you should NEVER “womb watch” as many people say.
There are woman who are childless by choice.
There are woman who are unsure about whether they want children.
There are women who cannot have children.
And there are several women, like myself, that experienced the pain of pregnancy loss.
Regardless of where a woman falls on that spectrum, her privacy should remain honored, and her circumstances should be respected. For many of us women, these types questions conjure up immense feelings of sadness, frustration, hopelessness, and a gamut emotions in between.
What it looked like for me
When my husband Jeff and I decided to have a baby, we, like most people, were naive to the reality that many couples struggle to conceive, carry, and deliver children. We got pregnant quickly, I did a cute announcement to Jeff, we told our parents, and I quickly booked a pregnancy confirmation appointment with an OB-GYN.
We got the blood work back just to be informed that our hcg (human chorionic gonadotropin or the “pregnancy hormone”) was low and after repeat blood work we learned we had a chemical pregnancy. This is essentially a very early pregnancy loss that is not not considered a true miscarriage by definition since it occurs in the very early days. Although it was early, it was still devastating because we got so excited and mentally began preparing for our baby.
We got over that disappointment, had what I suspect was another chemical pregnancy shortly after, and then got pregnant again a few months later. This time was different, or so I thought. My pregnancy hormones were great, we made it to 6/7 weeks, and then the bleeding began yet again. I went in for an ultrasound, the resident physician confirmed a fetal heartbeat, and told me to go home and hope for the best. Unfortunately that pregnancy ended in miscarriage and I was again left sad, disappointed, and frustrated.
Fast-forward four months later, we got pregnant again, and that too ended in disappointment. It was classified as a “blighted ovum” and to spare you all the technical details, we lost that pregnancy as well.
During all this time Jeff was incredibly supportive and optimistic when I was in a very dark place. I talk about how incredible of a partner he was during this time in this blog and I honestly don’t know how I could’ve gotten through those moments without him.
While Jeff was optimistic and hopeful, I was the compete opposite.
I resented my body.
I resented my pregnant friends.
I resented people who asked me “when I would have kids”.
I resented track & field.
I resented my possessions.
I resented pretty much everything around me.
Looking back now, it’s easy to understand that a lot of my resentment was misguided, and mostly irrational, but at the time, I couldn’t be told otherwise. Furthermore, as a pharmacist, I completely understand that the majority of miscarriages, and early pregnancy losses occur due to chromosomal abnormalities. From a science perspective, we are taught that it’s nature’s way of preventing a pregnancy from continuing when the child wouldn’t be healthy.
But try telling that to a heartbroken woman in the middle of a miscarriage doing her best to keep it together and keep on a brave face. Your mind may tell you one thing, but for me in those moments, the heart was saying something else.
I also want to point out that whether a miscarriage happened at 6 weeks, or several weeks later, many researchers agree that the grief a woman feels is significant regardless of the length of the pregnancy.
So, saying things like “it was early on” or “you can just try again” or “at least you didn’t start showing” are not helpful things to say, even if your intentions are great. At least that was the case for me. Suggestions on what you can say to a friend experiencing loss instead are:
1) I’m here if you want to talk.
2) is there anything I can do to help?
3) I’m so sorry for your loss.
With this, also understand that everyone processes grief and disappointment differently, and sometimes just giving your friends the space they need to process the loss can be helpful. I am a private person, so many people didn’t know what I was going through, but those who did were great at allowing me to work through it alone. When I get really sad, talking doesn’t always feel helpful.
For people who have never experienced loss before, please also be mindful of platitudes like “at least you know you can get pregnant” or “that baby wouldn’t have been healthy”. Although these statements may be true and rational, please give her the space, grace, and time to feel what she’s feeling.
Getting pregnant with my daughter
In November 2018 while taking a trip to Bermuda, we found out we were pregnant yet again. At this point I didn’t allow myself to get excited due to all the heartache I experienced in past pregnancies. It’s a very peculiar place to be, where all you desperately want is to have a child, and yet while you’re pregnant you’re so guarded that you won’t even allow yourself to enjoy the miracle. Unfortunately that was my reality for a portion of the pregnancy. I even went as far as purchasing a fetal doppler that allowed me to listen to the baby’s heartbeat daily for extra reassurance.
Yes guys. It was that serious.
After months of prayer I eventually allowed myself to be hopeful and dismiss the baggage of the previous losses. When this happened, it felt like the heavens opened and I embraced every aspect of the pregnancy. Thankfully the pregnancy itself was very easy and I enjoyed it more than I even thought I would.
Our rainbow baby
A rainbow baby is a term for a child born to a family that has previously lost one or more children due to stillbirth, miscarriage, ectopic pregnancy, death during infancy etc.
In July 2019 our sweet rainbow baby Chidera was born and our lives instantly changed. Holding Chi in my arms for the first time was the happiest day of my life, and a moment in time I’ll never forget. She gives my life new purpose, and I pray that I can be the best mom possible for her.
To everyone reading this, please remember to tread lightly when you ask women about their child status. To some people these discussions may not be an issue. To others, myself included, these conversations are incredibly triggering. If I’m honest, occasionally this topic is still triggering even now as my child is two and a half years old. Grief is weird that way.
To any women out there struggling through infertility, pregnancy loss, infant loss, or anything in between: I see you. I know what you’re going through. It’s a terrible club to be a part of. It is my prayer that your test will one day be your testimony as you use your experiences to help others. Please be encouraged and keep the faith.