From now on I'm going to change what I say to pregnant women.
Last month, I had what’s called a “chemical” pregnancy — a miscarriage so early that my period wasn’t even late. I went through the same thing the month before that, too. Today, I’m pregnant again — for the third time in three months. As you can imagine, it’s a little harder to get my hopes up than it was a few months ago.
It’s too early to tell what will happen, and I find myself waking up every morning (and ducking into the bathroom throughout the day) to check for signs of a miscarriage, which I’ve been mentally preparing myself for. Don’t get me wrong, I do have hope, and I want this baby more than I can express. Still, I haven’t been able to bring myself to calculate my due date, either.
The nurse at the doctor’s office was taking my information. “Oh, congratulations!” she said, with so much enthusiasm that I almost started crying. I told her about the miscarriages. I told her I didn’t know what was going to happen. She listened; she wrote it all down. And when I left, “Congratulations again,” she said, with so much sincerity and warmth.
Didn’t she know I don’t think I’ll get to keep this baby? I thought. But she did know that. And it hadn’t changed her response to me. She knew how uncertain I was. She heard me crying, for goodness’ sake. But she didn’t try to protect my heart by not acknowledging the truth at the center of this big, confusing mess. She didn’t worry that her joy in my pregnancy would hurt me further. She wasn’t afraid of being joyful.
Her joy was the biggest gift anyone could have given me. Her “congratulations” cut through all the fear and uncertainty and confusion, right to the one thing that I can hold on to: there’s a person inside of me, and that’s a mystery and an honor deeper than even a mother can fathom.
It reminded me that in spite of how I feel, what is happening is good. Never mind my own tears, my own anxiety, my own confusion. This isn’t easy, but it doesn’t have to be. It is good.
From now on, I’ll always say “congratulations.” Even for crisis pregnancies. Even when I know the pregnancy comes at what seems to be a terrible time. Even when the baby probably won’t ever make it to delivery.
That’s not to say I won’t acknowledge the bad with the good. I’ll say “Congratulations. How are you doing? Can I help?” Or I’ll say “Oh, how wonderful. I know this is a tough time. What do you need?” I’ll acknowledge what’s difficult, and if you’re grieving, I’ll grieve with you; if you’re scared, I’ll be scared with you. But I know now that every pregnancy announcement, no matter what the situation is, can be met with an expression of joy.
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