June 4th, 2010

planet

the #1 thing to not do to pregnant women

I've ranted a few times about how people treat pregnant women, but today I realized I left out the most important thing.

I mean everyone knows that pregnant women are constantly subjected to repetitive personal questions and touching. We're a little off-balance so it's nice not to run into us or ask us to lift heavy objects. It's not nice to scare us with traumatic childbirth stories, or slam your opinions about controversial medical or parenting issues.

But honestly all that stuff is minor compared to the one glaringly huge thing that you should never ever do:

DO NOT TELL US ABOUT DEAD BABIES.

People: I live in a world where I think about my baby all the time, my body is consumed by her at this point, I've given myself over in the last nine months. When I eat I think about whether it's healthy enough, when my friends are going out I can't go because I can't drink or be in smokey bars. I'm constantly wheezing for breath when I get surprised jabs in the lungs by a boney little foot. You'd think it would be annoying, but every blow is a signal from this little part of me I'm dedicated to, saying "Hey, I'm here, I'm tiny and need a lot of support but I'm doing okay."

So why did a coworker e-mail me an obit today asking if I knew some random gal who doesn't even work in my building, but just had to bury her "infant son"? The article said nothing about the circumstances but I was shocked, not just because it was so sad but because someone would think it was okay to send me that! If I knew her I'm sure I'd know about this tragedy, if I didn't know her I DON'T NEED TO HEAR THIS because now I've been thinking about it ALL DAY, sick with fear that the same thing could happen to me.

And months ago, a family member left a newspaper on my coffee table and the front page article was about a family who learned at their 20-week scan that their baby had a genetic disorder and would only survive a few hours outside the womb, and they decided to carry it to term anyway, and the paper felt the need to put their teary-eyed hospital picture on the front page, and this guy didn't think about the fact that our baby's anatomy scan was days away. To this DAY I'm still bothered by his presence, after crying over the paper I was LIVID that he'd be so thoughtless, we don't get the newspaper, he's never just left us one before, to this day I honestly can't let it go and still associate him with the story.

Look... I know tragic stories are out there. Hell I spent most of first trimester in fear of google and webmd because every time I looked any symptom up, I learned about how my baby and I were both definitely going to die. After the high-risk first trimester was up, I got into the scary second trimester with medical scans and tests that can all tell you about impending doom, and then there's third trimester where you hear these terrible stories of blood clots and cord accidents that lead to women who have to go through the pain of labor to deliver a stillborn infant, after spending months picturing the happy moment where they'd see their baby blinking her little eyes at them. And if nothing tragic in pregnancy happens and you have a healthy baby, it's just going to be introduced to the harmful terrors of the outside world. There is no safe place.

SO I'M SCARED TO DEATH. Because I always have been! This baby is a part of me, I can't tell you what I'd do if something bad happened to her, I'd never be the same. I'd give up limbs to save her.

There is no balance or reassurance. There are no newspaper stories that say, "And in local news, several hundred healthy babies were born last week and they're all doing just great. And several hundred more aged past the SIDS risk stage unharmed. And lots of kids started school, and graduated, and went to college, and got jobs, and lived into their early 90s without their world falling apart."

I want to be a cool parent who isn't totally neurotic, who knows the risks but doesn't obsess, who doesn't live in fear. But it's tough, because the world is a nasty place. A scary place. And pregnancy is a huge risk that's had me petrified since I passed that drugstore test.

So please. I don't care if you hold the door open for me, or give up your seat in the restaurant lobby, or tell me I look nice. Just don't remind me I've grown a new part of my soul, to be subjected to incomprehensible dangers, and that it might not be okay. I can't handle it.