To the well-meaning stranger who asks when my baby is due: there is a reason I avert my eyes. I instinctively touch the head of my 2-year-old as you ask the age gap. You remark how full my hands will be, and I hope you are right; full hands is the goal. But just in case, I stroke her short, budding pigtails to remind myself that Avery will still be here. I want to remind myself that if Cooper’s body fails, and if I have a new loss, I won’t be as lonely. My Gracie and Avery will be here.
To the sweet and chatty hygienist, cleaning my teeth while telling me all about how having a boy is different: I’m sorry I look away. I’ll never tell you my baby will be born likely very sick; and how could you know? I am happy to listen to your stories, but today, I just can’t share too much of mine. I am tired today. I just can’t get into why; I don’t have it in me. That’s why I stay quiet.
To the fellow mom at the pool, gazing at my stomach and longing to connect over what we share: I’m sorry if I don’t seem as breathless and excited as I could. I’m sorry I don’t commiserate over the glucose test with as much enthusiasm; I actually kind of like the drink. But you see, even though this boy isn’t born yet, I worry about him more than I expected when I got those two pink lines last February. I have weekly appointments to check for his distress that remind how many reasons I have to fear his birth.
To the world around me, bursting with baby fever: it’s not you, it’s me. The uncertain situation of a second sick baby in six years is why I avert my gaze when we pass the baby section at Target. It’s why I don’t roll my eyes at how rambunctious little boys can be. My cautious optimism is a slight nudge away from fear, and that dreaded feeling swells up when I least expect it. Fear tells me lies, and I choke it back to reclaim the truth. The conflicting advice, the waiting for phone calls and tests, the meeting with specialists, it’s all why I turn the conversation back to you quickly. I sometimes just want a break from me.
But to everyone reading this who is questioning how you interact with all pregnant women: don’t. Don’t change. In recognizing this pregnancy as special, you remind me that despite all the anxiety I feel right now, this baby was created for a purpose. He deserves to be celebrated. He is not here to make me happy, he is here for something bigger. It is painful but necessary to remember that our children exist for a purpose, but it’s not to make us comfortable and content. Their lives are missional, they are only with us for a while. We have a front row seat to their lives, but we cannot change their purpose. Yet independent of the number of days, each new life is special, impactful, and intentional.
The next pregnant mama you see: make her feel beautiful. Ask her about her sweet bun in the oven. And yes, still ask me; I have good days, and I always look to honor sweet, strong Cooper. Just know that if I don’t say much, it’s undoubtedly because of me; it’s never because of you. I’m just working to get through the day reconciling with what I want and what will be.
Even though I have many reasons to fear Cooper’s birth, I have even more reasons to hope: I have a life laced with love; I have a past that molded my courage from broken bits of loss; I have a faith that knows no bounds; I carry another baby that grows stronger each day.
But just know that if I don’t seem jubilant, bubbly, or if you detect a hint of worry in my voice: it’s nothing you did. It’s nothing anyone can prevent. It’s just me, walking this path I didn’t choose but intend to see through, the best way I know how.
It’s not you, it’s me.