At kid-centric places–like playground and children’s museums–there are pregnant bellies everywhere. I look at them wistfully. Sometimes I’m reminded of the sadness they used to inspire, the way they knocked the wind out of me, left me gasping for breath. How my mind would automatically wander to desolations of “what if?” and “when?” and “why?” Sometimes I’m reminded of the fact that I was recently pregnant, and how miraculous that felt, but also how scary.

{I would say that I remember being pregnant, but it’s not quite like that. I have the hardest time actually recalling what it felt like to be pregnant. Try as I might, I can’t quite capture how it felt to rest my hand of my belly, or heave my hulking weight out of bed. I see those things like scenes in a movie, but I can’t remember actually experiencing them myself. It surprises me because I’m barely six months out from living it–that’s not very long!–but I suppose it’s such a foreign experience, that it fades from memory rather quickly. It makes me sad.}

When I see a pregnant woman, I wonder if she feels scared. I wonder if she worries about preterm labor or stillbirth. I wonder if the glory of her pregnancy is overshadowed by her fear of how it might end.

Sometimes I see pregnant bellies and I wonder what story they have to tell. I wonder how many pregnancies that woman has experienced, if she’s ever lost one. Or two. Or three. Or more. I wonder how long she tried to conceive. I wonder if she has other children, living or gone.

Sometimes I see pregnant bellies and I just smile, and wish them well.

We found out we were pregnant last spring. Recently I’ve been reading through some of those early posts and I have been struck by how humbled I was, how grateful. There is awe threaded through every word of the posts written after our surprise BFP. I could hardly fathom it was happening. I felt like the carpet had been pulled out from under me, everything I believed about the world was turned on it’s head. For once, my life was being hijacked by a blessing, instead of a tragedy. I couldn’t believe how lucky I was.

There is also fear in those early posts. My words aren’t floating in a sea of it, as they were in the early weeks and months of my second pregnancy, but you can feel the current of it gently tugging at my words. Sometimes I rode with that slow, churning current, other times I forceable rowed against it, but was always there, threatening to pull me under if I ever fell off my buoy of hope.

Sometimes I see pregnant bellies and I think, what a lovely time that was, and another voice has to remind me. You were scared. Always you were scared. Even at your most hopeful, there was a part of you that was terrified. Don’t let yourself forget how scary it was. Don’t romanticize it into something it wasn’t.

It was a terrifying time. But it was also wonderful. It’s hard to reconcile the two–there’s that cognitive dissonance again.

When I read a blog post about pregnancy loss or stillbirth, I feel incredible sadness for the person who has been devastated by the loss, but I also feel this overwhelming relief that it’s not me, and it won’t ever be me. I am so relieved to put that all behind me, to walk away from that intense fear, to never have to revisit it again.

And yet, it’s sad to think my family building days are over. There will be no more pregnancies, no more anticipation of another person joining our lives. Having a baby is the epitome of new beginnings, and new beginnings are awesome. I love change, and there is no change more thrilling than pregnancy and birth.

I could keep writing in circles like this, but we all have better things to do. I suppose that is the point though, that my mind just keeps circling around these same points and I can never seem to find a place to land. I loved being pregnant, I reveled in the joy of having another child, and yet I’m incredibly relieved that the possibility of pregnancy loss and stillbirth are behind me, and I’m grateful I’ve walked away from my child building experience relatively unscathed.

In the end, none of it really matters. We are done having babies, but I’m going to see pregnant women until the end of my days. I’m assuming the way I respond to them will change over time, until someday, they won’t inspire much of a response at all. Until then I’ll just have to roll with the punches, and hope they don’t knock the wind out of me.

Do pregnant bellies still affect you? Do you think they always will?

7 responses

  1. I just wrote a post yesterday about my new visualization technique whereby I don’t see pregnant women anymore, they are all just fat, because I seriously have trouble coping with it. DH doesn’t want anymore kids, which means like you were most likely done, so it shouldn’t matter. Especially since I do have kids, I have “beaten IF” yet as time passes it seems like only a single victory in a larger battle. Thank you so much for writing this post, I really thought I was the only one who felt that way and I look forward to following your blog.

  2. I was JUST thinking this. There are pregnant bellies all around me, and I always get a little pang, knowing it won’t ever be me again. And I also agree that its hard to remember how it felt. Sometimes something will remind me, and I can almost feel that kicking wiggling feeling, but if I TRY to remember how it felt, I can’t.

  3. I read this post and I relate on so many levels. I wonder the same things about other mothers and pregnant women. I tell my hubby alot that I miss being pregnant and he always laughs at me and reminds me of how much I hated being sick all the time, not sleeping, etc. In my head though, I only remember the good, those baby kicks, daydreaming about the baby and the birth, giving birth, etc. I can’t imagine what it would feel like to be “done” growing my family. I’m dreading it because it comes with such finality, like the end of an era.

  4. It’s funny, I was just commenting to Roo (after hanging out with 2 pregnant women at a party) that pregnancy already seems so far away. I have moments of missing it, but I’m also really enjoying the baby who is now on the outside.
    The part above where you describe your relief that various scary pregnancy outcomes won’t happen to you really resonated with me. I am in a similar place since being done with family-building. I feel so lucky to have gotten here and to be done with the struggles and fears that accompany TTC and pregnancy. There are of course plenty of risks in daily living, but they feel somehow different from the TTC/pregnancy ones.

  5. Yes, pregnant bellies still affect me and i think they always will (at least on some level). I believe that it one of the scars of our five year journey through secondary infertility and loss that might never go away. At the same time, I have always strived to try to be happy for others, while at times sad for myself. Even though we are done with our family building now, too, I still have my moments when I yearn. This past weekend I briefly entertained adopting a puppy from a shelter and I know part of it was because I know trying to have another baby is off the table and wanted to add another living being to our family.

    This really resonates with me,

    “Sometimes I see pregnant bellies and I wonder what story they have to tell. I wonder how many pregnancies that woman has experienced, if she’s ever lost one. Or two. Or three. Or more. I wonder how long she tried to conceive. I wonder if she has other children, living or gone.

    Sometimes I see pregnant bellies and I just smile, and wish them well.”

    What a beautiful and honest post. Thank you for sharing your wistfulness.

  6. I meant to reply to this when I first read it, but was no doubt somewhere where comments were awkward to write (in bed, on my phone etc). Apologies for coming late.

    I’m also obviously coming from a different direction to most of your commenters. In that I’ve never been noticeably pregnant. My losses were early, or prolonged (months to resolve an ectopic), but I never had the big pregnancy belly. And then it was all over. No family building for me, let alone completing. And so, for a long time, seeing a belly was painful, or simply annoying. (I’d get angry that I couldn’t go places and be free of it!) And yes, ten years on, I still have that twinge occasionally. For example, returning to my gym after six months overseas, I saw my physio who was now obviously quite pregnant, and I wished the feeling of surprise I felt had been 100% positive. But it wasn’t. So pregnant bellies still affect me. Perhaps for different reasons than you – it’s that public fecundity, that welcome into a certain section of society, that I’ve been denied, as much as the experience of carrying a life within me.

    But I think age helps too. And training. Because – unless I know the woman personally – I’ve trained myself simply to look away, not really to react. And it doesn’t hurt or many times even affect me at all. So no, I don’t think I will always feel this way – each year it ebbs away – and I don’t think you will either.

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