Grieving my 38%

Monday, Owen and I had a coffee shop meeting with the Minnesota Chapter of the March of Dimes to discuss ways that I can help the organization advance their mission. It was a great meeting and I am excited to get more involved with the organization that works to keep all kids healthy and especially their work towards preventing prematurity. I left the meeting with a folder of some information and that afternoon, Kellen noticed a picture of a pregnant woman in it. He started asking about why she had a baby in her belly and I told him that he was in my belly when he was a tiny baby. “Do you want to see a picture of mommy when you were in her belly?” I asked. His face lit up as I showed him the pictures of me while pregnant and of him and I right after he was born. It was a sweet conversation and good bonding time.

Pregnant with Kellen, at 32 weeks. 2 weeks before he was born.

However, it was also a little bittersweet. While I was showing Kellen the pictures, I also wanted to show him a picture of me when Owen was in my belly. The problem is, I couldn’t find one. I later scoured all of our photos and couldn’t find one picture of me that showed my stomach during my pregnancy with Owen. There is not a picture of me smiling proudly with my hand on my stomach. Not one of Kyle’s hand on my belly. No pictures of Kellen lovingly kissing the baby through my tummy. Not even a random snapshot that happens to include a swelled belly in it. That realization combined with Monday being the one year anniversary of Owen’s due date gave me a twinge of sadness. It didn’t ruin my day, but I did have moments of sadness. I missed so much of my pregnancy with Owen. More than 38% of what should have been, didn’t happen.

First and foremost, I am saddened by all that Owen had to, and will continue to have to, endure because of his early birth. But I also grieve, yes GRIEVE, the loss of the rest of my pregnancy. I didn’t lose my son, but I lost almost 40% of my pregnancy. Excited anticipation was replaced with stress, fear and a vocabulary only medical professionals should have. I lost normal. I lost smiling pregnancy photos. I lost being pampered with the occasional massage to take care of my growing achy body. I lost watching my stomach as my baby visibly moved inside. I lost that moment of tears of joy when I met my son. I lost walking out of the hospital with my son – for 181 days. Undeniably, I got a wonderful gift – a beautiful and amazing son – and would never begin to compare my grief to that of losing a loved one. But we preemie parents did face loss and are sometimes “pooh poohed” for “worrying” about that loss. I’ve had some discount that hurt and I, also, think we do it to ourselves because our brains instantly focus on the baby and his/her medical issues. And then one day something like the baby’s birthday (actual or corrected) or realizing there are no pictures or hearing a pregnant mother complain about that 9th month happens and it slaps you in the face. You didn’t get a full pregnancy and you are still missing it.

Sometimes it’s little things that give you a little pinch; just this week someone posted that they are 20 weeks and “half way through”. I’m thrilled for this family and completely separate her pregnancy from mine. However, reading that statement did make me catch my breath a little. What should have been “half way” was the end of my pregnancy. I am truly happy for all expecting mothers and love to hear about their pregnancies and plans. At the same time, I miss the 38% that I didn’t get and I will roll my eyes or snap at someone who complains about the discomforts of the last weeks of pregnancy. I’m not sure if jealousy is the right word, but I definitely wish I could have had those later weeks too.

At the end of the day, I am thankful for what I have. I didn’t get the perfect pregnancy, but I have a happy and wonderful son, regardless of his path home. I try to keep my focus on the good things I have, but I’ll never deny myself the sad moments that strike from time to time. I’m okay being sad on occasion. Prematurity is sad. It’s only fair to admit it and accept it. For me, that sadness is what drives me to try to change the premature birth journey. It’s why I blog and it’s why I can’t wait to volunteer for organizations like the March of Dimes. While I don’t want my sadness to overtake me, I do think it’s important to accept and embrace it every once in a while.

PS Family and friends, if you have a picture of me that shows my belly when pregnant with Owen, I’d love to have a copy.

© Copyright Tatum, All rights Reserved. Written For: Ain't No Roller Coaster

20 thoughts on “Grieving my 38%

    • I think you’re right. My brother was a 31 weeker in 1974 – she’s never said it, but I think my mom still gets a little sad around his birthday.

  1. I’m glad I’m not the only person who longs for those last 3 1/2 months of pregnancy. I, too, have a hard time listening to someone complain about those last few weeks of pregnancy. It may be uncomfortable for us women, but we’re doing the greatest thing for our baby! I totally can relate to feeling cheated that we didn’t get to experience all the highs of introducing a new baby into the world–especially when you’ve experienced it once before (with the older sibling). I try to focus not on the highs we lost, but rather on those we have gained. Sure, I was excited when my first daughter rolled over or clapped, but when my preemie d id. . it, I couldn’t have been more proud. Our highs are nowjust stretched over a longer period of time

    • Sorry! My phone was acting up…Anyway, all those little moments become huge milestones and make me so grateful for what I have. They may never make up for those precious pregnancy moments and birth celebrations–which we will always grieve a bit for–but at least they can dull the pain.

      • Great point, Bre. We just got home from PT and Owen was working so hard on advancing on his hands and knees and one time he lifted his hand on his own. I’m not sure that I would have noticed that with Kellen, but for Owen to do it, it made my day. There are many, many daily highs to being the parents to babies that overcome so much. There are times that I think how much I missed celebrating with Kellen. So, yes, we definitely gain things that do help balance out that loss.

  2. I can definitely relate. I grieve over not getting to experience the third trimester of my pregnancy. I look at other pregnant women with big, swollen bellies and it makes me long for what I didn’t have. I wish I could have experienced all of those aches, pains and discomforts at the end of a pregnancy. I hope that I can have another pregnancy that goes closer to full term, but I’m not sure I’ll get to have that.

    • I hope you get your wish Lara. I imagine that any parent who didn’t have those last week would cherish every ache and pain. I imagine saying something like, “I’m wonderfully uncomfortable”

  3. I grieved the wheelchair ride out of the hospital with balloons and flowers..especially when I would walk by many happy parents; while we were on the way to the NICU.

  4. I can totally relate too Tatum! I also don’t have any pictures of me pregnant with Jackson. it always made me sad. ;( there was definitely a grieving process after he was born. I think I am still traumatized about leaving the hospital to go home and leaving him there in the nicu. I remember seeing this mom with her perfect little newborn and I just burst into tears. It is a tough thing to go through. Thanks for writing about this. 😉

  5. I will never forget that empty feeling I had when I was discharged and left my son Owen in there alone for the first time. It was horrible, to face the world without him. All I wanted to do was camp by his side an never leave

    • I hear you loud and clear, Kathleen. I think it’s that moment when you’re leaving the hospital with out your baby that it all feels all too real. I hope your Owen is doing great.

  6. Thank you so much for writing this. I often feel selfish for feeling this way. My daughter’s first birthday is coming up soon, and don’t get me wrong, she is a miracle, and I am so lucky she is alive and healthy. However, she is also my first birth child, and I find myself mourning for the first time mother that was alone in her hospital room, crying tears because, she had no idea what was gonna happen. I’d hear mothers and their babies, and it would feel even worse. I had a C-Section and my doctor let me out after 24 hours to go to the NICU they had her in, an hour away from where I gave birth, and I just remember being in so much pain, both emotionally and physically. One thing that has always stuck with me is the long walk from the elevator to the NICU. I’ve gone back since, and the walk isn’t that long, but, when she was there, it seemed like the longest walk ever.

    I look back on that time, very bitter sweetly. Even though this time is when my daughter and I bonded, I never felt so…alone. Until I read this, I really thought I was kinda silly for feeling this way, and its really really nice to know I am not alone, thank you. 😀

  7. Just found your blog, and I can so related to this post! My son was born at 33 weeks and was very small for his age, so I never got very big at all. He was delivered by emergency c-section. I mourn the last 7 weeks of my pregnancy. As much as it’s supposed to suck, I mourn not even feeling a single contraction. I mourn not having my tiny warm baby placed on my chest, or being able to hold him until the day after he was born. Seeing other families taking their babies home every single day when we came to the NICU was like slow torture. I don’t think anyone but a preemie mom can relate to this kind of thing. Most people just tell me how lucky I am to have missed out on the worst part of pregnancy and the pain of labor. They just don’t get it, and it’s amazing to see someone else write about exactly what I’ve been feeling for the last year.

    • I’m glad the post brought you some comfort, Jessie. It’s always nice to know we’re not alone. So thankful for social media to make the world a little smaller for preemie and special needs families.

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