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.
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