It doesn’t matter that I had a baby. Every time I see a pregnant woman it’s as if I had never been pregnant. The same internal dialogue races through my mind, even in the day care parking lot as I’m carrying my son in to school.
It must have been so easy for her.
Look at her, she’s working on number three.
I should know better. I was aware of my own belly bearing those same reminders to other women, to the point that I was sometimes embarrassed I was pregnant. Spending the better part of 2012 pregnant did nothing to stem the jealousy that I still feel. Maybe I feel this way because I spent my whole pregnancy walking on eggshells, hoping to make it to the next week, the next month, the next trimester. I am still in disbelief that I made it to full term, much less almost to 40 full weeks. I know how the odds were stacked against me at every turn, and still I beat them, and no one would have known that by looking at me.
(Well, if they had looked closely at my stomach in the last trimester, they would have seen the lopsided effect of the unicornuate uterus keeping the baby on the left side… But who really knows that you can have half a uterus unless you’re the one facing that diagnosis anyway?)
It’s a weird feeling, trying to rectify the absolute miracle that happened to me – from beating the odds of having a spontaneous pregnancy, to beating the odds of complications likes placenta previa, to beating the odds of having a miscarriage, to beating the odds of pre-term labor and incompetent cervix – to making it full-term. About the only thing I couldn’t beat was the intrauterine growth restriction, try as I might with the amount of protein I ate every day, and the breech position. I have friends who had completely normal pregnancies, completely normal uteruses, but delivered early for one reason or another. They were never on bedrest, were never asked not to exercise, weren’t going for twice-weekly non-stress tests like I was. One of my midwives had said he expected my baby to come out “glowing” from all the surveillance he was on.
No, my baby didn’t come early. He was content to wait even in cramped quarters until the scheduled C-section. He was healthy enough to room-in with me – another miracle. And yet, in speaking with my friends who had the early or pre-term babies, for as much as having a pre-term baby is a heartbreaking, scary experience, it meant they didn’t go through the same discomforts that I went through in the last month of pregnancy. They didn’t gain weight rapidly or get so uncomfortable in any position they couldn’t sleep. And once they had their baby, they could recover – and sleep! – in their hospital room because their baby was not with them.
I look at other “normal” women and think they are lucky without having any clue as to how long it might have taken them to get pregnant, just because every minute I was pregnant was a victory for me. But a newly-pregnant first-time mom might know I had my baby skin-to-skin immediately after birth and rooming-in with me during recovery, and think dreamily how that is the perfect, ideal scenario, and how lucky I was for that to happen. And then I talk with my pre-term friends who hear my story about the guilt of sending the baby to the nursery just to get some sleep for a few hours, about never getting any sleep longer than two hours because the baby wakes up, and how that hinders your ability to recover. And every single one of them has said, “You know, although it was really scary at the time, we were so lucky to have had the baby being taken care of in the NICU.”
No one wishes the NICU on anybody. But every pregnancy, from start to finish, is different, complex, and scary – even the so-called “normal” ones. So when you think someone else is lucky because their situation might be more ideal than yours, remember that person might be looking at you and thinking you’re the lucky one. Count your blessings each and every day, especially the blessings in disguise.