Thursday, August 14, 2014

That sad you feel when you think about your pregnancy

Dave and I went out for breakfast yesterday morning, an unusual work week treat, and bumped into the woman who lived in our house before we did. We were happy to see each other; we shared a love for our house, and she'd been so warm and welcoming when we were going through the sale. I was a nervous first-time homeowner and hormonal preggo woman; I was five months pregnant with Max when we moved. She'd kindly let me in to take measurements to make sure all our furniture would fit, and given me various pointers about where to buy stuff and good places to eat in the neighborhood.

We talked about the house, and how the beautiful flowers and greenery she'd planted comes up gorgeous every year. We discovered that living in a house was a first for each of us, as we'd both grown up in apartments. We talked our kids. She had four, and it had seemed so extravagant to me at the time that we were going to be a family of three living in a house that had held a family of six. (Of course, then Sabrina came along as did a whole lot of STUFF that has filled every single storage space available, and then some.)

"How is your boy doing?" she asked, looking concerned.

We've bumped into each other over the years, and she knew that Max had a stroke at birth.

"He's doing really, really well," I said. We discussed his school (she'd heard of it), and how Sabrina and her kids, now all grown up, were doing. We agreed that the years zoom by.

We exchanged emails and promised to keep in touch; I told her she or the kids were free to stop by the house anytime. Dave and I ordered at the register, and sat down at at table.

"Isn't it so nice to see her?" I said, and then a wash of emotion overcame me and my eyes filled with tears.

When I see this woman, I think about my pregnancy with Max, and how thrilled and filled with optimism we were—and how we had no clue what would happen to him. It's the same way I feel whenever I glance at a photo hanging in a bulletin board in our kitchen snapped on a day friends came over for our first barbecue at the house. It's similar to how I feel when I look back at Max's birth, before he ended up in the NICU.

We couldn't have known. We couldn't have known. We couldn't have known.

I've accepted that the grief will always be a part of me. And that, rationally, it's out of sync with the reality of my Max—because I can't imagine having any other child, nor would I want any other child. There's no rationalizing grief, though. It's subsided as the years have passed, in terms of the moments happening less often. But when they do, they are just as intense—a shock to my system, something I cannot control. My chest tightens up. The tears rise.

The sadness doesn't hit Dave in the same way, and he's always able to draw me out of it. He brought up the time, after we signed the contract on the house, that we were so excited we drove over at around 11:00 p.m., parked across the street and just stared at it, until the husband looked out a window and spotted our car, and we quickly drove off, giddy house-stalkers that we were. Then we moved onto other topics of conversation, and within minutes, the sadness dissipated. Dave brought over my waffle and his omelette.

I waved to her as we headed out of the restaurant.

Just another moment in special needs parenthood.


  1. I know that feeling - thanks for writing this - Kristen

  2. Difference brings uncertainty, tragic feelings follow, and then you learn to adapt.

  3. I know that feeling, too. When I meet someone that I haven't seen for a few years and they ask how my son is doing I can get a little pang of sadness. I have to remind myself that 1) yes, it sucks, 2) it is what it is and 3) let's make the best of the situation. It's not always easy, but we get through it, don't we? Take care.

  4. Yes. Exactly yes. Because my pregnancies were pre term and therefore high risk. I never had the chance to enjoy full pregnancy, nor the baby showers given. All of my children were delivered early and went straight to NICU. We didn't have take home babies, we had wait a few weeks and then bring them home. I know, my friend. xo

  5. I know this feeling all too well... It is comforting to know I am not the only one who gets stuck on this.

  6. My nephew was born with a very rare neurological disorder. Rather, he was born a healthy 9 lbs, 2 oz typical baby boy who crashed within 48 hours of his birth and his life took a whole new path.
    My sister, and our entire family, had about 40 hours with one baby only to be told, essentially, that that baby would never be. His life was not going to be the same as the life of the baby who was is so hard to put this in do you do it so wonderfully and I just make it sound horrible...?
    No regrets or sadness over the boy who is, but we all had to take a moment in our lives to mourn the baby who had been born but who would never be. It is hard for outsiders to understand that.

  7. I have a son with multiple disabilities and I can relate so well to that feeling of "before we knew". I sometimes wistfully look at photos of I'm before we knew that he would grow up with special needs. He will be 15 years old in a couple of weeks. As the years have gone by the pain has lessened greatly and I no longer get teary. There is so much to celebrate; he's here, he's happy and he is greatly loved. Thanks for sharing your feelings. -Michele

  8. I feel it every year at this time of year. The air is filled with spring blossoms in Australia and that takes me back to my pregnancy and I think of the young innocent girl I was just wondering if I'd have a boy or girl. I was happily clueless of what lay ahead. I'm a better person for my experience but I wrote a blog last year about my feelings. We didn't have a dramatic birth story our son's disability just unraveled over time. Here is my blog Thanks for sharing. I think it is so important that parents understand it is okay for that feeling to wash over you sometimes. It is a process not something that just disappears with time. Julie

  9. Hey Ellen,
    Thanks for this. Today is Elijah's birthday, so I'm having a lot of "We couldn't have known" moments today. His birthday is always so bittersweet, so full of joy and happiness and yet, so full of such terrible memories. It's hard to have those two juxtaposed together. Hugs

  10. Thank you for this post. This past week we viewed the MRI and met with the neurologist to try to find some answers about my son who has very mild symptoms of cp. We saw scarring (thankfully, minimal) on his brain and were told it was likely a result of a stroke he had in Ăștero. I've been struggling with guilt all week but not sure how to talk to my husband about it, who sweetly just tells me there's nothing I could have done.
    But I still sit here going through every event in my pregnancy to find out what it was that caused his stroke. I worry that if I don't figure it out then my future children will have strokes as well. It's so strange because before they told us he had a stroke in Ăștero I would have told you, other than some pretty bad morning sickness the first 18 weeks, I had a great pregnancy and birth. Now I pause every time I'm answering an expectant mom's questions wondering if they are thinking "but your son had a stroke".
    I read a post you made last year about the mom guilt surrounding having a child with a disability and it really helped me to, at the very least, not feel alone. And echoed the confusion I feel when I obsess over this yet know that I would never change a single thing about my amazing son.

  11. I still occasionally feel the same way. But I have no regrets about choosing not to abort my first pregnancy I was excited and still am. Like someone else said it is a gradual process that takes time. Your post really resonates with me.


Thanks for sharing!

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