"...suffering is one of the universal conditions of being alive. We all suffer. We have become terribly vulnerable, not because we suffer, but because we have separated ourselves from each other." -- Rachel Naoimi Remen

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Don't ask, don't tell?

When it comes to pregnancy, and the chance of miscarriage, when and whether to tell family and friends is always a tough call. 

With my first pregnancy, we waited until the end of the first trimester to tell everyone.  That seemed wise, my Mom had several miscarriages so I knew it was a possibility. 

With our second pregnancy, we waited again.  But, at the end of the first trimester we made big announcements to friends and family, via email and in person.  Five weeks later, we had the most uncomfortable email of our lives to write. 

It was hard, and has only gotten harder, to tell folks of sad news.  Although it can be eloquent in email, it's always awkward in person and I've had several tear-up or cry when I've told them my story in person.  I completely understand that it's hard for them... but that makes it even harder for me.  Neither of us can find the right words. 

And now, as we've decided to pursue adoption and are starting to tell people about that choice, I want to offer some explanation.  There's a large majority of colleagues and acquaintances who don't know the details of we've been through, and then I have to tell.  They wonder "how I looked so good at work through all of that?"  I wonder 'are they sad I didn't share it with them sooner?'  On occasion, I feel guilty.  I've kept the circle relatively small to spare them, and myself, that awkward encounter.  Now I know, the truth usually has a way of coming out. 

A friend of mine who recently suffered miscarriage shared his story; they had seen a heart beat and shared the happy news, only to lose the baby a few days later.  The updated news was much harder to deliver. 

And so, this all makes me wonder whether the golden rule of "don't tell 'til the second trimester" is a wise one after all. 

What I learned is that I had to tell a few people when I was pregnant, because whether I carried to term or not, I was going to need my friends and family to lean on either way.  Through trial and error, I've come to appreciate how important my support system is.  And they can only support me if they know what I'm going through. 

Are we alone because everyone else is self-absorbed?  Or are we alone because we're unwilling to share our fears, our reality?  Are we afraid that if we say it out loud it will make it more real?   

This is certainly one of those times where we should get rid of the guilt, that's for sure.  If you're afraid a friend "who's got it so easy" will feel guilty; just don't worry.  She may, she may not.  But she'll survive.  You deserve for your friend to be a friend.  She deserves to have the opportunity to do so. 

I know one thing I've struggled with is when people say "you're just handling this so well, I'd be a wreck."  Well, when I'm talking to friends from work, it's usually in a crowded hospital hallway.  Although I'm a fragile mother, I'm also a professional, and I know I can't just break down at work.  What else am I supposed to do other than (almost always) keep it together at work?  [I'm only a wreck at home.]

Contrary to many of my other blog posts, as I write this, I am not acutely emotional.  It's just something I've been meaning to blog because I know it was a big issue to me at one time and I know several who continue to struggle with it.  Similarly, I know friends with infertility who struggle with telling their friends of their plight, for fear of not being understood. 

One thing I know is, no one can truly understand.
Because no one is right where I am.
No one is right where you are.  

But another thing I know is, good people can try.  And that makes us feel loved.

When I was in college taking Latin, I shared "vera amicus est alter idem" with my best friend, "a true friend is a second self" (-Cicero).  In adulthood, I've been disappointed that although that friend is still one of my best; I no longer have anyone who I feel that way about.  It seems as though, that as we get older, we grow differently.  Our circumstances, year after year, make us more unique and complex, making it harder for us to truly relate to another's circumstances.  But I also know that with love comes empathy... and almost everyone I love has shown more empathy than I've expected when I've been honest with them. 

So, what do I recommend?  (Warning: here comes the advice column section of this blog ;))

I extremely strongly recommend against big cheerful announcements on social media before the end of your first trimester; because that conjures feelings of jealousy and disgust in people like me (SORRY; but it's true!!)

However, among loved ones, I recommend sharing your news as soon as you're ready.  You'll need someone to laugh and cry with.  You'll need someone to vent to, whether things go well or not.

Those of you who aren't pregnant or trying, I recommend that you ask your friends who are trying, how it's going regularly.  They want to talk about it; I can almost guarantee that.  It is probably consuming them.  They want a safe, non-judgemental place to tell the truth.  Don't call from down a hospital corridor "is that a baby bump I see!?" because that may cause a panic attack (as it did in me several times last spring!).  But, it's ok to ask "having any luck lately?" or "do you and -- still want to have (more) kids?" 

So, those are my thoughts for the day.  Just wanted to share. 

Dear Lord,
My story has gotten long and complicated. 
I want to be understood but
Sometimes I don't know where to start.
Help us to love and be loved.
Help me to be a better friend.
In your name, I pray.  

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