Tuesday, July 3, 2012

The Unwanted Fame of Pregnancy

23 weeks

I'm starting to get more from strangers while out and about.  Or really, my belly is.

Because my pregnant belly no longer can be mistaken for bloating or weight gain.  It is obvious that there's a little person growing within.

This fact seems to make some people chatty.  Complete strangers want to trade happy pregnancy stories with me.

They don't understand that for me, pregnancy is not a happy story.  Even while I am so happy to be pregnant with our rainbow, the experience itself is not a "happy" one.  Instead, it is terrifying and stressful, worthwhile, painful, refining, and one of the most challenging paths I have ever, ever walked.

It feels like daily walking up to the edge of a cliff and throwing myself off onto mercy and thin air, praying that God will not let this journey obliterate me.

I don't want to trade happy pregnancy stories.

But I can usually manage to smile politely and fob my way through it.  I think I might even convince these strangers that their blissful memories of pregnancy hold true for me.

The happy, chatty strangers are not the most difficult, though.

Far worse are the uncomfortable or even hostile stares I sometimes find myself the target of.

I don't know if they've noticed me notice, but I have caught more than a few women eying my swelling belly with animosity.

I could be misreading these stares.  I hope I am.

But knowing how many babies die before birth, and knowing how easily, how silently they go, I don't think that I am wrong.

The other day, for example, I was holed up in my favorite air-conditioned (!!) coffee shop, writing away.  When I got up to leave, my pregnancy huge and obvious, a woman who had been sitting behind me positively glared, eyes glued to my belly.

I am ashamed to confess that I glared back.

Why did I glare?  Knowing what I know, why was my instinctive reaction to return in kind, instead of a compassionate smile?  I will try harder next time.

A smile in the face of animosity doesn't take much courage.  But what if I had approached that glaring woman, asked if she grappled with infertility or babyloss or some other sort of wound that would cause her to dislike pregnant strangers?

I wish I had that kind of courage.

I wonder if I was the recipient of similar stares when I was pregnant with Eve.  That pregnancy, it was truly blissful.  Eve was a surprise, a beautiful miracle in the face of the lifetime of infertility my doctor said to expect as a result of my eating disorder.  The 31 weeks I carried this baby who I was cautioned never to hope for were truly the happiest days I have ever known.

And then she died.

Why did I not smile at that woman who glared?  At every woman who glares, or whom I even suspect of glaring?

I know that babies are dying in my city.  That babies have died here, and recently.  And I know that there's so much more pain out there, pain that is beyond my comprehension.  That too-young people are given fatal diagnoses and children are losing their hair to chemotherapy and families are torn apart by illness and anger and abuse and death daily.  And yet we all assume that no one is as wounded as we are.

Why can't we wear our wounds more openly?  I wish that I could.  I have often wished it since Eve died.  And still, I glared.

I will try to do better.  The road of pregnancy and mamahood is already too marred with potholes.  I want to hold my fellow wounded up, not push them down harder when they fall.

22 weeks

Have you ever had an experience similar to mine, regardless of whether it involves pregnancy or not?  If so, how did you deal with it? 


  1. I completely know what you mean, Beth. I am that woman that glares at pregnant women now and I feel so bad about it. But, I can't help but feel envious and hope with all my might they understand what a blessing and a gift they have. I wonder if when I was pregnant, women glared at me. I wonder if the women I'm glaring at have had a loss in their past? So many thoughts. Thank you for opening my eyes afresh and making me realize I need to be gracious and kind. After all, we never know what road others have walked.

    P.S. You look adorable!

    Much love and hugs.

    1. Have totally done the same (and even still do, even though I am pregnant myself! it's nuts). And I think the same kinds of thoughts. I imagine it's probably fairly common, but it doesn't make it suck any less. I want to be better! Hugs. Let's try to be gentle with ourselves.

  2. I have glared and I have been glared at! Our Ambrose would have been five this August and so I can say that now years later I often times have "that" courage when I notice the glares... not always but sometimes it leads to some really healing conversations! (for both) I pray that for you it is a much nicer place to be! I have to admit though that I still struggle when women are bitterly complaining about being uncomfortable while pregnant. or speak about how miserable they feel pregnant, morning sickness, can't sleep, etc.... I am sure you know what I mean... I want to yell try having your baby die inside you! AHHHHH! Still five years later I can;t listen to people with healthy pregnancies complain!!! Not that I would wish loss on anyone but they just don't get it and can't!So yes then sadly I have to admit I glare!

  3. I get glares/looks all the time. Well what do I expect SIX kids :) on my way home from TN for Christmas I was pregnant with Jonathan and traveling with my other 5 by myself. The looks were SO BAD, I actually heard one woman say oh my gosh look at ALL those KIDS{disdain}and shes PREGNANT. She said this so I could hear it she wanted me to I am sure. I looked her right in the eyes and smiled. My smile was not sarcastic but one filled with pride YES they are mine and I am blessed! Now I think I will view these rude onlookers a little different maybe their looks are fueled by the fact that they do not think it is fair I get six and they have not been able to have one. I have always love those pregnant talkers the one that walk up and practically hug your belly. To me living in CA it reminded me of home in the south. Where people do that no matter what. Pregnancy has been the most joyfully time of my life up until Jonathan(even though my pregnancy's have been medically difficult)I wonder how I will do this next time around. I want to be pregnant so bad but I know that God has his perfect timing and is working on my heart in this time. Praying for you Beth you look so beautiful pregnant. I can not wait to meet this little guy online in 15 weeks :)

  4. I think, too often, that people belittle someone else's hopes, fears, dreams, and PAIN. The worst experience of my life can't be compared to the worst experience of someone else's. It just can't. I don't get to decide that my life is harder than someone else's, that my pain is greater, that I deserve to feel angry/hurt/bitter but that someone else doesn't. My struggles are not greater OR less than anyone else's. We all have our own good thing and bad things and muddle through the best we can.

    1. What a great comment- there can't be comparison between each individual's experience. For them, it was real. There's no sliding scale for grief or for joy.

  5. I too look at pregnant women and i cant help myself sometimes i think i stare at there bellys a bit to long, but i just know how lucky they are to have that precious child growing inside them. When i was pregnant with Erin people used to stare and i would hear them saying oh god she's having another one! It was even worse after i lost Erin and became pregnant with my 6th child not everyone was like it but sometimes it felt that way and when i had my 7th even i was beginning to wonder if i was doing the right thing as all i seemed to get was negative comments and people staring at me I love all my children very much and i would not change it i love having a big family.

  6. I loved this...so true. I am not sure though that I have glared at other mamas but I have definitely STARED! I have stared hard and just smiled. I look at swollen, beautiful bellies and I know there is a longing that those mamas see. I usually say what a beautiful belly and what I also want to say is please love her ok love her like I would have loved mine. Thank you for writing this...i will be praying for health for you and your sweet new baby. God bless...
    Elle's mommy

  7. Especially because I have other children, with this pregnancy, its bound to happen. I want to be joyous, and I have happy pregnancy stories of my 1st three, but now carrying my 5th, without my 4th with us is excruciating. Nothing makes sense.

  8. My memory is too fresh. I know I used to glance at pregnant bellies and smile. Now I am not sure how my face looks as I glance. Often I catch myself saying "I wonder if she knows her baby could die" under my breath. I hope I am not talking too loud. I don't really wasn't to frighten a pregnant mama.

  9. Interesting. I've never thought of what my face looks like when I see a pregnant woman. I'm usually feeling something good, but sometimes I wonder if my pensive mood or whatever leaves my face looking different. You know, when you aren't paying attention to your face and just thinking. I would have glared at a friend of mine (if she had been here) once because she had just gotten married and was pregnant right away while my cousin agonized with infertility (my cousin married my friend's brother) and had been married for years longer. Jealousy for her. But you don't think about other people seeing you. Good thing to think about! You do look great, though! And interestingly, I just read a post about a gal who had her baby at 23 weeks and they have a lot of health problems and struggles and she wrote about people asking if she'll have another one. Some questions and chats are a lot harder for people who have experienced loss or hardships. These blogs help me try to keep myself in check - watch what I say, because I don't know the other person's story.

  10. I'm sorry to say that I am now sometimes the woman who glares, even though I probably don't realize it and certainly don't mean to. I had a beautiful, perfect pregnancy with my first and an unforgettable birth experience. I got pregnant again last September and lost the baby (a girl, we are sure- her name is Bethany) in December. I tried for months after to get pregnant, feverishly tracking my cycle, and scheduling sex and doing all the "trying" things I swore I would never do, all the while my midwife telling me I was probably not even ovulating. Finally I opened my ears to the Lord and He told me to stop notating, controlling, demanding, and just be. Since then we've decided to wait for a while longer to think about pregnancy again, and I've dealt with the loss. But some days the grief sneaks up on me and I find myself, to my shame, hating every pregnant woman I see. So, on behalf of all of us, I'm sorry. We don't mean to take away from you. We just don't know how to deal with "why her, why not me?" I pray this time will be a peaceful and hopeful season for you.

    1. Thank you so much for leaving your thoughts, Rachel. I am so sorry about the loss of Bethany and the struggle to get pregnant again. That "trying" is absolutely maddening. Big hugs, and hope, to you.

  11. Now I think I will view these rude onlookers a little different maybe their looks are fueled by the fact that they do not think it is fair I get six and they have not been able to have one.Online Cialis I have always love those pregnant talkers the one that walk up and practically hug your belly.


"I am glad you are here with me."
― J.R.R. Tolkien, The Return of the King