There’s a chance I screwed up… Anyone who’s been following me for any length of time knows that subsequent pregnancies are difficult for me to share, so I tend to hide them and disclose only on an as needed basis (except my whole sharing on the internet business, but this is different than in real life, somehow), especially at work.
So this time around, rarely do I visit the office any longer, let alone see or communicate with anyone, friend or foe, on a regular basis due to life circumstances and also because my regular lunch trifecta blew up last December through no fault of my own. As such, as it relates to this pregnancy and work, those I considered ones who “needed to know” included, well… No one. (Except for my boss.)
So I didn’t tell anyone. At first it was easy. I just didn’t mention it. But as I grew increasingly larger, around the office I became more reclusive, began to dress differently, carried larger handbags in front of my belly, peeked around corners to ensure the coast was clear before sprinting into my office, shutting my door, and flipping off my lights, sent correspondence through interoffice mail instead of visiting in person, etc., etc., etc.
Before anyone goes judging me for my seemingly odd behavior (I see you), I want to explain that much of my behavior isn’t by choice rather it’s a visceral reaction to a traumatic experience… Often times when I share news of a subsequent pregnancy with a new person I feel hot, and my heart starts racing, and I have all of these anxious thoughts, and I convince myself I’ve just increased my baby’s chances of dying, and I have flashbacks of the moment I had to tell them that Matthew died, and I imagine having to tell them that this one died too, and then I kind of find myself wanting to die as well, thus, in regards to pregnancy news, it’s generally easier for me to just not share. (NOTE: For those who are skeptical of my perceived lack of choice regarding my actions/inactions, I suggest you read up on post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). It has many side-effects and manifestations and literally has the power to rewire your brain, at least in the short-term, which can last for years even then.)
In fact, if I had it my way, I’d feel inclined not to share anything with anyone, including close family, until my baby was born alive, though I’ve chosen an alternative, middle-ground route, as I can understand the benefits of not walking such a intense path alone, and, oftentimes, it isn’t practical to do so either…
I realize that not everyone processes this way – I’ve observed those experiencing pregnancy after loss shout their news early and loud, and I totally understand the reasoning behind this too. It just isn’t how I’ve processed things or coped, and I know I’m not alone in this either.
Also, I recognize that my job is unique in that it has enabled me to indulge in all of my preferred coping mechanisms, whether healthy or unhealthy or neutral, so, when it comes to such activities, I, for the past almost 2.5 years, have generally approached things by taking the path of least resistance, which might be actually counterproductive to healing some of my PTSD, as oftentimes, PTSD treatment, I’ve learned, includes at least some amount of exposure therapy… But the circumstances of my career are what they are, so, likewise, my current situation sort of is what it is too.
Thus, here I sit. I told my boss and no one else. But I was exposed to some observant ones via budget meetings, which I was trying to be a good soldier and attend, and some of the other attendees gossiped, and, I suspect, one of them told one of my friends, so she might (though I remain unsure) have heard my news from someone other than me.
Of course I’d wanted to tell her sooner. She’s been supportive. She probably deserved to hear my news and hear it from me. But every time I contemplated telling her, I just couldn’t. (See explanation above.)
So as soon as I caught wind that people were finding out, I sent her a really nice, apologetic text telling her my news as well as restating how much she means to me. I told her I was sorry if she’d heard from someone else and re-explained that it’s just really difficult to talk about this subject to anyone, even friends, etc., etc., etc.
Although she replied nicely, I’m worried (sort of) that she’s hurt/angry, as it’s been several weeks, and we haven’t communicated since… Of course given my working arrangement, this isn’t completely abnormal, but it isn’t necessarily normal either. It isn’t as though I expect anything more out of her, it’s just that the events that have transpired make me wonder… Others who have found out have been generally supportive and say they understand my need for secrecy, which I appreciate, but this particular person has historically been closer to me, so I’m not sure if expectations might have been different here…
And now I’m also questioning whether I’ve handled any of this correctly at all… Not that this should be at the top of my list of concerns (it isn’t), or that I’ve felt fully in control of it (see above – I haven’t), or that there is a correct/incorrect way to handle trauma (there isn’t)… It’s just, sometimes I wish that, rather than hiding, potentially alienating myself, I could have been, or in the future still could be, someone who was/is able to reintegrate back into society more smoothly, partially so I could openly discuss Matthew and his death and its effects on me… But instead, sometimes I feel like my own shame and silence is only perpetuating the shame and silence already surrounding this topic.
Maybe the concepts are mutually exclusive though – reintegration along with discussion of taboos… This is probably true to some degree, the reason taboo topics remain taboo topics for so long, sometimes for multiple generations. And I know I’m not fully perpetuating the shame and silence. After all, I speak very candidly on my blog. It’s just that sometimes I wish I could speak more openly in real life among those unaffected by pregnancy and infant loss…
But, in addition to my PTSD issues, I know much of the reason I am silent is that I still feel shame over Matthew’s death. It isn’t that I’m ashamed of my beautiful child. No, not in the least. I’m just ashamed that he died. Some part of me still blames myself, sees myself as flawed, unworthy, less than, etc., etc., etc. And then I think, even if I could overcome these overwhelming feelings of shame and guilt, my knowledge that others might still blame me for his death, perhaps not overtly, but subtly, perhaps in efforts to try to distance themselves from my tragedy, “Oh, this would never happen to me for <insert reason – I’m educated, have access to great medical care, my baby is healthy, I’m healthy…>” And on and on and on, indirectly implying that these factors weren’t true for me as well… It might be too much to overcome. Maybe the barriers to fully un-silencing (is this a word?) me are too tall.
So this is longer and heavier than I’d initially thought and didn’t fully go in the direction in which I’d envisioned… So to wrap it up, hopefully my office mate will forgive me if she hasn’t already. I often wish the non-bereaved could more fully grasp even an ounce of what we who’ve experienced child loss grapple with on a daily basis… If they could, I’m certain they’d be more forgiving…
And hopefully the rest of this was thought-provoking… Happy Tuesday.