One of the hardest parts for this mama’s heart about pregnancy after miscarrying is watching how my children process it.
Last July before we started sharing the news of our pregnancy with Shelomith with friends, we talked about it with the children. Their reactions were heartwarming. Our youngest, just over two years old and very much still a baby herself, had no clue what we were saying. The middle boy (then almost 5) jumped up and down and clapped his hands. Obviously excited. The oldest, just about 7 years old, just stared at us a moment. Then he asked, “Does this mean you have a baby in your tummy?” When we said “yes,” he smiled a huge happy smile. (Later on we corrected his anatomical error)
For the next couple of months, while I was dealing with morning sickness, they were busy sharing this wonderful news with the world. The hygienist at the dentist’s office. The guy in the grocery store line behind us. Some random person at the park. It was a bit embarrassing before I started showing. (Not that I had a flat belly anyway, mind you. After three children the little pooch would have made someone wonder if I was pregnant even when I wasn’t.)
But I was honestly tickled by their reactions. My oldest has made it clear that he wants a lot of brothers and sisters. Once he said he’d like us to have 100. (!!!!!) The middle boy too made it clear that having more siblings would be a good thing, though he’s not put out such a high number.
The one unknown was my “baby” girl. Early in that pregnancy, she still nursed. She was upset if I held another baby. She liked having her mama all to herself and was not ready yet to share, even with her older brothers. Once I started moving into the second trimester, she decided she was done with nursing (and I was happy about that and sad about that, all at the same time.) Her clinginess and inability to share me subsided too.
And then I miscarried. This was a shock to all of us. It happened overnight, while the children slept. When we heard them waking The Bull and I knew that we’d need to tell them right away what had happened.
So we brought them into our room, all three of them, and told them briefly and in kid-sized words what had happened. We told them that something sad had happened and that the baby had died. They asked a few questions and we answered as simply as possible, as best as we understood. (We didn’t, and still don’t, have an answer to the “why” question.)
We gave the boys the opportunity to see the baby. (We figured the little girl would not understand this part very well.) Littler boy took a quick look and then was onto other things. Bigger boy stared for a long, longtime. I was actually surprised they didn’t have more of a reaction, but then again. . . what did I expect?? Lots of crying and carrying on?
That was a bizarre week. Mama stayed in bed for days (it was a difficult recovery physically also), friends brought food, and we planted an evergreen tree for the baby. The little girl started having difficulty sleeping and we brought her back into our room, which saved our sanity and helped her sleep a little better. I figured that while she was too young to understand what happened, she still knew something was wrong and was upset.
After a few weeks, though, it was as if nothing had happened. At least to the kids’ perspective. Life returned to “normal,” schoolwork resumed, regular activities were reinstated. (I, however, was not back to normal. Lots of tears, even during school and other regular activities.) The holidays came and The Bull and I tried to keep our regular traditions; it was hard for me because I really didn’t feel like celebrating. But for the children’s sake we did.
And then one day, nearly six months later, I found out I was pregnant again. It was in the middle of an emotionally difficult month. I don’t even remember, honestly, when we told the children; but they had very muted responses. No jumping up and down or clapping. Sure, they were happy. But after last time? When we lost the baby? Just didn’t seem to be that big of a deal.
The first few months of pregnancy were super busy, difficult, stressful for our family and for me personally. I wanted to get past the gestational age where I’d miscarried last year before getting emotionally invested in the pregnancy. (And even after that, it was difficult. I had SO many fears that something was wrong with the baby. An ultrasound helped, but the fears were still pretty strong.)
The children went with us for the ultrasound. I think it was good for them to see the baby on the screen. I asked the sonographer to measure the baby’s foot, so that the children could see by comparison how big the baby’s foot was. While it was good for them to see the photos and hear us talking about the baby, it really wasn’t as interesting for them as it was for us!
I found a great site and have gone through the months of photos with the children. “Look, that’s what the baby looks like right now!” “Hey, the baby’s eyes are closed now!” “How cute! See the baby yawning!” It’s fascinating to me to see such details about the baby’s growth and development. Not so fascinating for them.
I have tried to have the kids feel the baby move. One time in particular, about two weeks ago, they had rubbed lotion on my belly for twenty minutes! That is usually a great time to feel movement. By the time the baby “woke,” sadly, they had lost interest and would not even look at my belly rolling. When the baby is moving, they won’t sit still long enough to feel his/her movements.
And they have been interested in the new baby, but just a little. Not as much as I’d thought they would be. Not like they were when I was pregnant last year. Yes, they have books to read and toys to play with; connecting with a baby who they can’t see isn’t high on their priority list. But still, I expected more from them. Last pregnancy they were announcing it to the world. This time? I finally asked the oldest in May or June why they weren’t talking about the baby and he looked at me, blinked. “Oh. I forgot.” Forgot??
I’ve been frustrated about their lack of reactions and wondered if they just don’t care about babies any more. Probably not, because they love to play with friends’ babies. But really, I think that a friend hit the nail on the head last week. While talking about the children and their lack of reaction to this pregnancy, she said “They are waiting too.”
I was waiting to get to 17 weeks to know that I wouldn’t miscarry again at 16 weeks like I did last time.
Then I was waiting to feel the baby move, especially since I never felt Shelomith.
Then I was waiting to get a good report from the ultrasound to “see” that the baby was ok.
Then I was waiting to get past 24 weeks gestation, the age of viability, when a baby had a chance (albeit slim) of survival.
Now I’m around 32 weeks I know that the baby’s chances of survival are better and better. I’m starting to find home birth supplies and really feeling like this is going to happen, we are going to have this baby and all is going to be OK.
The children, however, are still operating on that physical/ visual plane. I think they will be waiting to get emotionally invested in the baby until he or she is here.
I remember talking to my middle son about something I’d read on the EHD site. “The baby can now hear.” This was about 20 weeks, just a few days before our ultrasound. He grinned, obviously pleased. I asked if he’d like to talk to the baby and he put his face close to my belly and said something silly. I was thrilled!
Over the weeks after that I realized that he would have a special relationship with this baby, much like my first and my third children have. I like that. The secondborn needs a buddy.
Two weeks after our ultrasound, he told me one day that he wanted to talk to the baby. I quickly pulled up my shirt so he could see my belly. He leaned in close and told the baby, “I’ll share my frog bracelet with you, but don’t break it.”
I guess the kids will be alright. Our waiting time is getting shorter and shorter.
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