Last year I blogged here and here about struggling with my brother and sister-in-law’s pregnancy during our miscarriage. Can I just say that—nearly a year later—it still hurts, it’s still raw, and I’m still having a tough time dealing?
The short recap is that my brother has had two surprise babies conceived and born in the time I’ve been desperately trying for just one. My family pretty much wrote the book on non-communication and how to sweep things under the rug, so infertility is a secret that I guard closely from them. Family dynamics and all…it’s complicated.
My brother and sister-in-law were already well into their pregnancy with baby #2 (I’ll call him Baby) when I found out that we were pregnant from IVF. Our children would’ve been only 6 months apart. During the early weeks of my pregnancy, I could barely contain my excitement to announce to them that Baby had a cousin on the way. I never got that chance, though. In fact, I received an invitation to Baby’s shower on the same day I found out that my own baby had died inside of me. Then, almost immediately after my second miscarriage, Baby was born.
The whole situation was just textbook terrible. Especially challenging was genuinely sharing in the joy of Baby’s birth so fresh after our loss. So I spent the next little while (okay, 10 months) avoiding my brother and—by association—avoiding Baby. It was surprisingly easy: though they all live close by, my family doesn’t spend much time together.
That is, except for our four get-togethers every year for each of the four major holidays: you know, Thanksgiving, Christmas, Easter, and Camping. What can I say? We’re seriously into travel trailer camping… it’s like our very own made up holiday.
On Thanksgiving I ditched my family and went to the beach instead, as the miscarriage had literally just happened and I was still in tons of physical pain. I begrudgingly attended Christmas, where I drank too much wine and ignored Baby’s presence by hanging in the kitchen all night. For Easter, I purposefully sat at the opposite end of the table from Baby and spent the meal talking only with those around me, then made a quick exit. Check, check, and check. That only left one more family get together: camping.
Our annual camping trip was recently. It was the first time I’d seen Baby since Easter, and this time avoiding him was trickier, as campers are not known for their spaciousness. Leading up to camping, I was tripping about whether anyone in my family would comment on my childlessness if I were to go near Baby. Fortunately, no one said anything about it this time, though they have made such comments in the past that hurt very much. Having Baby camping, seeing my family dote on him and make him the focal point of the weekend was… for lack of a better word, rough. Emotionally, it brought everything home that I’ve so successfully psychologically avoided until now.
It’s not Baby’s fault. From the few times I’ve been around him, he’s adorably, preciously, perfectly wonderful. His laugh could melt a heart of steel. His face wears a constant look of wonder and amusement. He rarely cries. He’s insanely awesome. Yet every time I look at him, I have to quickly look away. Because just his being here, so alive and so beautiful, is a sharp, painful reminder that my baby is not here. It reminds me that he’ll never grow up and be in school with his cousin, or become best friends with him/her, or go on family trips together. It’s a taunting reminder of failure that revives my grief as if I were reliving the miscarriage again and again and again.
Let me be clear that it’s not bitterness I’m struggling with here. Not at all. In fact, I’m very happy for my brother to finally have a son after having had three daughters first. To be bitter would be the easiest, most natural response in the world. But, through the grace of God, I’ve learned not to fall victim to every whim of emotion that tries to creep its way inside of me and bitterness hasn’t taken root. His grace has truly gotten me through. No, it is not bitterness. It’s just straight up pain… and heartache. I want to be free of it, but I don’t know how.
Because how can I watch Baby grow up and not feel this constant, underlying current of pain and grief? How will I ever look at him and not fixate instead on the invisible space where his cousin, my own baby, should also be? Will I subconsciously treat him differently than my other nieces and nephews? Or do I instead lavish extra love on him in some convoluted way of paying homage to my own never born baby?
I don’t know the answers.
Readers, have any of you struggled with a niece’s or nephew’s birth soon after your own loss? Did you have similar issues interacting with their babies? And, perhaps most importantly, does it eventually get easier?