I recently read An Exact Replica of a Figment of My Imagination by Elizabeth McCracken. It was the best biography on infant loss I have read thus far. I appreciated how raw it was. She says it like it is. No sugar-coating. And yet it didn’t reek of mindless despair like How to Expect What You’re Not Expecting did (I almost couldn’t stomach that book).
The most interesting thing about McCracken’s book is that she writes about her loss in light of the birth of a healthy son almost exactly a year after the death of her firstborn son. She never uses the second child as an emblem of, “See! It gets better!” That’s a different baby. There’s no guarantee of that baby. Ever.
One thing I have thought about almost continually since reading that book is her statement on all of the things they didn’t do with their second child that they had done with their first, which mainly consisted of superstitious wood-knocking, but also the too-innocent-too-hopeful phrases like, “When we have this baby…”
What will I do differently with a new pregnancy? As it was, I never felt like I did the typical naive/stupid pregnant woman things, like posting pictures on Facebook of my plus sign on my pregnancy test within seconds of peeing on it, as if it were a promise, or telling everyone I knew that I was pregnant. I never publicly announced my pregnancy, and even privately, I told very few people. It always seemed like so many things could go wrong, it had to be rare for enough things to go right for a good outcome.
I feel like I already had the pregnancy that was uncertain and hush-hush. My own family barely talked about it. None of my extended family knew I was pregnant. I don’t see them much, so it never came up.
This time, I don’t think I’ll let anyone know until 20 weeks. If even then. Maybe I’ll just leave it up to anyone’s guess whether or not I’m pregnant. I doubt I’ll ever be in the mood to be giddy over a pregnancy like I won a million dollars and need to figure out how to spend it all. It’s a sacred, personal sort of joy. Besides, the fewer people who know, the fewer flippant comments I will get. “Oh good, this will replace that dead baby…” “You might love it now, but just wait till it starts screaming/pooping/being a teenager!” “See, I told you everything would work out…”
In reality, I think the main things that will be different are my actions and attitudes. I freaked out about every little thing when I was pregnant with Seraphim. I plan on being more calm on the next go-around. Ironically. I know the worst that can happen and it sucks. Freaking out won’t fix anything. I plan on breaking the rules a little bit sometimes, too. Like eat a chunk of brie, have egg salad, get sushi a couple of times, exercise a little.
I’m far from fearless; I think I’m just plain sick of everything. I’m sick of, If you follow all of these rules, you’ll be fine and so will your baby. I followed the rules, and it didn’t work. I’m not going to shirk them all, either, but I want things to be more relaxed, more calm, and less worrying.
Above all, I want my womb, my body, and my environment to be one of love for however long that baby stays. A million things have to go right for a healthy baby to be born, so you just have to love what you have on a day-by-day basis.