Imperfect World

We’ve all heard at one time or another how someone has simultaneously announced their second line on the pregnancy stick, taken the tour of the maternity ward, registered for baby gear, and traded in their sedan for a family van. I did that back in 2004 before I found out that miscarriages weren’t just a myth.

Once that miscarriage (or two or four) has gone by, that person (me) never thinks the same way about a pregnancy, whether their own or someone else’s. They don’t assume that a new pregnancy ends the way 80% of the population thinks they do. In fact, they (me) even begin to believe the worst before they ever believe the best.

My son’s teacher announced to the class before Thanksgiving that she was expecting a baby in June. By my calculations, she at least waited to tell them after her first prenatal appointment, which is usually around week eight or nine. I wasn’t thrilled with the school’s permission to let her announce this to her students – second graders – so early, reasoning that it would be a distraction throughout the entire school session. Inwardly it was because I didn’t want her to have to untell a bunch of seven and eight year olds. Because that’s the way I think.

But see? That never happens in a perfect world, and to me his teacher was living that ideal. She had a little boy who was just potty trained. She must have planned the pregnancy with the due date occurring early summer, giving her time to enjoy a new baby before going back to school without disruption to the class schedule. She’s also very young…

A Perfect World.

Unfortunately, she found out this past weekend that there is no such thing as a Perfect World and had to announce to the children via the school’s principal that her baby died.

When Sparring Partner picked up Doodicus from school, my son shared the update with his dad, who then called me to pass on the sad news and to let myself prepare for the questions as Sparring Partner decided to tell Doodicus that we had had that happen to us. I again did some calculations and figured that the teacher, Mrs. P, would have been in the beginning of her second trimester.

While it’s not the way I would have preferred for Doodicus to learn that not all pregnancies result in a baby, Padora’s box has now been opened. I picked up Doodicus from daycare and we went through the regular pleasantries of “how was your day?” and “what homework do you have?”, and then he said, “Can I ask you a question?” I was glad that I was driving so that he couldn’t see my face from the back seat as I anticipated what was coming. “Sure,” I responded.

“Have you really been pregnant four times?”

I wondered why Sparring Partner had said four and could only presume that as a man he probably had no idea. “Actually I’ve been pregnant six times. My first was with you and my last was with Aitch.”

“Did the other babies die?”

“Yes.” I did not ask why he asked but waited to see how the conversation would progress.

“If you had all those babies, there sure would be a lot of kids in our family.”

“Yes, I suppose there would have been.”

“We were told today that Mrs. P’s baby died. I didn’t know that could happen.”

“Normally it doesn’t,” I responded. Normally. In a Perfect World.

We talked a bit about how sad Mrs. P was going to be and that we will say a prayer for her and her family. Doodicus told me that the principal suggested that the class not talk to Mrs. P about it as it would make her sad. I could only suggest to my son that he could mention to her in private how sad he was about her baby and that we prayed for her.

“Aitch and I were lucky, weren’t we…what happened to the other ones?”

“Yes, I suppose you were lucky, but the really lucky ones are Daddy and I because we have you both.”

I then told him briefly about my pregnancy with Vivienne when he was almost three and how I remember every detail of November 2004. I told him how when Daddy brought him home from daycare that day, he came into the bedroom where I had been lying their crying all day following that fateful ultrasound and asked me if I was going to be OK, too young to know only that I was very, very sad. I had told him I would be. Eventually.

At the end of my reverie, Doodicus started to tear up. When I asked what was wrong, he told me that he was sad because he almost died. I was startled by that and asked when did he almost die. “When I was born.” He knew the story of the emergency c-section and that he was so little and spent nearly a week in the hospital. I tried to ease his heart a bit by letting him know that while he was sick when born, we knew he would be alright and that we would take him home healthy.

After he had calmed down again I said that he shouldn’t dwell on it to the point it makes him unhappy, but that if he had more questions, he could come to us. I don’t wish to keep revisiting that wound, but I think he is ready to know more than we give him credit for.

An early pregnancy announcement will make any one of us want to “protect” the expectant mother by warning her not to count her proverbial chickens, but that makes us sound paranoid or jealous. True (for me) on both counts. I have never-and never will-wish that life lesson on anyone, and yet…with a sickening thud in the pit of my stomach upon this recent news, I heard in my head “I could have told you so,” and I hate myself for becoming so fucking jaded.

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25 thoughts on “Imperfect World”

  1. ugh. Visiting from stirrup queens, which I shouldn’t have gone during the day because now I’m crying at my desk.
    You handle it very well. And it sounds like you have one helluva boy there.

  2. I had never lost a pregnancy before I found out my first baby was going to die inevitably and I still hadn’t told anybody at the end of the first trimester.

    I didn’t tell people abou the twins unless they damn well asked, and some people are not very observant. I got asked as late as 20 weeks.

    g

  3. I cried when I read this post. Me too, to everything you said. I love how you handled the conversation with Doodicus; that was very well done. Hugs and prayers to your family and D’s teacher tonight.

  4. Pregnancy loss sucks.

    I feel for the other women who have lost their baby after they had no choice but to tell. If you are showing, even if you don’t want to, you have to tell.

    I think you handled the situation beautifully with your son.

  5. Kids can usually understand more than we think they can. We just have to be careful that ALL of their unasked questions are answered. (You can see the little wheels turning and know they need a different answer or more of an answer but I always had to ask questions for THEM to ask questions).

    When an opportunity presents itself (family issues, news reports etc) I have always jumped on those (softly and with significant thought before) to turn them into learning opportunities. Honestly….I think they are much more compassionate and empathetic to some situations that their peers barely give notice to.

    You did a great job. I have a feeling that doodicus is going to be a wonderfully compassionate young man.

    Like you, I cringe when a new pregnancy is announced. For me, I automatically go to the worst case scenario in my head. My niece called the morning she took her test. Her period was 2 days late. It was almost agony for me to wait till she was 18 weeks, with a detailed ultrasound under her belt.

    Perfect worlds do exist, just never have in MY world.

  6. One of the hardest things I had to face last year was going back to school after I lost my twins at 21.5 weeks. For me, it happened over the summer, so I had a new class, but it still stung to see my former students who were so curious about how my babies were… I think you handled the situation wonderfully, and turned a tradegy into a real experience for you & your boy. My heart goes out to your son’s teacher.

  7. Here from Friday Blog Roundup and wanted to say what a moving post. I would have cringed the same as you when the teacher announced her news. I can’t imagine a better way to handle it than the way you and your husband did. Your little guy is a smart one and I too will hold that teacher in my thoughts.

  8. Here from the Stirrup Queen’s Friday Roundup, with tears in my eyes. Children are so much wiser & understanding than they often get credit for. I love how you handled this. (And your reaction to the teacher’s pregnancy, & miscarriage, is exactly the way I would have felt.)

  9. (Just another quick question, did you discuss before Himself told Son about what happened to you, or did he just decide to? Would you have done it anyway, do you think? I’m kind of wondering if in some way it might help to know it happens in a lot of families – he has to carry on with the same teacher I assume)

    1. No, it’s never come up before. My husband just decided off the cuff when he picked up Doodicus from school and was told the news. When he called to give me the heads up, I wasn’t bothered in the least that he said something. Yes, we would have told him at some point, but I really wouldn’t have had the first guess as to how we would have done it or even when. I thinking sitting down formally and then bringing it up would have just been uncomfortable for all of us, but this way? He had a better grasp of what was…and what is.

  10. Ooh, that is hard. I was wondering recently about how to tell our future child/ren (who likely will be adopted) about what we went through before we had them. I guess you didn’t really want this to come before no 1 son started thinking about it himself – seems a bit odd that the teacher told the class who are so young, so early.

  11. My husband and I discussed the differences between “normal” people and us on the ride home from the hospital yesterday.

    While I was in surgery, my husband was being bombarded by his brother’s wife- “are you going to find out the sex? if you have a girl- you can have all our hand-me-downs. I’m CERTAIN we’re having a boy this time, but we’ll find out on Tuesday…”

    My husband’s response- I don’t care WHAT it is… the only kind of baby I want is one that is ALIVE and healthy.

  12. What a hard thing. I’m taking notes on how you handled it.

    I also always assume the worst when people announce pregnancies. I keep getting surprised when things go well for people. It just ups the odds that, well, things will go badly for ME.

    I don’t know for sure, but there’ s a chance that, besides the miscarriage I had in 2009, that I miscarried a twin when I was pregnant with my little girl in 2006. That’s what the OB opined, anyway. I don’t know that I would tell her that, though.

  13. Because of my work I’ve never believed babies always get born. I have had expectent mothers come in to talk to me about their leave of absence and then gotten the phone call that they won’t need that leave after all. It always sucks.

  14. Very nice job with Doodicus! I always get the cringe when I hear someone announce a pregnancy earlier than the second trimester. I feel like it’s tempting fate, but on the other hand, why shouldn’t people make the announcement? Then, you can get charming little boys come and tell you that they’re sad for you and said a prayer for your baby, and it might make you feel just the slightest bit more peaceful.

  15. It’s so very sad that *anyone* has to deal with baby loss…

    I think your discussion with Doodicus was perfectly handled – well done. He is showing such maturity in his questions and approach!

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