Dear pregnant woman on the playground,
I’m sorry if you noticed me staring at you today. I hope I didn’t make you feel uncomfortable or insecure. And I sure hope you didn’t think I was judging you or criticizing you or sizing you up in any way.
The fact is, I was thinking about how beautiful you are. Truly.
I looked at your belly stretched tight and the way you patted and rubbed that growing space and I wondered how far along you might be – 30 weeks? 32? Was it a boy or girl? Have you chosen a name? Is the nursery ready?
Honestly, I was trying not to stare, but every time I willed myself to look away I found myself wanting to find you again.
I wondered how you were feeling. Was your baby kicking at that moment? Making himself known? Was she pushing? Hiccuping? Reminding you that she’ll be in your arms soon?
You would never know but I wish I could tell you – I was supposed to be celebrating 31 weeks in a few days. We might have even shared a due date, you and I. But instead my belly is excruciatingly flat. (Well, aside from the little pooch that I always have, pregnant or not.)
But my womb? My womb is empty. Painfully so.
I know you never meant to bring me to tears – neither did the beautiful one on facebook, the radiant one at the mall, or the glowing one on the other end of instagram – but just so you know, that’s why I keep my sunglasses on in the shade.
Because I see those bellies swelling and teeming with life and promise and dreams-coming-true, and these days there’s a longing that comes rushing in on the tails of my admiration. It’s bittersweet, dear mama-to-be. That longing is so bittersweet.
I’m not sure what it is about the four-month mark after miscarriage, but for me it came with a wave of sadness that caught me a little off guard. We mothers that have lost think about due dates and anniversaries and other obvious markers, but I suppose we’re never really sure when a wave will hit us during the unremarkable in-between.
And we’ll never forget our lost babies but sometimes we’ve forgotten that although healing, we’re still tender. Although strengthening, we’re still fragile. Because most days? Most days we actually feel pretty normal again.
But I’ve felt a finality lately, a permanence, another layer of acceptance pushing on my door and reminding me that she is never going to fill my arms, or even fill my nights with midnight feedings or my days with cooing and crying.
We won’t mark milestones or endure growth spurts or encourage bonding or grapple over discipline or pray for more sleep or wrestle with expectations of what normalcy may or may not be for our baby that is gone.
Oh dear belly-swollen mama, do you know how much I’d gladly deal with indigestion right now? Or swollen ankles? Or sore ribs? Or crazy hormones? Or a tired and weary back?
I feel for you – carrying a child is not for the faint of heart – but I also wish I was you.
Maybe it’s the knowledge that I should be fumbling with a body pillow by now, or washing newborn clothes, or dusting off the baby capsule. Maybe it’s the quiet pain of not needing to ready the newborn diaper stash or fold tiny, fuzzy blankets.
There’s an ache deep in my bones because there’s no need for a birth plan or a baby sling, and the “preparing for baby” books that I should be reading to my toddlers are getting dusty on the shelf.
So please, if you notice me staring, know that it’s not you. It’s me. I’ll do my best to avert my gaze; the last thing in the world I’d want is for you to feel gawked at. You may already be struggling with feeling awkward or fat, forgetful or uncoordinated, scared or unsure. There are so many things that vie to keep you from realizing how gorgeous and amazing you really are.
Please know that you’re stunning and blessed and the bearer of hope and goodness, life and promise, possibility and potential. Please know that what you’re about to give the world is nothing short of a miracle, an answered prayer, an actual extension of God’s very heart to a world that needs the joy that only a new baby can bring.
And please know that I – among the sisterhood of the bereaved – just wish I was in your shoes. (We all do.) I don’t say that to make you feel guilty. Oh no, no, no – mothers don’t need more “reasons” to grapple with guilt. Mercy, no.
I just say it to help you know why some of us might have eyes that linger on your belly a little longer than perhaps we should.
We admire you, celebrate you, and pray for you to know how blessed you really are. (As I suspect you already do know.)
Enjoy these belly-swollen days, sweet, beautiful mama. I know they feel long when you can’t see your toes. But one day soon when you’re kissing someone else’s little toes you’ll look back and realize just how short, and just how wonderful these days really, truly are.