The Vessel of my Hate

I wonder if everyone has that one person, pregnant at the same time as them, the one who’s baby didn’t die, who becomes a vessel for all the anger, envy and hatred that was created from nowhere when their baby died? 

For me it’s a woman who works in the same service as me but luckily in a different building, let’s call her Laura. I used to work in Laura’s team on a Friday when I was pregnant with Isobel and she was pregnant with her son, just a few weeks behind me. Maybe I started hating her when she announced her pregnancy the week after I announced mine although I don’t remember minding about this. Maybe it was because she was so anxious about every aspect of impending motherhood and I thought she needed to chill out. It might even have been because she had a rich husband and they had just bought a house in my dream location and I was annoyed because I felt like I was smarter than her and I should be the rich one. But actually I didn’t start hating her until one of our babies died, and it wasn’t hers. 

Despite spending every Friday lunch time with Laura, having all the baby chats and making plans to hang out when on maternity leave, I didn’t hear from Laura when Isobel died. Our first encounter was about six months later at a yoga studio when I was coming out of pregnancy yoga and she was going to her first class after having her son. She was friendly but it was awkward, she was clearly shocked that I was pregnant again so soon and she didn’t know what to say about Isobel so she said nothing. When I asked about how her son was doing she lit up and said how great he was and that he was six months old now! Wow! As if I didn’t know exactly how old he was, as that was how old Isobel should be. 

I managed never to see her in work until a few weeks ago. I am in a different team now and don’t really have cause to visit my old site. But there I was sitting at a mandatory training day a few weeks ago and in walks Laura. My heart sank at first glance and then sank further as I noticed her heavily pregnant belly. My mind went on a little rant. “That fucking bitch who’s baby didn’t die is having another baby who also won’t die, and then she’ll have two babies and they’ll both be alive, and her son will have a sibling and why the fuck was it not her baby that died?!” Although I tried to avoid her at the training she came over to chat, telling me about how her son was doing and how she cries when he achieves certain milestones because she wants him to stay little. You can imagine how much that failed to make me warm to her. 

Fast forward a few weeks and I’m going on a two day training course which I’m really looking forward to, until I see Laura’s name on the delegates list. Ten people and one of them has to be her. 35 weeks pregnant and on my training course just to ruin my experience. 

Today was the first day and I arrived with a positive attitude and a plan to ignore her as much as possible. It’s all going ok, I sit away from her, catching up with another colleague from her team who I haven’t seen for a long time. We sit down to a lunch of soup, bread and cheese. Laura helps herself to some blue cheese. Someone comments that maybe she shouldn’t be eating that. She responds and I quote “I figure the baby’s well enough cooked at this stage, it’s hardly going to die on me now.” My jaw is on the floor. I am literally sitting one person away from her, did she just say the word ‘die’. I think – she’ll realise she’s referenced her baby dying in front of someone who’s baby actually died and be mortified and backtrack, but no. She continues to say how she’s eaten soft cheese all along in both of her pregnancies and never gotten listeria so why would she get it now? She goes on to say that she apparently has been diagnosed with gestational diabetes but she’s mostly ignoring that too as she doesn’t think she really has it. 

Oh Laura. How I hated you for our respective circumstances when I thought you were super conscious of me and what happened to Isobel. I imagined you couldn’t say anything to me as you maybe had survivors guilt and it was difficult to face that. That was bad enough to deal with.  

Imagine how I hate you now, when I realise that you are so blissfully thoughtless that you will talk about dead babies so casually in front of me and be blasé about risks because dead babies happen to other people, not someone like you. Imagine how it feels to know that had the circumstances been reversed I would still have that stupid innocence that you flaunt. 

Now I know that what happened to Isobel is not Laura’s fault. I know that it wasn’t a choice between her baby and mine, where someone picked her baby to live and mine to die. I even know that she’s a nice person who deserves good things. I know I don’t really hate her as a person, it’s just that I’ve projected all of my negative emotions and the poor woman has been an unlucky recepticle. But I just can’t bring myself to feel bad about how I feel about her.  As if she will give me a second thought when she goes home to eat her bloody blue cheese. As if it will matter to her when she is celebrating her son’s second birthday. As if she will be upset that I hate her when she is introducing her two children to each other and watching them form a lifelong bond. 

Tomorrow I will tell myself, “Laura, I don’t hate you, I’m just not necessarily excited about your existence!” 

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The Mother Of His Child

 I’m sure I’ve mentioned before that I have a 15 year old step-son, I’ll call him J. Simon is 32. Math experts will have managed to figure out that Simon was very young when he became a dad, 16 in fact! I only have Simon’s story (and MTV’s Teen Mom) to go by but I can imagine some of the difficulties Simon and J’s mum L faced having a baby at such a young age. I know their relationship was very challenging and although they tried to stay together for the sake of the baby, there was a lot of resentment and bad behaviour on both sides. They were on and off until J was around five when then finally split up for good. 

When I first started going out with Simon, I used to get pretty jealous that he’d had not just a significant long term relationship with someone, but more that they had had such an intense connection as having a baby together. At this point, I already knew about my PCOS and that I would need fertility treatment to have a chance of conceiving and I think that made it worse. I didn’t know if I could have a child with the person I loved and here was this other woman who had done that, who was the mother of his child. Despite the fact that I knew it was a stressful, unplanned pregnancy and their relationship was often conflictual, I would imagine the moments of happiness they shared together, looking at the child they created and delighting in him and in each other as parents. 

As I got more secure in my relationship with Simon, those feelings of jealousy towards L pretty much disappeared. My desire to have children with Simon deepened, for all the purest of reasons, with only the tiniest part of that being about feeling that there was no closeness that he had shared with someone else that we hadn’t surpassed. When we became pregnant with Isobel, a lot of memories started to come back for Simon about expecting J. Things he hasn’t really allowed himself to think about over the years but couldn’t help reflecting on now he was expecting his second child. I started to understand a little better just how traumatic it was for Simon and L to discover she was pregnant, to have to tell their parents, to have to deal with the judgements of those around them, to have to leave school and get jobs, to try and continue with part time education, to look after a baby at such a young age, to feel stuck in a relationship neither had really chosen. I will admit that I felt happy that Simon’s experience with me was so different. He chose me, he wanted to have a child with me, we actively tried to have a baby, we were overjoyed to be expecting, others were delighted for us not disappointed in us. Any last remnants of my insecurity in relation to L as the mother of Simon’s child seemed to be gone. 

But then Isobel died. 

I had failed to do what Simon’s 15 year old girlfriend had been able to do so easily – deliver him a healthy baby. The multivitamins and my careful eating, the yoga, the antenatal classes, all my research and knowledge – L didn’t have access to any of that but somehow that didn’t matter to the outcome. As devestated as I was for myself, my heart was torn apart for Simon. This baby was his second chance to be the kind of dad that he wanted to be, mature, stable and always present. I felt like I had allowed Isobel to die and let him down so badly. Yes there had been hard times with L, but she gave Simon a baby that came home from the hospital, who opened his eyes and smiled, that learned to say ‘daddy’, watched football with him and played x-box. I gave him a lifeless little body, a funeral, a grave, a lifetime of heartache. 

Of course I have talked to Simon about all of this and he has reassured me that he doesn’t blame me in any way for Isobel’s death. I know that’s true anyway because of how lovely he continues to be to me (most of the time!). I think the fear that he would blame me comes only from my own guilt. Rational me doesn’t really blame myself either, knowing how unhelpful it would be to get caught up with that narrative. However that doesn’t stop the thoughts from coming even if a lot of the time I can let them come and go without being too hooked on them. 

A few weeks after Isobel was born, I remember asking Simon if he considers me to be the mother of his child. He assured me that he does. It’s hard though. I’m not *the* mother of his child, I’m the mother of one of his children – the one that’s not here, the one whose memory elicits heartache rather than joy. 

I’ve noticed my jealousy about L returning. I find myself asking questions that I haven’t asked for years; “Did you ever think about proposing to her?”, “Did you want to have more children with her?”, “If you had met when you were older do you think you’d still be together?” and so on… Basically I think I’m saying “Tell me you love me more than you loved her – even though Isobel died”. I’ve also had lots of nightmares of Simon having an affair, leaving me, going on to have more children with someone else. (For those who are wondering, I have literally no reason to feel insecure either about my relationship with Simon in general, or about his relationship with L. Even if she were single, I can’t imagine any scenario in which she and Simon would reunite. As it is, she is married with another child.) 

Of all the things I’m desperately hoping for and looking forward to with this new baby, seeing Simon with our baby is one of the most significant. I remember how he looked at Isobel, how much he loved her and was so proud of her, even in those hardest of circumstances. He fought me to get to hold her longest, to stroke her perfect little face and hold her hand. He never held back on his emotions and cried openly with no shame. He spoke beautifully at her funeral. He continues to talk about her and to campaign for stillbirth awareness and prevention. He was, and is, the best dad Isobel could ever have had. 

I know he will be an amazing dad to this little one, I just hope he gets to be a dad to a baby, a toddler, a child, a teenager, an adult and who knows, maybe even gets to be a grandad! 

I hope too that my insecurity will retreat again once this baby comes. For now, it’s just one part of the whole whirlwind of emotions that follow losing a baby and pregnancy after loss. I’ve learned that the only way to cope with the whirlwind is to accept each and every emotion non-judgementally as just another part of the experience.  

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I actually wrote this post a couple of weeks ago and had kept it as a draft. Reading it over I realise that I’ve felt so much better about this issue since I wrote about it but I thought I may as well post it. I’m so glad that I have been able to use writing as a way to get perspective on the crazy rollercoaster that has been my life in the past 10 months! And thank you to anyone who reads my ramblings xx