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Personal Essay | Falling Down Stairs

By Laura Meade

There’s a lot about pregnancy they don’t tell you. Not because no one wants to, but because it’s hard to describe.

Other stuff, in fact lots of stuff, they do tell you. There are two really great books, if you’re interested, that are just the biz:

What to Expect When You’re Expecting by Heidi Murkoff

Up The Duff by Kaz Cooke

The former answers all your weird and wonderful questions, from “What tests am I having and why?” to “Is that funny twinge-y-but-not-exactly-painful feeling in my left side normal?” The latter is similar, but a little more fun and written by an Aussie. I’d get them in that order.

Pregnancy was a laugh, to be honest. At least it was for me, for the short time that I got to be. I got fat for the first time in my life, I ate a lot of bananas, and sleeping became a strange ritual of fluffing pillows and arranging my teeny bump and legs until I got comfortable. This state lasted variously from 20 minutes to half an hour depending on the weather, what I’d eaten for dinner, or whether the planets had aligned.

The stuff they can’t tell you could fill an endless well.

That’s probably why they say each journey is different, because it really is. Every woman has a unique experience with the basics drawn on a map, but the details are filled in by you.

The first morning you wake up and notice the extra weight you’ve packed on and the lack of a waistline feels better than every good hair day you’ve ever had. The first time you hear a heartbeat is surreal or like a firm pinch to the arm.

The first time you see little arms and little legs, a teeny spine, the curve of a bottom or the roundness of the head…how do you describe that? How do you tell someone about the wonder, the breathless joy rushing through you?

Then there’s the time the sonographer says, “The doctor will have to talk to you about that.” That moment when the doctor explains everything in exact detail (which you don’t hear, but file away for later), then spells it out for you: “Your baby can’t survive. This issue is incompatible with life. There are no other options here.”

There is no way to put that feeling into words.

Hearing that my baby couldn’t live was like falling down a long flight of stairs. Every new piece of information that came after was like doing it over and over. I stopped keeping itemized track and just focused on whether the fall was going to break metaphorical bones or just leave me stunned, bruised, and sad.

I wish I could say that most days I wake up nearly okay and just take it as it comes. But that would be a lie, and I can’t lie about that.

Most days, I wake up exhausted. Physically and mentally. You don’t really sleep when you’re grieving. No one ever told me that, and the last tragedy I went through seems to have erased that from my memory. Or maybe this one just works differently.

Dreaming is a new experience entirely. Your brain is working through so much emotion when you’re awake that when you ‘sleep’ it’s like it finally has the reins to go where it will.

So far, there have only been a few actual nightmares, but I the rest are hardly placid. Random exes (not even my favorite ones) turn up just to have conversations with me. I see myself as a doctor assisting a developmentally-delayed woman give birth. I could do with some good old-fashioned flying dreams. Even walking around a neighborhood I’ve never been to and looking at wildly-out-of-proportion houses would be a welcome change.

Once, Ben Affleck as Batman-but-not-exactly-Batman, if you know what I mean, rocked up to save me from the dangerous test-drive of a new car. He hugged me for a long time and told me he would keep saving me as long as I needed saving. So, you know, it’s not all bad I guess.

This experience has affected my social filters. I’m not rude or aggressive. I’m not verbally tone-deaf or offensive. I’m just not emotionally invested in most of what I say. Which seems to work out well; if I’m not invested, nobody can offend me, either. Mostly.

It’s hard to take petty people seriously, not that I ever really did. You think you have the emotional capacity of a toadstool – nothing excites you, nothing discourages you, nothing moves you— but that’s not really it. It’s not that what people are saying isn’t eliciting an internal response; it’s just that response is so insignificant compared to what you’ve faced.

The kitchen at work getting flooded by a leaking tap was uninteresting. An acquaintance having relationship issues evoked only mild and quickly passing curiosity. An unlikely and complete meltdown barely raised a brow.

Some people’s kids are fine. It’s okay to be near them, and it’s almost okay to talk to them. Interacting with children is simple. They don’t expect much from you, and all they want is attention. Babies are another matter. The really hard part is separating your resentment from everything else.

I resent random people who have children. I also resent people I know who have children. But it seems confined to very little children and babies, for whatever that’s worth. And it comes and goes— mainly staying gone these days. I’m grateful for that.

I dearly love my nephew and niece, but the first time I was near them after my procedure however, I could barely speak. When their beautiful blue eyes both focused on me at once, I cried and left the room.

Days can go by where I don’t think about my little one and who she may have been. Who I may have been with her. Where our lives may have led us if we’d had more time together. Other days, I think about where I would have been; so many weeks pregnant, so many weeks to go.

I know it won’t always be like this. And I know that even when this loss is far away, there will be times when the sorrow punches me low and swift and takes my breath away.

I keep thinking of something I read after speaking to my counselor: people who are grateful for things in life find their grief easier to work through. It doesn’t make it easy, just easier.

I am angry and heartbroken and deeply unsure of myself going forward. But I am grateful beyond words to be here. I am grateful to have had this experience of motherhood, even if only briefly.

And I believe with my whole being that my daughter and I were meant to meet, to say hello, before we had to go our separate ways.

My body has performed magic before. And maybe, just maybe, it will be able to do so again.

Anything is possible.

This piece was previously published on Jack of The Trades

About Laura: “I spent a lot of years writing about writing. Most writers do, or so I hear. And then I got older, and surprisingly wiser (I was surprised, even if no one else was), and found out that I wanted to write things that people wanted to read. It seemed such a simple equation in my head. But I was always rubbish at maths, so it shouldn’t have come as a shock that I wanted to be an author. I sometimes think I waited too lond, and that all my good stories had been told when I was younger. So the second surprise came when I realised that the best stories get written when you’re old enough to make them sound good. At some point I decided that I wanted to impart a little wisdom on the world and hopefully receive some in return, some pieces are rants and some are laments on the state of the world. Most of them are genuine, passionate examinations of life and how to get through it, whether it be by the skin of your teeth or cruising at leisure. I research the serious ones seriously, and write the others from experience and passion. ” You can find Laura on Twitter @LotusBlade & @coffee_and_magic on Instagram.

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