Thursday, July 5, 2012

The Truth I Finally Told Myself

I'm about to admit something that will make me sound like an absolute monster. And that admission is that I don't think I love this baby. Now, I'm not doing anything differently than I might have if I had the kind of warm feelings I remember having for P. when she was in utero. I'm not drinking alcohol or skipping meals, and I'm trying to keep the caffeine to a minimum. Light exercise is more often than not a part of my day, as are prenatal vitamins. I do what I can to take it easy when I am fatigued. Nothing has changed.

I just don't feel anything. Not dislike or resentment that would make my admission even more terrible to read, just a blank spot in my head or in my heart where I imagine that love for my developing baby ought to be blossoming.

Instead, all of the little wonders and annoyances that I found charming in my first pregnancy now seem irritating. Like the kicks and jumps that tickle or even at this early stage can register as shockingly hard. Like having to pee desperately, then not having to go at all. Like more and more of my wardrobe being stuffed into boxes in the attic. All of the signs that someone new will be joining our little trio in the fall, everything that should be making me so happy, is instead just putting me on edge.

On some level, it's not entirely surprising I don't feel anything toward this baby. I purposefully avoided even thinking about it during its first 12 weeks of existence, lest its tiny heart just stop beating. Then, shortly thereafter, I got a call saying that my blood levels for Down syndrome didn't look good and because I go to a practice that respects patient autonomy, it was up to me to decide what to do about that. And we had to wait, no matter what I decided, until the baby was bigger, so I put it out of my mind as much as I could.

Until I started feeling its miniature handsprings, which I didn't tell the BabbyDaddy about so he wouldn't have to be as sad as I was. I couldn't unknow its presence after that, but there was a certain amount of anger that served as balm. In far fewer words, I telepathically transmitted the message Why can't you just leave me alone? every time I felt a new bump. The MaterniT21 test came back negative. I fought to mentally accept the results, though I honestly didn't experience any elation upon hearing them.

And then a clerical error meant traveling back into the city for a second (and as I later found out, unnecessary) anatomy scan. The thing about the city hospital is that once they have you in their system, they treat you like you've been a patient there forever. At my second scan, I was told to come back for another scan in two weeks to check my cervical length - even though my local hospital is perfectly equipped to scan for cervical length and my cervix was was deemed normal and my history of prematurity involves only one healthy 34 week preemie. The long-term recommendation was for scans every two weeks until the third trimester, but no one could give me a straight answer as to why. That's the other thing about the city hospital. They will tell the referring practice about their findings but not the patient. They don't take the time to answer questions or explain tests. And the self-importance with which they perform examinations is close to cartoonish.

So there I was, at 19 weeks along, waiting to hear from anyone why these doctors felt it was so urgent for me to take a half day every two weeks to drive into the city to measure my cervical length. What weren't they telling me? What were they worrying about?

As it turned out, nothing. Nothing at all. Thankfully, my local practice is a little less intense in their handling of maternity cases and agreed with me that it would be fine to wait another month to scan for cervical length - and then another month after that, but only because I might be traveling. And they were frankly surprised that the city hospital would feel it necessary for me to travel there when all of the equipment necessary exists no more than five minutes away from my own home.

This, all of it, is what I think is behind my monstrous lack of feeling. Worries heaped upon worries. So little time spent thinking about this as a baby; too much spent treating it as a problem to be sussed out or solved or overcome. Things this pregnancy has been about: The threat of miscarriage. Down syndrome. Prematurity. Blood tests and scans and cervical measurements. Things this pregnancy has not been about: Having a daughter or a son, who will be a sibling for the P. and the person who turns our trio into a foursome.

Coming to grips with this has been difficult. I thought maybe doing or buying something that was for the baby - something that concretely said 'we're ready to welcome you' - would snap me out of my ambivalence. Thus far it hasn't worked.

Recently, I read What I Thought I Knew by Alice Eve Cohen and I was struck by this exchange that she had after she and her husband faced the possibility of their adopted daughter having Down syndrome and were later given the news that she had the usual number of chromosomes:

"How can we go back to that ecstatic feeling of unconditional love, before it was marred by uncertainty," 
I asked Patricia, our adoption social worker.

"You can't. Parenting is not about going back," she said. "Parenting is all about moving forward, and 
constant unpredictable change."

Sound advice. But I haven't had a peaceful moment to experience that ecstatic feeling of unconditional love, so getting back to it isn't the issue. The problem is finding it at all.

26 comments:

  1. I have to say that I am both shocked and not shocked in reading this. You have so much courage to share the realness of this pregnancy, but in that courage you have revealed that perhaps there is truly something missing. I urge you to get some type of counseling or therapy. I'm not hoping you'll do, or giving you a gentle suggestion. You need to do it for you and your whole family because every member deserves it. These are huge thoughts with far reaching ramifications. Please find someone to sort through it with. I have found therapists for many of my clients through the North Shore Post-Partum Depression Taskforce. Even though this clearly is not PPD, the counselors they will put you in touch with are experienced in helping mothers deal with the variety of emotions and turmoil that comes with making a family. I can only read an honest post like this as a declaration of desperate feelings, so I am commenting with my gut response. I hope you're not offended, and I really want you to talk to someone. Please.

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    1. I am not offended at all, and rather touched by the urgency of your reply, actually. I have it on my list of things to do to call the birth center because we already talked about it once and they, too, suggested I talk to a counselor and said that they could refer me to someone. But I'm looking at the NSPPDT site resources list right now, too. Thanks, I appreciate it.

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    2. I just matched up my insurance companies list with the list from NSPPDTF and found mine. She has saved my life more times than I can count. I have such a terrible history with depression I couldn't do without professional help.

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  2. This must have been very difficult for you to write and it is a very brave act to post. I do not think I have such bravery.

    I can never fully understand all you are going through and the emotional roller-coaster you are on. I do understand that reality sucks and the best way to deal with reality is with honesty. It is marvelous you are this honest with yourself. Most people are not and that is to your advantage.

    Much love and positive vibes from the fresh meadows of New Amsterdam...

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    1. Thanks for the love and the good vibes, friend! They are both much appreciated and we hope we see you soon!

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  3. I sure don't think less of you. Hell, you had a preemie, then lost triplets. I would be surprised if your subconscious *wasn't* trying to set up extra emotional defenses. Your brain is afraid of getting hurt again, so it's avoiding setting up the emotional responses you've been expecting it to create. You're still a great mom, no matter how much b.s. you get from TV and Gerber's commercials claiming that all mothers need to have cookie-cutter responses to everything.

    And yeah, it sure wouldn't hurt to talk to a counselor. It'll help you feel better about yourself and about the soon-to-babby.

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    1. Thanks - that does give me pause and perspective. And you're a great friend.

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    2. Pshaw, I just love sending people comics. Lemme know if you want some more, especially if you want comics for grownups. THEY MAKE THOSE NOW!!!

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  4. I must say it makes me very sad to think about the absolute mountain of forced expectations and dictats heaped upon modern mothers if writing something as simple, understandable, normal, and common as this should make me judge or resent you, or think that you're a monster or whatever else other crazy ass thing.

    I mean, c'mmon. This "must be in love with the baby from moment of conception and in a constant state of leaping euphoria or you're a Bad Mother" stuff? You know better than that, mate. So you're ambivalent about a complicated pregnancy. So join the club and stop guilt tripping yourself; the people who imply that you should are not. Your. Friends.

    Sorry for being grumpy about it. I'm trusting you to 100% get it.

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    1. I can always count on you to give it to me straight! And I agree with you, absolutely. Heck, I have friends who haven't had issues who just plain don't like being pregnant. Doesn't mean they don't love their kids.

      So here's me, dropping any guilt I may have hanging around in the bin for Saturday's pick up. Thbbbpt to guilt!

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  5. Honestly I am not surprised by this. You had a very heart wrenching ending to the previous pregnancy(ies). I mean, you suffered triple the loss of a typical miscarriage..and one is hard enough. Then just when you thought it was safe to breath easy..you were told it wasn't. And there is undoubtedly still uncertainty lurking in your brain. You are in survival mode. You are protecting yourself from further heartache. You will probably not come out of that until the baby is safe in your arms with all of your fears allayed. And even then, it might take a little time. This is not abnormal. This is self preservation. *hug*

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  6. Thank you for your honesty. I also echo the above commenters suggestion that you get in touch with a counselor - I've read about prenatal depression and this might be part of it? I also agree that it sounds totally normal - these are human, reasonable feelings in response to prior trauma. I don't mean this to be minimizing (or to compare small trials with the big ones you've gone through), but anytime I've been disappointed in something, it's hard to get excited for it the next time. Please be gentle on yourself - I really like that suggestion about moving forward.

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  7. That's a really deep and very courageous admission. I've never had kids, so I can't pretend to know what you're talking about, except that a girlfriend of mine who has two said something similar when she was pregnant with her second... so maybe it's normal?

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  8. While I totally agree counceling will ease this transition I also have total faith that what you are experiencing is normal and you are more articulate than most so you put it into words which makes it bigger. This baby is coming into an intelligent and loving mommy's arms. Rest assured, this too will pass.

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  9. Wow- I agree with the other comments about you being so honest- it's refreshing! I'm in my 3rd trimester and I can't wait for this little one to just be born already! the first time around I wasn't nearly this anxious for it to be over. I just want to not have this big belly in the way and it's even more irritating when you have to chase behind a toddler! In this case too I'm a bit more apprehensive and fearful of something going wrong because I know what I stand to lose and I'm cautious of feeling 'too much' for fear of disappointment/heartache....
    I guess given your past traumas it's understandable you would've steeled your mind against feeling too much - so don't be hard on yourself for it- just go with the flow. Best of luck to you and yours!

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  10. This makes sense. After what you've been through in this pregnancy alone, you'd want to protect yourself; add in the previous pregnancy, your insane work schedule, and the regular fears that go with pregnancy? It sounds completely normal.

    You're a great mom to P and you'll be a great mom to this kiddo, too, once he or she arrives.

    -Attorney at Large

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  11. I don't think any of this is surprising...or as abnormal as you might think. I agree with other commenters that after everything you've been through, talking to someone might be a good idea, but honestly, I had a perfectly normal pregnancy and felt much of the same way. I think the cultural need for a mom to be OMG in love with her baby from the moment she finds out means that lots of people just don't tell the truth--that the love doesn't always come until later. It doesn't make you a bad person, or a bad mom!

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  12. What a heavy, dark place it sounds like your life is right now. I'm sorry things have been so unsure and difficult. Uncertainty is one of the most difficult things for me to handle. I can take crisis, but not knowing just about does me in.

    Best wishes as you try to find someone to talk to about this (as you stated in the comments above). I hope you find someone you truly connect with. Therapy is a powerful thing.

    I hope the world gets lighter for you. I hope you can be gentle and patient with yourself as you heal from the trauma of the first weeks of this pregnancy. I hope people will be kind to you. And I hope you will find moments of peace and joy as you find your way.

    Stopping by from SITS.

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  13. Your honesty is more welcome with your friends than if you glossed everything over, saying everything is lovely and flowers and butterflies. Cause we know better. Your strength to speak your truth is awesome. You are a strong, intelligent, honest and caring person, and even if you aren't "in love" with your baby at this moment, I'm sure you're going to be an excellent Mom.

    *hugs*

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  14. Thank you. For being honest with yourself, and with us.

    I wasn't in love with my daughter, either. Not for our entire pregnancy. Not until some time after she was born, actually. I thought I was a horrible mother. I think I realized later I was trying to manage my expectations ... to protect myself from feeling anything. And then with my job being the hell that it was, I didn't know which end was up.

    Wherever you are, it's OK to be there ... as long as you're taking care of yourself. This baby will feel loved, and you will feel love when you're ready. In the meantime, try to be gentle to yourself. Sending peace ...

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  15. I kind of feel the same way as you do. It took many fertility treatments to get my twins, then I had a failed fertility treatment after and was told children would be unlikely. Then I got pregnant. It is silly, but I feel like something terrible will happen because it was easy and I will be punished for enjoying something so easy. It's just a weird feeling of nothing I can't describe. I feel so bad that I haven't celebrated this baby like I did the twins.

    You have been through a lot, I don't think you are a monster.

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  16. Wow, coming here for the first time and reading this, without having read any preceding posts about you... I'll tell ya what- my first impression is NOT that you are a monster. You are human.
    I'll tell you something else- I felt the same way about my baby, only with less validating reasons. Sometimes, it's just hard to make that connection. Who knows why. It sounds to me like you need a little r&r and time to process everything. Time to let yourself HOPE.

    Thank You for sharing so much of yourself here. It must have taken a lot of courage.

    Peace and Love,
    Tara
    http://www.taradennyimages.com

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  17. I felt the same way about one of my pregnancies, and I had no scary things to cause it. I had horrible nightmares that the baby would be born dead or die before it's 1st birthday. I don't know why, but luckily I was wrong and he's 45 now! Don't beat yourself up about it. I never told anyone about my dreams/feelings until now. And, never underestimate the crazy-making of all those pregnancy hormones.

    xo Linda

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  18. Hugging you right now! No wonder you feel an emotional blank about this baby...you been dealing with nothing but stress and have not been allowed to bond with the life growing inside of you. No one can fault you for having your guard up. I hope that things settle down and you are able to get some peace of mind and the space to feel something.

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  19. I can understand all these feelings even though I have never been through this and I am not a mother. But honey, you have been forced to deal with so many questions and fears and the normal feelings have been suppressed as a result. I think you are still dealing with all those other emotions. Noone can blame you for feeling the way you do honestly. I just pray you and the little one ride out this emotional storm and the amazing love blooms and grows. (hug)

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  20. ::big hugs:: As someone without a maternal bone in her body, I can still understand why you may feel this way. I mean think about it - there's only so long you can stress about something before your brain and body just go "omg enough already". I don't think this is going to be a permanent state of being for you - but I hope you aren't being too hard on yourself. I can't directly relate but even after 3.5 years I struggle to have any parental feelings for my step-daughter at all - just due to the constant drama surrounding everything. But I'm kind to her, she really likes me, and after beating myself up over it, I realized there are some things that just have to take their course and fix themselves in time.

    I have faith you'll end up just fine - and the counseling suggestion that some people have made sounds like an awesome one. It's great to have a neutral party to talk at sometimes :) I think counseling is a great way to take care of one's self. - Kristina <3

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