I have been thinking a lot about hope this week. It’s been on lots of people’s minds, I think, with the U.S. election and memories of the election four years ago. That night, I was in a Toronto hotel room by myself, 8 months pregnant with E and brimful of hope. Now, as I wrote earlier this week, I am wondering how hope works.
The question I asked last week was really a rhetorical one. I didn’t expect anyone to be able to tell me how to find hope, but I appreciated the comments people left. There was one comment in particular that has rattled about in my head since I read it, that I haven’t been able to let go. Pieces of me wrote that there must have been “at least a shred of hope” when R and I decided to try again this last time. At first, I thought, yes, of course, there must have been. But in fact, I don’t think there was. There was no discussion about trying again. We didn’t talk about how we felt about trying again or what we wanted. One night, in the first cycle I had after my last miscarriage, I said, I think I must be ovulating. I didn’t say it hopefully or with any suggestion; I stated it as a bare fact, something I would never have known 2 years ago about myself but which all these months with conception on the brain have taught me. R and I looked at each other and, to borrow Florine’s phrase, soldiered determinedly on. A couple weeks later a pregnancy test turned positive.
The night this baby was conceived didn’t feel hopeful, or happy or excited. I felt terrified afterward. What had we done? I could not face another pregnancy and I reassured myself that I wouldn’t have to because my body wouldn’t let me. When I bled before I even made it to seven weeks, I knew it was over. I cried that night and then I turned myself resolutely toward a future with one living child and waited for the miscarriage. But, it never came and here I am, still pregnant.
My first miscarriage, at the end of my first trimester in January 2011, was a huge shock. But, after a few weeks, I was ready to think about trying again. R and I waited three months and then were pregnant again fairly quickly after that. I was sure that one would stick, because all the odds said a second consecutive miscarriage was pretty rare. I was all in right away just as I had been with my previous two pregnancies.
When I miscarried the second time, I began to worry that something was wrong. I was being checked for possible uterine abnormalities and I was trying to imagine our future with an only child, was coming to terms with the unexpected.
Then, suddenly, I was pregnant again. I had an HSG test at the end of June and had read that for some women the test produced a bit of a fertility boost. That must have been true in our case, because we got pregnant immediately after it and only 6 weeks after that second miscarriage. It took us a long time to embrace the new pregnancy out loud. R and I didn’t talk very much about it during the first trimester and it took R longer than that to believe it was real. For me, the pregnancy was very real from the very beginning. I felt sick all day every day and counted down the days until the end of that first trimester; inside myself, I believed in that baby. I planned as if I would be having a baby in March, making a number of decisions that have had a profound effect on what I’m doing now. I hoped. I hoped and hoped and when I reached the end of the first trimester, I didn’t doubt she would be born alive.
Of course, she wasn’t. In some ways, A was a rainbow baby. Not a pregnancy after stillbirth or neonatal death, but still a baby to be born after loss, after I believed it might not be possible. And she died. My almost-rainbow baby died.
When I got pregnant for a fifth time, in June of this year, after A’s death, I still had hope. In fact, I felt I was owed that baby. I felt I had put in my dues. I had lost enough. Our family had had enough pain. I imagine everyone – or at least many people – must feel this way after loss of any kind and it makes sense to me. We should not have to suffer again and again. I hoped in June, and I believed in that February baby, and when I miscarried that pregnancy, too, something in me broke. It was not long after that miscarriage that R and I ‘tried again,’ but it didn’t feel like trying again; it felt like we were seeing to the end some important and onerous pact we had made. We didn’t seem to be making a choice. We felt, somehow, compelled.
I am glad to be pregnant. I am grateful that my body is able to get pregnant so easily (though that gratefulness is tempered by the fact that I don’t stay pregnant; 1 out 5 is not really all that fantastic as odds go). I want this baby to live. But I no longer know what hope is, what it means to me, how it looks, whether I will feel it again. I have been unable to tell anyone outside of this blog and R that I am pregnant because I can’t bear to let the people I see every day to hold hope for me. I am planning for the summer as if I will not have a baby, although this is starting to cause some pretty big problems: I accepted a short-term job that would start at the beginning of July and am not sure if I can do it with a newborn baby at home and I am teaching a course that ends at the end of April even though there is a very good chance that if this baby does make it, it will be born before its due date in mid-May.
But I don’t know what else to do right now. Maybe in a few more weeks, when (if) I feel the baby move, I will learn to hope for it. Maybe I will continue to face this with the kind of grim resolution I feel now. Soon, I suppose we will have to tell E and then I will have to act hopeful with her. I want her to understand that while babies do die, ours probably won’t, even if I don’t believe it (or, necessarily, not believe it, myself). It is not that I think this baby will die. It is more that I can’t think of how it will live.
This has been too long already, but it feels good to write it. It is how I feel. I know I will love this baby if it is born (or if it dies). I know I will. I don’t want to sound overly negative. I am sure I am not alone in feeling this way. Maybe I didn’t even need to write it. Maybe you all are nodding your heads, saying to yourselves, of course, of course. But, all this talk of hope has made me think and think and think and I am still getting nowhere. Maybe it is okay not to hope. It is okay to hold yourself still, to wait for what will come, to feel whatever it is there is to feel. I think it is.