When Russell’s CHD diagnosis was revealed at 21 weeks, the envy of mothers, pregnant with healthy babies, bloomed inside me. As I mourned my original vision of pregnancy and raising a child, I observed those around me, pregnant, expectant, who were not burdened by grief and fear for their baby’s life. The bloom of jealousy began to spread and choke like a weed.
When it first arose, I was surprised, disgusted with myself. I was looking at dear, loyal friends, and feeling this stab of resentment. Why do they get off without these extra worries? Why does their baby get to be okay but mine doesn’t? It became difficult to be around other pregnant women. We had nothing in common. I had looming nightmares, they had looming joys. Seeing them move expectantly, joyfully, through their pregnancies reminded me of what I had lost.
I wanted what they had. I wanted my only fears to be the boring fears. Will I be able to lose this baby weight? How bad will the pain of labor be? Will my 20 page birth plan be followed by the nurses?! So many boring, normal, “scary” things. I took a dark delight in rolling my eyes when I heard women complain about these now frivolous topics. These women with healthy babies in their bellies.
I was longing to simply agonize over the color scheme of the nursery, and if I had enough newborn onesies to avoid daily laundry. But here I was, calling surgeons and looking up hospital statistics and bad outcomes. Hearing again and again, that there would be no real answers until my baby was born.
I was suddenly bumped from the Happy Mother’s Club. I was on the outside looking in. I watched mothers bonding with their unborn children, while I was slowly building a wall between me and mine. I was afraid to get too close, I didn’t want it to hurt too much if I lost him.
And this jealousy didn’t only show itself during my pregnancy with Russell. As he grew I watched families without surgeries and grief in their story lines and wished the same for him. I wanted him to have a simple story as well, without the burden of “heroism” that was forced on his shoulders.
A couple years down the road, when these same women seemingly started popping out baby after baby like it was nothing, my stomach clenched again as I compared my path to theirs. I was terrified of having another child. Terrified that the statistics would once again turn against us, and we would watch another baby suffer through what Russell had suffered through. And yet, their biggest concern seemed to be if they were having more babies too close together, or too far apart. We get it, Karen! You’re a fertile Myrtle and you pop out perfect stock!!! They took their ease in these decisions for granted.
It’s unfortunately true that comparison is the thief of joy. Unfortunate because, it’s almost impossible not to compare your path as a medical parent to those who have fewer worries and burdens. When your child must be cut open multiple times to survive, how do you not look at another family’s path with envy? How can you not want that guaranteed suffering removed from your child’s life?
I feel guilty writing these things. As if I handled it wrong. It makes me feel like I betrayed my closest friends, having such a negative, guttural reaction during their time of joy. I’m cringing a bit as I think of my dear friends reading this now, but knowing that they’re dear enough to understand. I can’t go back and change these thoughts and feelings, only acknowledge the internal battle that raged, and still rages from time to time.
It’s been almost eight years since I first felt those weeds of envy bloom and spread, and I’m happy to say that I’ve worked through most of them. They’ve faded now to the dull ache of longing. Longing for the removal of pain from my son’s life.
If you’re having similar thoughts accompanied by guilt, hopefully this brings you some relief. Knowing that you’re not the only one You are not a horrible person, and these feelings are natural and normal. Sit with it, let yourself feel these things. Internally yell at Karen if you need to. It’s part of the process of grief for the pregnancy and life you’d hoped your child would have.