I'm starting to get more from strangers while out and about. Or really, my belly is.
Because my pregnant belly no longer can be mistaken for bloating or weight gain. It is obvious that there's a little person growing within.
This fact seems to make some people chatty. Complete strangers want to trade happy pregnancy stories with me.
They don't understand that for me, pregnancy is not a happy story. Even while I am so happy to be pregnant with our rainbow, the experience itself is not a "happy" one. Instead, it is terrifying and stressful, worthwhile, painful, refining, and one of the most challenging paths I have ever, ever walked.
It feels like daily walking up to the edge of a cliff and throwing myself off onto mercy and thin air, praying that God will not let this journey obliterate me.
I don't want to trade happy pregnancy stories.
But I can usually manage to smile politely and fob my way through it. I think I might even convince these strangers that their blissful memories of pregnancy hold true for me.
The happy, chatty strangers are not the most difficult, though.
Far worse are the uncomfortable or even hostile stares I sometimes find myself the target of.
I don't know if they've noticed me notice, but I have caught more than a few women eying my swelling belly with animosity.
I could be misreading these stares. I hope I am.
But knowing how many babies die before birth, and knowing how easily, how silently they go, I don't think that I am wrong.
The other day, for example, I was holed up in my favorite air-conditioned (!!) coffee shop, writing away. When I got up to leave, my pregnancy huge and obvious, a woman who had been sitting behind me positively glared, eyes glued to my belly.
I am ashamed to confess that I glared back.
Why did I glare? Knowing what I know, why was my instinctive reaction to return in kind, instead of a compassionate smile? I will try harder next time.
A smile in the face of animosity doesn't take much courage. But what if I had approached that glaring woman, asked if she grappled with infertility or babyloss or some other sort of wound that would cause her to dislike pregnant strangers?
I wish I had that kind of courage.
I wonder if I was the recipient of similar stares when I was pregnant with Eve. That pregnancy, it was truly blissful. Eve was a surprise, a beautiful miracle in the face of the lifetime of infertility my doctor said to expect as a result of my eating disorder. The 31 weeks I carried this baby who I was cautioned never to hope for were truly the happiest days I have ever known.
And then she died.
Why did I not smile at that woman who glared? At every woman who glares, or whom I even suspect of glaring?
I know that babies are dying in my city. That babies have died here, and recently. And I know that there's so much more pain out there, pain that is beyond my comprehension. That too-young people are given fatal diagnoses and children are losing their hair to chemotherapy and families are torn apart by illness and anger and abuse and death daily. And yet we all assume that no one is as wounded as we are.
Why can't we wear our wounds more openly? I wish that I could. I have often wished it since Eve died. And still, I glared.
I will try to do better. The road of pregnancy and mamahood is already too marred with potholes. I want to hold my fellow wounded up, not push them down harder when they fall.
Have you ever had an experience similar to mine, regardless of whether it involves pregnancy or not? If so, how did you deal with it?