When everyone but you is having babies

When everyone but me is having babies – a baby is what I want most in the whole world – my heart breaks a little bit more. Yes, I am a mother, I have (had?) a baby – a gorgeous little boy called Hugo – but he died. I miss Hugo so much, I dearly want him back in my arms. But I know that is not possible.

With most people living their lives on social media these days, the baby news, the scan photos, the bump updates are like salt in the wounds. What to do?

Other women have every right to share their baby news, their photos, and their updates. Photos in particular have an uncanny knack of appearing on my timeline when I am having a particularly low moment. Rather than continue to torture myself, I have started unfollowing, for now, on Facebook some women and some baby- and pregnancy-related organisations.

It is not personal towards them – it is about my sorrow, my heartbreak, and me avoiding further sorrow and heartbreak by underlining what I no longer have. It also helps prevent additional emotional torment – at these low moments, I have found myself muttering under my breath uncharitable words, jealous words, resentful words. This isn’t ‘me’, and while I can reassure myself such reactions are understandable in the circumstances, those thoughts make me feel guilty. It is not these other women’s fault that I do not have my baby (it is no one’s fault): they have been incredibly kind towards me. What a mess.

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Hugo and me, shortly after we received the news that there was no more hope for him.

 

I have also unfollowed a Facebook group for HELLP syndrome survivors. At first, I was excited to have found this group “At last, a place full of other women who get it!” The other women understand the terror of the condition, but mercifully, many other survivors were able to take their precious babies home.

These mothers understandably like to post photographs of their HELLP babies. Some of these babies, like Hugo, were born at an early point in pregnancy, so their mothers are justifiably relieved to still have them in their arms. The problem for me was that these photos kept popping up on my timeline and it was as though there was a subconscious message accompanying them: “Look, I  took my HELLP baby home, you didn’t!” Of course, the photos say no such thing, it is what my grief is reading in to it. Those mothers would probably be mortified to know my grief reaction to their posts. I try to be compassionate to myself about these feelings, but it is difficult.

HELLP syndrome can affect pregnant women arbitrarily; there is no rhyme or reason behind it. Women can have had numerous babies without any form of complication before HELLP strikes them in a subsequent pregnancy. I read with resentment posts on various forums  that say things like how devastated they are baby number four (they have taken their baby home) has to be the last because of HELLP syndrome; their doctor has recommended they don’t get pregnant again. An uncharitable thought pops in to my head: “Oh boo hoo, go and cuddle one of your numerous other children. All I want is one baby, just one, to take home and care for.”

This is uncharitable because I know how utterly terrifying HELLP syndrome is. It is terrifying irrespective of how many pregnancies you have had. I can imagine if you have had several babies without complications having a pregnancy that is affected by HELLP syndrome would be a shock. I understand, too, that grief is not necessarily limited to what you no longer have: one can also mourn what they do not have, or what can never be. In this context, a devastating condition has denied these women the option to add to their family, if they so choose. It is also grieving a loss of innocence that awful things can happen, and to you. Perhaps they also mourn the loss of their ‘normal’ (for want of a better word) birth of that final child.

It is such rational thoughts I try to bear in mind when I read of women who say how desperate they are for a little brother or sister for their existing child, and how sad they feel when they see the pregnancy announcements and bump updates. I want to shout “But you have a child in your arms! Be grateful!”, and to be fair, most such comments from these mothers do include an acknowledgement of being grateful for what they do have (these are women who have not suffered a loss). I try to temper my frustration with the thought that these mothers are perhaps mourning for something they took for granted: that it is not always easy to get pregnant, that life is not always under your direct control. That life is not fair.

When a friend reveals she is pregnant, while I cannot pretend it does not hurt – it does, a lot – I offer simple congratulations. I try to remember how I felt when I announced I was pregnant with Hugo. Full of joy and excitement, and a desire to share my joy with the whole world. It had taken two years to get pregnant, two years of reaching for the tampons every month instead of delight at a little blue line, and resentment of a different sort in response to baby announcements. I was over the moon. I try to think that I will once again be able to share a scan photo, a little brother or sister for Hugo, in the future.

I know I am not alone in feeling this way. When a baby is your greatest desire, and everyone but you seems to be having them it feels really painful. No matter what your situation is, I say do whatever is right for you. You don’t have to avoid social media; take advantage of Facebook’s ‘unfollow’ button (it means you don’t have to unfriend an individual, but their updates won’t appear in your news feed).

Try to remember you are human – jealousy, resentment, and anger are all emotions that are natural under the circumstances, and do not make you a bad person (this is something I try to remind myself regularly).

Your real friends will understand.

The ‘unfollow’ strategy doesn’t help in real life, of course – if anyone has such a strategy, please do let me know!

When everyone is having babies but you – do whatever you can to be kind to you.

 

31 thoughts on “When everyone but you is having babies

  1. Katy (What Katy Said) says:

    Leigh you are so lovely. It is understandable to want to unfollow some people, I would want to do the same. It isn’t selfish and you are right it isn’t about them- it is about you. If you don’t want to see photo upon photo then you shouldn’t have to. You definitely wouldn’t have liked me as a new parent as I posted a photo a day for months! I barely use my real facebook anymore as I cannot be doing with it all really. Much prefer Twitter 😊 love to you lovely lady xxx

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    • Leigh Kendall says:

      Thank you lovely Katy. I think it’s important to talk openly about these things as so many others in a similar position feel the same way. I do prefer Twitter, too. Thank you for your kind comment xxx

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  2. My Life As A Mummy says:

    A lovely honest post Leigh and I am sure no decent person on this earth would begrudge you for unfollowing them. You are a very brave lady, an inspiration to others who have unfortunately lost their child too.
    When I was pregnant with Lucas, my cousin had recently lost her little boy. He was born asleep. She was desperately trying for another baby. I didn’t have the heart to tell her I was pregnant, I didn’t want to upset her and I felt guilty that I was pregnant. so I didn’t tell her until after Lucas was home from NICU. She wasn’t on my Facebook and I made sure she didn’t find out to protect her from more hurt and upset.

    Sending you lots of hugs

    Laura x x x

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    • Leigh Kendall says:

      Thank you, lovely Laura for such a kind comment. Social media can be such a minefield, with heightened emotions it’s good to be open about upsetting things. I am so sorry about your cousin’s loss, and you were very kind to protect her from further upset. Thank you for your continued kindness to me xxx

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  3. dietsandbabies says:

    What a beautiful post. You’ve put so well into words how I feel everyday. I’ve lost three children, a son and twin daughters.
    Like you I joined the support groups for people with my condition (incompetent cervix) but most have gone on to have children where my arms are still empty.
    I love your final line and after therapy it’s a moto I very much love by “….do whatever you can to be kind to you”.
    Just wanted to post to say you’re not alone. x

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    • Leigh Kendall says:

      I’m so very sorry for your losses. Social media can make our day to day struggles easier with things like friendship, but so much harder when salt is rubbed in the wounds, even if it is never meant like that. I am sorry we are not alone. No one should ever know the pain of losing babies. Thank you so much for taking the time to comment. Love xxx

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  4. Cardiff Mummy Says says:

    I just saw this post on #archiveday and wanted to say what a beautiful and emotional piece of writing it is. It really brought a tear to my eye. I didn’t see it when it was originally posted. I had a miscarriage at 12 weeks before I got pregnant with my first child and it was a pain like I have never known before, so I can’t even imagine how difficult this must have been for you. I’m so sorry you had to go through this and I’m so sorry to hear the photos etc on Facebook make you so upset. I remember feeling the same. The weeks after my miscarriage, about six friends announced their pregnancies and all I could think was, why not me? I know how lucky I am to have had my children, but I’ll never forget that experience and never take any of it for granted. I think you are doing the right thing by removing anything that causes you distress. I really hope things work out for you. Big love xxxx

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    • Leigh Kendall says:

      I’m sorry to read of your loss. Social media can be a double-edged sword, and cause extra pain when you really could do without it. Thank you for taking the time to read my post and for writing such a kind comment xxx

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  5. marysmith221 says:

    Spot on! I feel the same with the Trisomy 18 page I joined – so so helpful whilst pregnant but now so painful to see all of the miracles and were not one this time!
    And Im the same with pregnancy – its not me but I have to protect myself!

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  6. Alana | Rockstar Preemies says:

    One of the (very important) things I learned from having very early babies is just how many people out there are hurting from how breezily we discuss pregnancies and babies. My heart still breaks remembering the time in the grocery checkout line, standing between an older woman and a soon-to-pop pregnant woman, trying to choke back tears while they commiserated over how awful the end of pregnancy is – a time I never got to experience and so desperately wish I had!! I am incredibly lucky to have two healthy children now, but the desire to have another baby, and ideally a healthy, full-term baby, never goes away. Thank you for sharing this.

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    • Leigh Kendall says:

      You’re right, I think we – especially in the developed world and in the 21st century – take for granted pregnancies go ‘to plan’, especially once you’re through the first trimester. Collectively, we’ve forgotten that bad things can happen, and can take things for granted. I understand your wish to have a full-term, healthy baby – having a premature baby does make you feel ‘robbed’ of a pregnancy. Thanks so much for commenting xxx

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    • Leigh Kendall says:

      Thank you. You are quite right about not having to justify or explain how I feel – it’s just something I felt important to talk about openly and honestly, because I know there are other women in a similar situation. Thank you for commenting xxx

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  7. Emma Harris says:

    I understand. One reason why I never friended you on Facebook, I know you see me everywhere else and I’m pretty much repeating myself and I know I’m a tad obsessed with sharing Charlotte moments. Made my day when you friended me 🙂

    Me & Charlotte consider you a real friend and I understand xxx

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  8. ticketyblue says:

    I can understand how you feel. I have never had a baby, but I was told in March last year that I can’t, that I have no eggs left because of Glandular Fever I’d had when I was younger (the technical term being premature ovarian failure). My heart breaks whenever I hear one of my friends is pregnant, or someone I know. Which incidentally, I did today. It’s just life- people have babies and I need to learn to deal with it, but it’s incredibly difficult and heartwrenching when you long to have your own baby and it’s something that most people don’t understand. Much love to you. Lexie (@Words_She_Wrote) XX

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    • Leigh Kendall says:

      I’m so sorry, that must have been awful news to hear. I can understand how difficult hearing such news must be for you. Do whatever you need to do to be kind to you. Much love to you too xxx

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  9. kykaree says:

    I can’t read this without comment nor without conflicting emotions. I am one of the very fortunate ones to have survived and to have brought a well baby home.

    Severe early onset preeclampsia took away our chances of adding to our family. Even tonight Joseph said ‘it’s so unfair I can’t have a brother or sister it’s boring just having parents’ I always put my Pollyanna head on and sell him the benefits of being an only child.

    I totally agree that self protection comes first and if there’s a day you unfollow me on Instagram or Facebook
    I won’t be offended. Twitter on the other hand…….

    Like

  10. Emma says:

    I’ve taken a step back from social media as well, and not only has it been helpful to put some distance between myself and all the happy people I don’t want to see being happy (I sound like a grouch, you know what I mean)… It’s also been massively liberating to not feel like I’m on a wheel all the time. It was a crutch to fill some of the emptiness, but it ended up making me compare myself to people I don’t need or want to compare myself to. I’m just me, and without the noise of everyone else it’s much easier to be at peace with that. I was wasting so much time! I don’t think there’s anything wrong with these ‘uncharitable’ thoughts, and I think that removing ourselves from situations where we know they’ll crop up is sensible. I hope that one day we’ll both want to be in amongst some of that noise again. X

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    • Leigh Kendall says:

      I completely know what you mean. You’re right, putting ourselves out of hurt’s way when we can is sensible, and invaluable. Less noise is certainly useful, too, for now. Thanks for commenting, love to you xxx

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  11. oana79 says:

    I had a “friend” who insisted on telling Alex how hard she was finding approaching us after Georgie died because she had found out she was pregnant around the same time he had started chemo.
    Needless to say, she is no longer a friend and I don’t even feel bad about it.
    I would like another baby and maybe one day we will have one but for now, I have, just like you, unfollowed and, in same cases, like the one above, unfriended everybody who is having babies around me.
    It is not their fault. But it is not mine either and I do not have to stick around and “celebrate” their good news while my baby is still dead.
    It is quite liberating to be selfish sometimes.xx

    Like

    • Leigh Kendall says:

      I’m sorry someone said such a thoughtless thing when Georgie was having his treatment, Oana, some people really don’t have a clue. You’re right, being selfish sometimes is liberating – and it’s whatever you need to do to get you through. Love xxx

      Liked by 1 person

  12. Tara says:

    That’s a tough one. After Freya was born my husband posted a photo of her and tagged me. Many of the comments, after congratulations, were: “I didn’t even know you were pregnant!” I had never posted about it because I didn’t want to cause hurt to friends (some online ones) spread across the country who had fertility problems or who had also suffered losses. Afterwards one got in touch to say she was angry that I didn’t share my news because, although it would have upset her, she would have also been so pleased for me. I’m still in two minds about whether I did the right thing. I did it for the right reasons (or so I thought) but maybe I made it about me when it shouldn’t have been? I don’t know.

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    • Leigh Kendall says:

      It’s a difficult one – you did what you thought was best to protect your friends, which is a very sensitive thing to do. Your pregnancy is about you – possibly a helpful way to think about it is that you did what you thought was best at the time? Such a minefield xxx

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  13. Mummy Writes says:

    Oh Leigh again you say what many of us feel so clearly and I’m in awe at your ability to write a balanced post despite your feelings (mine all tend to be emotional rants!). I agree though, unfollowing those pages that upset you is essential. It took me a long time to realize this myself. Only today I unfollowed a popular blogger on instagram because her daughter looks so much like Abi did at her age and I got upset when I saw the news feed. It seems silly but what else can we do? And despite losing Abi I am thankful for my other children but like you with babies I get frustrated at people complaining about teens. I would love to complain about my teen!

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    • Leigh Kendall says:

      Thank you. I think it’s about self-preservation, when dealing with the death of a child. The rest of the world carries on regardless, and we’ve got to do what we can to protect ourselves from further hurt, wherever we can. Thanks for commenting. Love to you xxx

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