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People ask me quite a bit about pregnancy envy. They are asking about the course of sadness (or even jealousy) when two women are expecting babies -- and one of these pregnancies ends in loss.
Since my own loss, I have been asked by many pregnant women about the likelihood of a close friend, sister, or sister-in-law resenting either her or her baby. These conversations feel almost confessional to me.
There is no reason to shroud this considerate question in secrecy. What is being asked is not so much will she hate me? What is being asked is how I can help to include her in my pregnancy and life, and not lose her?
This is beautiful.
My short answer is no. Most women do not hate those women with whom they shared the excitement of a pregnancy even when it ends in loss. That said, there is a complexity in emotional processing about which people can be better aware.
Some women worry that overtly acknowledging the loss of a pregnancy as a pregnant woman seems like it is rubbing it in. I am here to assure you that it is not. My best friend had an infant at the time of my loss and the way she came into my life and just stuck it moves me still. I wanted to see her infant, hold her infant, because I would never have wanted her to offer herself up in any way that felt diminishing. Her infant was her bounty and I loved them both. Her tears in solidarity (with a babe in arms) allowed me to grieve.
So my best advice is to express your sadness at her loss. She does not hate you. If you are close to her she will love you. (Loss has a way of clarifying and amplifying underlying tensions so if these are at play, try to separate them out). It’s complicated. What I mean to say is simply that in a healthy loving friend or familial relationship an imperfectly worded expression of grief will be received in the spirit it is offered.
Your pregnant belly is not going to remind her of her loss because she has not forgotten it. She will value your heartfelt sympathy on her behalf. The more expressed and genuine the sharing and airing of grief, the greater the salve.
Relationships shift. The woman who experienced the loss will not necessarily engage in every pregnancy activity. Be considerate and let her know that if she prefers, she can get a pass on your baby shower. But let her know she is welcome to come if she likes.
Allow for nuances to emerge and address them as they do.
Say what is in your heart. It is not the wrong thing because it is based on love and the sharing of sadness of what could have been. Indeed, what almost was. Go to a place of sadness with her. Accompany her. Validating a painful experience is the best antidote to the creeping venom of resentment.
A woman may lash out in loss. She may feel angry at the world and she may take it out on those around her. It’s possible. However, if you acknowledge her grief and let her know that you are there, she knows you are right and kind and good. Eventually, if you stick the landing, this will win the day.
Images by iStock
Opinions expressed by parent contributors are their own.