In a couple of months I will be transforming my life, and my body, again, through the addition hopefully of another baby. To answer the standard questions and get that out of the way: everything is going fine for the fetus, it's a boy (joining two other sons) and I am just looking forward to having another baby, don't care about the sex although the others in the household wanted a girl, I've unfortunately been quite sick and tired and sore this time around. Right, now that that's done (and thank you in advance for any congratulations you may wish to offer - please don't feel you need to do so in comments) let's move on to my motivation for writing this post.
Many many people assume this is my first, unless they actually see me with my children or know me well. This means I get rather a lot of well meaning advice before I'm able to say actually this is my third child on the way, and get that deflated "oh" which goes along with the mental realisation they don't need to give me any instructions or horror stories or non-scientific anecdotes. A few persist, but most flag it at that point.
Some have been unwise enough to assume I am disappointed about the physical sex. I'm not, other people are, but genuinely not me. I now try to get in first with telling them that, before they put their foot in it.
What I'm struggling with most though about these conversations is saying "this is my third."
Each time it niggles a bit, because this is actually my fourth (known) pregnancy - not because I had an abortion as I suppose many reading this will think given my activity on that issue, but because I had an early miscarriage.
It wasn't physically traumatic, more a delayed period at about the six week mark. The stick had told me I was pregnant but I hadn't yet had time to go to my GP for confirmation; when I did instead it was to discuss the miscarriage, get ultrasounds to check everything had dislodged properly, and so on. I was pretty upset, not least because this was my first attempt, but not distraught. We didn't tell anyone really, and then I became pregnant again immediately, this time with the pregnancy that produced the child known to many of you in days gone by as Wriggly.* I did end up telling quite a lot of people about the miscarriage during that second pregnancy because it skewed my dates and resulted in some out of the usual order scans and such like.
So when people say to me "is this your first?" and I say "it's my third" I mean third child, not third pregnancy, but I always feel a little stab of guilt that I'm erasing that very first experience, the one that was over before it had hardly started.
I don't mourn for that embryo, I don't imagine the child that could have been, I never have really since my children were born and I realised how for me what I miscarried wasn't at all a comparable life, a human being, in the way the now 7 and 4 year olds are and were since they were newborns. It wasn't even an attachment as strong as what I feel now to the fetus moving and kicking inside me, even though I remain somewhat aloof from that, just in case.
But I do feel a sense of betrayal, or erasing an important part of my uterine history, when I use the word "third" knowing that most will translate that as third pregnancy, not third child. I want to be upfront about it, and I know that experiences of miscarriage, especially probably those that happen early, are not commonly shared, serving to unfortunately isolate those who experience them. I also don't want to end up giving too much information, thinking that those who ask me the standard casual questions about my now obviously distended belly want my full gynaecological history, which I must admit I'm not particularly inclined to give.
In my head I've decided now to think of this as the fourth of three. Maybe I'll work out a way to articulate that in polite conversation sometime in the next six weeks. Perhaps it'll be enough for me to have written it up here, and shared it in this manner, that I won't feel a niggle anymore.
* He prefers me to use his real name now on the internet and I try to respect that, but he's actually irrelevant to this so I won't be in this post.