Dear Pregnant Stranger,
I spotted you this morning, sitting there rubbing your bump, a small smile escaping your lips as you caught my eye. “Only two weeks to go!” you told me, pointing towards your belly, “A little boy this time, one of each!”. And as I smiled and nodded, following your gaze over to your daughter, I felt a strange feeling wash over me, a lump in my throat that hurt to swallow, an emotion which, even after all these years, still surprised me.
I was jealous.
I guess that must sound strange to you, knowing as we talked that I had three more children at home. I guess it sounds strange to me too, even after all this time. And whilst you’d be forgiven for assuming that my jealousy was for want of another baby, it really wasn’t about that. Because seeing you there, cradling your belly, I was jealous of just how happy you looked, eating the frosting from your daughters cupcake without a care in the world, of your utter certainty that in two weeks time you would hold your little one in your arms.
And I wanted that.
As you chatted away, sharing your story as only two women sat alone at soft play can do, with every word you spoke, and every beam in your smile, I felt my jealousy grow.
I was jealous of your excitement when you saw those two lines on a test, how you rang your husband at work and screamed at him down the phone. I was jealous that you got to enjoy every moment of those first twelve weeks when pregnancies are still a secret, instead of daily injections, worrying bleeds, early scans and constant fear.
I was jealous that you had planned the nursery, agonised over colour schemes and nursery furniture; chosen the pram, the car seat, an entire list of baby must haves. I was jealous that you never once considered waiting until the baby was here safely, that you remained blissfully unaware of how utterly painful it would be to return home to all of those things with empty arms.
I was jealous of your baby shower, a chance for all of your family and friends to spoil the little one before he arrived. I was jealous of the photos you showed me as you scrolled through your phone, you beaming at the camera with an alcohol free Prosecco, wearing a sash around your shoulders which read “Mummy to be”, never for one moment worrying that you might just be tempting fate.
I was jealous of the way that your hands shot to your tummy as we spoke, the way in which you smiled and told me, “This one’s going to be a footballer for sure!”. I was jealous of your confidence that with every kick, another would always follow.
I was jealous of your plans for a natural labour, to make that mad dash to the hospital, giddy with excitement, desperate to meet your son, not induced prematurely, fraught with worry, terrified of how it would end.
I was jealous that your pregnancy was so wonderful and exciting, filled with such promise and new beginnings, and mine were simply filled with fear.
I was jealous that in just weeks from now, you will have all of your babies here in your arms, and I will not.
And if I’m honest, I guess it’s been the same for the past eleven years since losing Joseph, that nagging feeling of jealousy. Not just of pregnant ladies who cradle their bumps and pick out romper suits in the supermarket, but of Mums who push their healthy babies in their buggies, hoist little ones up onto their hips, hold a little hand in theirs.
Of Mums whose eyes do not betray their sadness, whose lives have never been touched by loss.
It’s a tough one is jealousy, an emotion which we are taught from a young age to be undesirable, something which even now has me berating myself for allowing those thoughts to creep into my head. Whilst I am over joyed to hear that someone is pregnant, and could not be happier to hear that their baby has arrived safe and well, I guess I will always feel cheated of the same. I will always wonder what it would have been like to simply enjoy a pregnancy, to enjoy all of those wonderful moments, with unwavering belief that the baby I dreamt of was mine to keep.
And as you put on your coat to leave, and I wished you good luck for the impending birth, you looked at me with such kindness and said, “It was so lovely talking to you! I’m so jealous of you having four, we really struggled to have this little one.” And for the first time I saw it, a shadow of doubt falling across your face, that unrecognisable flicker in your eyes which had been all so familiar to me – fear.
And swallowing a lump in my throat I told you, “You’ll be absolutely fine.”
And so will I.