Being someone who is larger than average, I was very, very proud of my pregnant belly once it finally stopped looking like one too many cheeseburgers and started looking like a proper pregnant bump. I loved it to death, that little belly of mine. I was kind of shy around people I knew for some reason, but when I was with strangers it was a different story. I loved knowing that they could tell I had company just by looking at me sideways.
This sounds ridiculous, but my favourite time at Mass was going up to communion. I know my favourite time should have been something less me-centric and more God focused, but it was what it was. And it was sweet. See, because I was getting too big to properly clasp my hands below my tummy, I'd rest my hands on top of it while I shuffled up the communion line with the rest of the congregation. And the whole time I was excitedly thinking that anyone who looked at me would know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that I was having a baby.
Last Sunday as I sat in the same spot I always used to sit in when I was pregnant, I started thinking about that. About how I so proudly showed off my pregnant tummy and how I hoped people would look at me and smile.
And that's when it occurred to me that women who had experienced miscarriage - maybe even stillbirth or a loss caused by birth injury, abruption or congenital defects - saw me. They watched me holding my tummy lovingly and protectively, and they felt the dull ache that I feel now when I see the same thing innocently paraded in front of me.
I caused the same pain I feel now. And it never once occurred to me while I was pregnant, even after having two miscarriages before getting pregnant with Thomas.
I was horrified. I sat there in utter horror feeling miserably guilty that I caused this kind of pain. Unintentionally, of course. But just by being visibly pregnant, I know I must have made someone wince and look away. I was a reminder of what someone had and lost - or of what someone never even had to begin with.
It was a sobering thought. I tend to think that no one in my world knows this kind of sorrow, but people are good at hiding the horrors they live with and the sorrows they bear. I'm sure I opened wounds. God, I must have.
I don't quite know what to do with this. If I get pregnant again I know I'll feel that same pride - maybe even tenfold because of the lengths we've gone through to coax my body into cooperating and carrying a life again. But I will also now be aware that my joy could be the cause of someone else's pain.
The worst of it is, there's just no way around it. My hard won joy is going to cause someone else pain. It's inevitable.
Ain't life grand?