Funny Matters

An Open Apology To My Friends With Babies

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This post can also be read at the Huffington Post UK

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We’re in an impossible situation you and I.

It’s been weighing on my mind for a while now. And it feels a bit overdue to say.

But here goes.

As much as I love and care about you… sometimes I just can’t bear you.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m happy for you. No, scratch that. I’m really happy for you.

Genuinely.

I’m sorry that I appear to be showing zero interest in your child; and that I haven’t called; or visited.

It’s not that I don’t care or think about you.

I do.

And if things were different, I’d be all over this.

I’d be jumping at the bit to spend time with you and little Billy. To hear all the gruesome details of the birth and breathe in that inimitable smell of his tiny head. To coo over his long fingers and claim that one day he’ll make a fine pianist. And to pace restlessly around the room with him so you can retreat upstairs and get some rest.

I’m sorry that’s not how it is.

It’s how it should be.

It’s how it used to be.

But I can’t cope with that elephant I carry around with me anymore. You know the one. That big, grey, sad-looking animal that’s slumped like a drunk in the corner of the room, wearing that sign round his neck: recurrent miscarriage.

After the first one, even two, I could still pretend.

But not now. Not with five notches in the hospital bedpost. It’s just too raw.

And I’ve had it with pretending. It takes it out of me. The more I do it, the more painful it becomes.

And I know you’ll be worried about upsetting me. Just like I’ll be worried about getting upset in front of you.

We’ll play this weird charade – you playing it down for my benefit, and me over-enthusing for yours. When you pop into the kitchen to grab the pump, you won’t notice me furiously blinking up at the ceiling, or the marks on my arm from trying to pinch it all back. You’ll just see animated Auntie Ange cooing and cuddling and genuinely happy for you. Which – again – I am.

Maybe you’ll even try and play down motherhood in a misguided attempt to make me feel better.

Please don’t. It’ll just make me feel worse.

You see, I don’t want it to be about me and my pet elephant.

It’s meant to be about you. And your baby.

I don’t want to ruin your celebration.

But I’m afraid I can’t do it.

Not in person. And especially not on social media.

The almost continuous stream of photos and videos on Facebook:

Billy at 2 months, Billy at 3 months, Billy at – yep, you guessed it – 4 months. Billy dressed as The Lion King. Billy dressed as a pumpkin. And don’t get me started on Billy and the bloody baby-themed Christmas card.

I get it. You have a baby. And I’m pleased for you, really I am.

But it does my head in.

I know none of this is any of your fault, by the way. That’s the difficult bit – there’s no-one to blame.

And I’m sure if things had turned out differently it would probably be me being the pain in the arse – breaking the internet with the smugness of motherhood. Miscarriage #1 would have been almost two now. Prime fodder for Facebook Easter bunny hell.

This isn’t fair on you, I know. It’s not your or your baby’s fault that I keep miscarrying. That in the last 2 and half years I’ve lost 5 would-be-Billies.

I’m sure I make you feel uncomfortable. Maybe even guilty.

I can remember the glimmer of awkwardness when you told me you were pregnant.

I’m pretty sure I managed to gloss over it.

You see, I’ve got the congratulations patter down to a tee now.

I’m good at acting like I’m fine.

Maybe that’s part of the problem. A bit too good.

Because I wasn’t fine.

It’s a physical reaction. Like being winded.

Makes me want to run away, like a wounded animal. Find the quietest corner, and howl.

But of course I didn’t want you to know that. I’m ashamed that’s how it is.

So I bit my lip. Put on my cheeriest voice. And genuinely congratulated you.

I find it harder and harder. Those announcements.

The more miscarriages I rack up, the worse the pressure to perform; the more my reaction is watched. Each time I have to crank up the act.

Don’t get me wrong. I wouldn’t want you to hide it from me either.

Yep, that’s right:

You can’t win!

All in all, I know I’m putting you in an impossible position.

But I just wanted to let you know…

That’s why I’ve not been around.

And I’m truly sorry.

When they’re a bit older I’m sure I’ll be fine. It’s this bit – the ‘fresh from the oven’ part – I struggle with.

So, do you reckon we can perhaps have a bit of a timeout?

Maybe not.

I’d understand if that arrangement didn’t work for you.

And again, I’m sorry…

Sending all my love to you… and of course, to Billy.

Auntie Ange (and her pet elephant) xx

 

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21 Comments on “An Open Apology To My Friends With Babies

  1. Melissa White
    March 3, 2016

    It had to be said.
    Brava Angela, brava.
    “Three things cannot be long hidden: the sun, the moon, and the truth.” God on you.

    • Angela Brightwell
      March 9, 2016

      Great quote, thanks Melissa! x

  2. Beata
    March 3, 2016

    A big, big virtual hug, Angela. I know it’s not going to make you feel better, but that’s all I can manage.

    • Angela Brightwell
      March 9, 2016

      A big big thank you, Beata – gratefully received! x

  3. Ruth Levin-Vorster
    March 4, 2016

    This is brave Angela! Congratulations. And of course brilliantly written. I think you touch on the complexity for both sides so graciously.
    And so sorry for your losses.
    love Ruth

    • Angela Brightwell
      March 9, 2016

      Thanks Ruth – I so almost chickened out of writing it! x

  4. Sophie
    March 4, 2016

    Hi Angela, I came across your blog by mistake as I have also been in a similar position. You’ve encapsulated how this feels perfectly. That feeling of “nnnaaaaggggrgrgrgrhhhhhhhaha!!!!” when ANOTHER friend tells you she’s expecting, and the smiles and cooing noises on the outside.

    Without wishing cruelty upon animals, I hope your pet elephant sods off soon.

    Love,
    Sophie

    • Angela Brightwell
      March 9, 2016

      Hi Sophie, so lovely to hear from you, as someone else who gets this!! And yep to the sodding off of Nellie! Thanks for getting in touch x

  5. Maria
    March 4, 2016

    Beautifully put! I’m sad for you, just as I’m sad for my Daughter, I can only hope that one day you have all the joy that you truly deserve xx

    • Angela Brightwell
      March 9, 2016

      Thank you for dropping me a line Maria, and I’m so sorry your daughter is going through it too. Sending you both very best wishes x

  6. T
    March 6, 2016

    Thank you for finding my words.

    • Angela Brightwell
      March 9, 2016

      Thank you for taking the time to let me know it resonated with you, it means a lot to hear from others who have been through it too. Sending you my very best wishes x

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  8. Dolores
    March 7, 2016

    I admire your honesty , Angela.You have descibed the situation so well..It’s hard but keep hope alive.

    • Angela Brightwell
      March 9, 2016

      Thank you so much for getting in touch, Dolores and for your kind wishes. x

  9. Kathy Shonk
    March 30, 2016

    I have 5 notches as well. It’s a horrible thing to have to live with but I thank you for saying the things that I cannot in such an eloquent and funny way. Best wishes to you!

    • Angela Brightwell
      April 18, 2016

      Lovely to hear from you, Kathy – thanks for getting in touch, although I’m sorry it’s to compare ‘notches’. Sending you all the very best! x

  10. Ruby
    June 29, 2016

    Phenomenal and spot on girlfriend! I cannot say how much this meant to me. I used your apology to convey to my family how I’ve been feeling. Thank you for paving the way for me. A heartfelt thank you for your courage and honesty, Angela.

    • Angela Brightwell
      June 29, 2016

      Ah Ruby, it’s lovely to hear that it helped somehow. It can be tricky enough for us to grasp how we feel about some of this stuff ourselves let alone others around us! Thanks for getting in touch – it really means a lot. x

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