foreboding joy

This weekend, I will be 37 weeks pregnant. The statistical likelihood that all will be well with this baby is very high. It’s a significant milestone and I think I want to celebrate.

Jensen suggested that we work on the nursery. “Let’s sit on the floor and eat take-out and assemble the new crib together,” he said with a big smile. It sounded wonderful. I started to cry. “That’s so scary,” I told him. I am just overwhelmed at how vulnerable that makes me feel.

I have been 37 weeks before. I have even made it so far as to deliver our baby and have everything seem perfect. Truly the sweetest moments of my life. And then the moment was shattered.

Sometimes I think I should not have taken the risk of another pregnancy because I don’t know how our family would survive another shock. We need things to go well this time, but that is not a guarantee.

Just during this pregnancy, a woman I know went into early labour and had to say goodbye to her twin girls. Another friend gave birth to a full term baby who died the next day. Still another mother I’m close with found out at 19 weeks pregnant that her baby had passed away and had to deliver a very tiny, lifeless child.

I also know two moms who each delivered a healthy rainbow baby after previous experiences of trauma and loss. They were scared, even terrified, that they would suffer again. But they didn’t. They were blessed with healthy babies. Hallelujah.

These moms remind me that, whatever happens, it is and has always been outside of my control. I have influence, yes, but a great deal lies beyond that and the range of possible outcomes is vast and gut-wrenching.

How can I let myself celebrate when I have no guarantee that I’m not about to walk into another disaster?

Brene Brown calls this foreboding joy and explains that it’s what happens when we lose our tolerance for vulnerability.  “There is no emotion harder to feel than joy,” she writes, “because we are so afraid that it won’t last.”

Lately, I think of joy as the witch in Hansel and Gretel; she’s just trying to lure me into a trap. But I’m not a kid anymore and I see right through her. I know how to protect myself from her now.

But I need to confront the truth that denying joy is a pretty shitty strategy for avoiding pain. It can’t stop bad things from happening and I question if it really makes them hurt that much less. Embracing joy is optional, but I think pain generally just chases you down if you try to run from it.

I cannot say that I’ve been embracing joy throughout this pregnancy; I have wanted to remain about as detached as possible. But tomorrow is a new month and a new day. Maybe I can let myself look at life right now and acknowledge all the good without imaging the possibility that it will all be broken. Certainly I should convince myself that joy will not break it.

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