Spring is finally in the air, and with it comes some of my very favorite things: delightful temperatures, blossoming plants, fresh food, outdoor festivals. But with the dawn of this beautiful time of year also come some of my least favorite things: pollen (so much pollen), tax season, bees, and April Fools’ Day.
If you’ve experienced infertility and/or miscarriages, and you’re on social media, I’m willing to bet you commiserate with me on that last one.
For years, April Fools’ Day was among my least favorite days of the year. A day which I boycotted Facebook and Instagram as a method of self-preservation. These are the same years when I was experiencing infertility and recurrent miscarriage. I knew from experience that being a recluse was the most emotionally beneficial move.
Why? Fake pregnancy announcements.
It’s not a matter of being offended.
I get that it’s just a joke and that you don’t mean any harm. I certainly don’t fault you for not understanding my experience. But please, let me explain.
Most fake pregnancy announcements contain 1 of 2 things:
- An ultrasound photo. (Which, obviously doesn’t belong to the person posting it.)
- A picture of a positive pregnancy test. (Again, likely not belonging to the poster.)
I won’t post either of those here for the same reasons I’m asking you to reconsider posting them.
For the moment, let’s skip the conversation about posting a photo of the inside of a stranger’s uterus and focus on the impact post can have on people who see your feed. While it may seem innocent to post one of these pictures online and see the reactions you get, the strongest reactions are the ones you don’t see.
About those responses, you don’t see.
You’ve probably heard talk of “triggers,” and if you don’t know what that experience is like, I’m envious. A “trigger” is something that sets off a memory. It transports someone back to an original trauma. I use the word transports very intentionally. Please realize that a trigger does not simply remind someone of a trauma. It actually takes them back there, thus evoking a visceral reaction from the subconscious part of their brain. And for someone who’s experienced infertility, pregnancy loss, stillbirth, or infant loss, those ultrasound or pregnancy announcement photos can unintentionally transport them back to a very dark place.
Let’s get really personal for a minute.
I tried for a year-and-a-half to conceive. In infertility terms, that’s not long. I found pregnancy tests upsetting. I’d never seen two lines, and it was hard to see other people’s two lines. But for me, that was not triggering.[quote]A “trigger” is something that that sets off a memory that transports someone back to an original trauma.[/quote]
Seeing a positive pregnancy test photo in my news feed made me briefly sad for myself, but it did not bring me back to any specific trauma. For some people, it does, and if you know those people, I encourage you to listen to their stories.
But my story is about ultrasounds.
When I finally saw those two pink lines, I didn’t believe it could be true. I stayed awake all night, excited for the next morning when I happened to have my annual GYN appointment. They confirmed what my two pink lines had already told me. We began the process of running blood tests, following hormone levels and imagining the life of the baby we’d been dreaming of. I remember sitting down in the waiting room with my husband for our first ultrasound and looking at another couple that was anxiously excited, as well. Thinking to myself, “We should befriend this couple. Our babies will be the same age.”
I thought of that couple as we left the ultrasound room, paralyzed with fear because things didn’t look good for us. And, as I spent a week trying to convince myself that everything was okay. Trying to remember the reassurances of the ultrasound tech who said I might just be earlier than I thought.
I thought of them when we got the news that we’d lost our baby and when we determined to have a D&C because my body hadn’t recognized the loss. When I was going into surgery and when I was recovering. When I had my next ultrasound and when I learned of my next loss.
I thought of that couple every single day through that due date. Wondering how the mom’s belly was growing, how the baby was maturing, and on my due date, wondering whether their baby had been born yet. Years later, with a child of my own, I still think of that couple and their child.
What I don’t think of is the ultrasound room, or the ultrasound technician, or God forbid, the ultrasound.
I don’t let my gaze go in that direction when I go to my doctor. If I have any control over it, I will never interact with that technician again.
Because every time I see her, or imagine that room, or imagine what she wouldn’t let me see on the ultrasound screen, or remember what I eventually saw on that screen, my palms get sweaty, my heart begins to race, the world around me literally gets darker. My vision starts to fade out, and I see darkness where there once was light.
These are symptoms of panic, and I feel them even writing this post.
It’s the same panic I feel when I see an ultrasound on social media. It’s the same devastation I experience every June 17, my first due date. I don’t feel it on the due dates of my other losses because I intentionally never learned what those dates were. It’s the same anxiety I dread every April Fools’ Day.
For me, it’s the ultrasound. For someone who’s been through years of infertility, it might be the two pink lines. For someone who lost an infant or birthed a sleeping baby, it might be the large belly photo. Or it might be something else entirely because everyone’s story is their own.
This is why I beg you, on April Fools’ Day, please remember the mothers like me. The mothers who have dreamed of the announcement they might one day post more times than you can imagine. The mothers who have cried over every announcement they see, their bodies shaking as they question why they can’t be so lucky. Mothers whose hearts ache, whose arms are empty, whose pain is invisible. The mothers with little ones to love who are still recalled to moments of anguish, fear, devastation, when past experiences flash before them.
Please, think of us, and give us some grace when you choose your April Fools’ prank.