Embracing the “Elephant in the Room”

November 12, 2012


micro-preemies going to school

My former micro-preemies heading off to pre-school.

My former micro-preemies are now 2 1/2 years old.  They started pre-school this year, and in many ways, they are doing exactly what other 2 year olds are doing.  Aside from being smaller than other 2 year olds, strangers wouldn’t know they were one pound babies or that they were born 4 months early.  I can’t even put into words how blessed I feel.

And yet – I still often feel like the elephant in the room.  Maybe I always will.  I found this definition, “‘Elephant in the room’ is an idiom for an obvious truth that is either being ignored or going unaddressed.”

I find myself avoiding pregnant women.  Certainly when talking to a pregnant woman, you must address the fact they are pregnant.  Their big bellies lurk like a huge elephant standing between you and them.  Women who don’t know my story will undoubtedly complain about some part of being pregnant.  Isn’t that what pregnant women are supposed to do?  They might go on to say something like, “I’m counting down the days” or worse, “I wish this baby would be born already.”  I’m left standing there facing my own “elephant in the room” taking up all the space between my thoughts and what will actually make it to my lips.  The obvious truth that I would love to say is, “You should count your blessings that your baby is safe inside your womb, and don’t wish prematurity on your baby.  It’s no fun!”  Fortunately, that “elephant” is crowding the space between what I want to say and what I say instead which is something like, “I hope all goes well.”  The obvious truth is left ignored.  I am the elephant in the room.

The situation isn’t much better when I’m around pregnant women who do know our story.  They don’t want to talk to me about their pregnancies because it is simply uncomfortable.  They are kind and don’t want to say anything insensitive which I appreciate.  What is there left to talk about?  Labor – no; they don’t want to hear my labor story.  What pregnant woman would want to hear that things can and do go terribly wrong?  Maternity photos or baby registries – no; never had time for either of those.  Baby names – no; we named our children in a rush scared they may only be known as Baby A and Baby B.  Nursery decorations – no; when your babies are born 4 months early, you don’t have time to peruse nursery decor.  I can no longer make baby small talk.  Again, I am the elephant in the room.

I have come to the conclusion that it is far better to succumb to being the elephant in the room than to being a pessimist.  Recently, I went to a consignment sale for mothers of multiples in our area.  As I was waiting in line, I began talking to the lady behind me.  She was pregnant with twins.  She told me that her pregnancy was “picture perfect” and she was sure she would carry her twins to 37-38 weeks.  I told her that was great.  I hope she does deliver healthy twins just as I wish no one had to experience prematurity.  What I avoided telling her was that my twin pregnancy was “picture perfect” too right up until my twins decided to make their entrance into the world 4 months early for no known reason.  I recently listened to a mom talking about how horrible it was to be on bed rest for 5 weeks.  I avoided telling her that I would have given anything for 5 more weeks of my babies developing in the womb.  That would have made them almost 29 weekers rather than almost 24 weekers- still a far cry from term but perhaps a few less weeks spent on ventilators.  Once again, I am the elephant in the room.

I am not the perspective police.  People gain their own perspective in their own time.  It is not my job to go stampeding my herd of elephants spreading grayness everywhere.  One day I hope to overcome the discomfort I feel in these situations.  I’m not there yet.  In time, I hope to be able to embrace the elephant in the room.  Perhaps, I will find the right words to tactfully and gracefully say what I am thinking, or perhaps, I will choose silence – not because I don’t know how to respond but simply because I will be too busy counting my blessings!