So yesterday, I attended Kitsap HOPE Circle.

It’s a support group for women who have recently had a child (whether biologically or through foster care/adoption.)

Basically, it’s the last place on earth I would expect myself to be.

I mean, yes, I have recently expanded our family (through foster-to-adopt.) Yes, I have a new baby (to me). And yes, I occasionally need support.

But — I still in a million years wouldn’t have pictured me there, in a circle with BRAND-SPANKING-NEW moms with their tiny little *alive* babies, dealing with all the related issues.

And I have to tell you. I felt ANCIENT compared to them.

I had to keep reminding myself that I wasn’t any older than most of those girls. And yet dealing with postpartum issues felt like decades ago. No. It felt like it happened to a different person — not to me. I can hardly even remember who I was 5 years ago as I was pregnant and awaiting my first child to arrive.

Who was that person who felt so let down by her body, even when her child survived? Who got PTSD and postpartum depression? Was that really me?

Even as I struggled to pull deep in my past to be able to say anything relatable to the others in the room, I still knew that they needed support.

Sure. I’m not going to lie. I was insanely jealous. I kept eyeing the massive belly in the room like maybe a monster was going to pop out of it or something. To be honest, I was scared for her! I felt like saying, “Um, aren’t you terrified yet? I mean, your daughter could die in there.”

Yeah . . . um, not something I should ever, ever say even think.

I digress.

So, I didn’t exactly fit in.

And the reminders of that were everywhere. Thankfully, I didn’t run out crying. Or have a panic attack at being surrounded by fertile women. Heck, I didn’t even steal a baby. (Thought about it though, lol!)

And, like I said, I could at least acknowledge that they needed support. Even though the memories of life with baby Maddy are fuzzy, I do remember being overwhelmed at the responsibility and newness of mommy-dom. Up until recently, it was the hardest thing I had really gone through: Going from an independent woman . . . to a mom of the most dependent little [screaming] creature ever.

So a support group makes sense for them.

Just maybe not for me.

And it got me thinking. I don’t really know where I belong.

When I’m around other young moms (such as at the support group, or MOPS), I don’t feel like I fit. I feel like an imposter mom. I have the struggles of being the mom to a preschooler and toddler — but there’s so much more to it. The struggle is so much more complex.

I don’t fit in with infertiles. Because how could I fit in when I don’t know what it’s like to go through years and years of testing, two-week-waits, and BFNs with no baby as a reward? I don’t know what that’s like. And I can’t exactly feel free to voice how I’m feeling to them when the truth is — I know what it’s like to have a baby shower. I know what it’s like to push my child through the park on a Sunday afternoon with my hubby. I know what it’s like to rock your baby to sleep, sing lullabyes, and wonder if your heart will just burst with love and pride over your precious bundle. And so how can I even share my disappointment with those who are just waiting for their FIRST??

We are adopting a child — and yet I still don’t fit in with rainbow mommies. All my in-utero rainbow babies didn’t make it. I have recurrent losses. I don’t know if my body will ever sustain a child again. And so that incompleted task of producing a baby still hangs over my head every day. I’m not a real rainbow mom.

I feel the closest to bereaved moms, or baby loss moms. But there are times when I still can’t let myself relate. I have not buried a child (and I don’t know that flushing the clots you knew were your baby down the toilet counts.). The more I write about my pregnancy losses, the more I feel like I’m just being a drama queen. That somehow, my feelings are nothing more than a desperate cry for attention. In spite of my best efforts — the words of a criticizer still occasionally ring in my ears — Especially when I see how quiet other women are about their early losses. [“Let’s all get world attention for being a martyr,” I think were his words.]

I know that I have lost children, and not just pregnancies. But that doesn’t mean I don’t feel sheepish and slightly embarrassed every single time I refer to my dead babies by name. Afterall, I didn’t get a chance to see any of them on ultrasound. Just an emtpy uterus, over and over again. So how could I possibly relate to some of my best friends who had stillbirths? And why is it that so many of my friends that have had early losses treat them like a bump in the road, when my very identity is colored by my losses? It has colored everything for me.

And lastly — I don’t feel like I know how to relate to just foster moms or adoptive moms. But maybe that’s because I don’t know enough of them.

I know I’m not unique in this. Can’t we all just NOT RELATE? Isn’t there enough differences in our pasts, our losses, our hopes, our faith (or lack thereof) to make it so we can never really completely get each other. We can’t always bring EVERYTHING to the table.

I think what I’ve decided is that I just sometimes I will have to put parts of my experience on the backburner. Maybe to get through pregnancy talk, I’ll talk of the all-day, 9-month morning sickness with Maddy and the like (but ignore the part where we both could have died. Most pregnant moms don’t want to know that.)

When we talk childhood struggles, I’ll focus on my current challenges and listen in without being tempted to one-up them because I’m dealing with grief/fertility testing/chronic disappointment while doing all of the normal mommy stuff. (And the not-so-normal — like having social worker visits and an open adoption.Oh, and running a crazy-awesome business from home.)

When I’m with rainbow moms, I could address how hard it is to parent when you need to grieve. Or the crazy crazy fear that comes after loss. But I will have to steer away from pregnancy stuff — because of this crazy failure (I feel) that I haven’t produced a baby yet.

When I’m with bereaved moms, I’ll do my best to relate to the deep grief, jealousy, anger, questioning, ad everything that goes with it. But I will not have pictures to share. I won’t have a gravestone to visit. I won’t be able to tell stories of how I delivered, or how many fingers or toes they had. I’m not saying either of our losses is harder. Just saying that, yet again, sometimes I feel like a imposter.

Maybe compartmentalizing isn’t the right way to go about it. To be honest I don’t know what is.

What do you do when you can’t relate? What’s it like when you CAN relate, and you feel like you just belong? Ok. And be honest now. Who else would’ve thought about stealing a baby?

Flowers we received from Ryan after our loss of Olivia and my surgery.

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