Wednesday, June 17, 2015
the difficult question
It's happened more times than I can count, but the times that really sting are the ones that stand out in my memory.
Most recently it happened while I was at one of Sadie's dance classes. The girls were practicing their performance pieces, and I was standing at the window to watch. One of the dads stood there watching as well. I know most of Sadie's dance friends' parents really well, but this dad is quiet and soft-spoken and often keeps to himself. He always smiles a hello, and although he comes all the time we've never really spoken to one another at great length until that day.
We were discussing the upcoming recital, and how well the girls have been progressing when it happened.
"So, is she your only one?" he asked me.
I struggle with this question, because yes, technically, she is my only child here on earth. But saying that always makes me feel horrible. Yet explaining that I had a child who was born prematurely and passed away makes other people feel uncomfortable. And usually these conversations happen in very casual circumstances. Situations where people don't want to hear things they deem "depressing."
So I bit my tongue, and simply replied, "yes."
I try to be a little abrupt with that response. So people don't pry and try to get more info. Sometimes it works.
But that day it didn't.
"Why? You don't want to have another one?" he asked.
What do I say to that? I haven't figured that part out. So I just sort of said nothing.
"You don't want to start all over again, huh?" he said with a smile. "Babies are a lot of work, but they are worth it!"
Who are you telling, buddy.
It's at this point, where I can't tell him the truth. We've gone too far. I can't tell him that I had a son, last year in fact, and that his name was Reece. That if he would've been born around his due date he would 9 months old right now. That I constantly look at babies around the age that Reece should be now and think how differently my life would be if my baby had had the privilege of being here as well. That I was looking forward to all of the "work" he would've been. That I absolutely know he would've been worth it. That I have his crib and his glider and ottoman that still sit in my basement in their boxes, along with a bunch of his clothes, cloth diapers in a mailer box that I still haven't been able to open, and the awesome stroller that I got for a steal of a deal off of Craigslist.
That it absolutely kills me when people ask me this question in front of Sadira. And inquire as to why I haven't, "given her a brother or a sister," as if I'm purposefully denying her the life experience of having a sibling.
I don't tell him any of this because then he will be horrified and say, "oh my gosh, I'm so sorry," and will walk on eggshells around me. I don't want to be that person, but at the same time, I don't want to deny my baby that I miss and wish I would've had a chance to see grow up.
That day I didn't cry, I didn't say much in response, I didn't even look him in the eye. I just kind of muttered a quiet, "yeah," and let it be before I walked away.
I didn't lose it. I didn't cry. I didn't even have to step outside and get some air. I was rattled, but I managed to keep it together. That's not always the case, but on that day I managed to keep it together.
But I felt sad for the rest of the evening...like I had denied Reece, when I had the chance to tell a bit of his story.
This scenario has happened so many times in so many different situations. There are times where I'm not caught off guard and I confidently hear myself saying, "actually, yes, I had a son last year, but he passed because he was born prematurely." It's in those situations that I feel most proud of myself. Usually the person who asked the question feels horrible, and gives me that "horrified look of shock" that I've come to be quite familiar with, and I usually start having to console them. I usually find myself saying things like, "It's okay. It's not okay that it happened, but it's okay that you asked." Or, "No, I don't mind talking about him, I love talking about him, because it's the only thing I can do to remember him." Or in some scenarios, the person who asked confesses that they too, had some sort of experience with babyloss and there is a moment of shared understanding. Regardless, these are the times where I feel I'm on my A-game. I not only am able to acknowledge Reece, but I'm able to talk about it. To be an advocate and put a face to babyloss, so to speak.
I feel proud of myself when I feel that I've honored him.
But there are some days I'm just not strong enough. And that's the part that sucks. Where I just don't have it in me to have the emotional, personal conversation with someone who is usually an acquaintance at best.
I need to do better.
One of Sadie's dance teachers, who has become a friend to me and has confided her own babyloss story with me, shared this article with me recently: To the Mom I Didn't Mind Making Uncomfortable at the Playground. And it spoke to me so perfectly.
Somehow that short article made me feel validated enough in sharing Reece's life the next time someone asks. So I won't feel so badly about making someone else feel uncomfortable that my child died. Because it's okay to ask, and it's okay for me to respond truthfully.
I feel like I need to respond truthfully next time. Not only for myself, but also for the other loss mothers, and for the mothers struggling with infertility.
But mostly, for Reece.
I'm going to do better.