TW: Pregnancy loss mentioned.
Maybe the last time it was the teller at the bank or the waitress at the restaurant you went to for your anniversary dinner, but this time it was the cashier at the grocery store who asked. “Is this your first baby?” I saw it, your hand instinctively falling to smooth your shirt over your belly, the look on your face, the hesitation. Two answers, both right in some ways and wrong in others, neither without consequence.
“Uh…. yes.” You didn’t elaborate but you didn’t need to. The cashier didn’t catch it. She rambled on about tiny onesies as she pulled the ones you were buying off miniature hangers before throwing them into a bag, moved on the atrocious weather speeding towards us, ignorant to the torrent of emotional upheaval she’d unleashed with a single question. You caught my eye and I caught the guilt in yours.
A year ago I had been standing at the exactly the same place, looking swollen and round, buying baby clothes I still wasn’t convinced a baby would ever actually wear, and not knowing how exactly to answer the very same question to an equally well-meaning sales clerk. Maybe it was easier for me, because I already had two living children to speak of when I was pregnant with my third. My answer to that question now is a reflex, when someone asks pointing to the baby sitting in the front of the cart. “He’s my third. I have a girl and another little boy.” What I don’t tell everyone is I also have three babies I never got to meet. Three babies who changed me just as much as the ones who I tuck in at night, but in very different ways.
I hope you could tell my smile was a knowing one and it gave you a little comfort. I hope when you went to your car and pitched forward, clinging to the steering wheel for dear life and finally let the tears fall you didn’t feel so alone. I know you’ve heard all of the statistics. I’m sure you’re aware you are one of the one in four women who will lose a pregnancy or newborn in their lifetime. I also know in that moment, standing in the store so unready to share a difficult story but feeling like you’re leaving something or, in this case, someone important out, you felt like the only one. Mostly, I hope the weight of that baby in your arms begins to mend the hole the other(s) left, like my son has healed me.
Another Conflicted Mama
Today is the last day of October which also happens to be Pregnancy Loss and Infant Loss Awareness month. While everyone knows many pregnancies end in miscarriage, stillbirth or the loss of a newborn, many people don’t know who or where to turn when they join the 25% of us who have said goodbye to a child before we have the chance to really say hello. If you or someone you know has lost a pregnancy or an infant, there resources may be helpful.
Tremelo by Kathy Hansen Maher: This is a book of poetry revolving around the author’s recurrent miscarriage. This helped me the most, I think. It made me feel like grief I felt and the sudden shifts in it’s severity were reasonable and human.
MEND Lots of different resources here and they also run support groups in several states.
Share Another wonderful site which also sets up support groups in 29 states and growing.
March of Dimes Bereavement Kit The March of Dimes also sends out booklets about handing grief after losing a baby and sometimes getting something physical to hold helps you realize your baby was real too.
If you have any resources that were helpful to you, leave a comment below and I will add it to this list.