I went to the dentist yesterday. They called saying they had a last minute opening if I was interested, so I took them up on it. I wanted to get it over with rather than have it looming over my head. Going for my cleaning was something I was dreading because I was there six months ago and happily told them I was pregnant. I know the hygienist keeps little notes to remind them what’s going on in their patients’ lives, so I figured I’d be asked. I appreciate the notes- they always remember that I don’t like mint toothpaste but on this day I knew I might be cursing them. On my ride there I was nervous. When I arrived, it seemed like a whole new crew at the office. My usual hygienist and usual dentist weren’t there, so I thought, maybe I’ll fly under the radar. Silly me. The young hygienist asked if I had any updates to my health- I answered no. And then she said, “You were pregnant last time, did you have the baby?” I learned from my time with the tailor that perhaps short answers might be best and to answer only the question asked. So I answered yes to her question without expanding. She followed with a hearty “congratulations!” which I quietly thanked her for. “A boy or a girl?” she asked. And I replied I had a girl. She then moved on to talk about the weather, so I breathed a sigh of relief. But not long after she returned to the baby- “so is the baby sleeping through the night?” I was totally caught off guard. I was expecting a question about how old is the baby, not about specifics. In that case I would have said “she would have been 6 weeks,” and would see if she picked up on it. With this question, I literally was speechless for the moment; I didn’t know how to answer easily. Finally I decided on saying simply, “She died.” Then it was her turn to be caught off guard. She said appropriately “I’m so sorry.” Then went on to tell me I’m still young (thanks, but not really)…. And then asked “was it a miscarriage?” Again, I was a little speechless. “No, she died. She was near term and she lived for six hours. It wasn’t a miscarriage.” I’m not sure I would use the word “died” to describe a miscarriage. She asked if it was medical issues and I said, “yes, she was sick.” She said she was sorry several more times, which I appreciated. Again, this exchange was an example of someone meaning well. I’m sure, or at least I hope, that when she replayed the conversation in her head, she would have wished she said things differently. But she was caught off guard and just like I didn’t know what to say, she didn’t either.
I was caught off guard at booktcamp too. I’ve been going to a mid-morning class, because no one knows me there and the timing is better- fills up my morning more. But I realized the other day that this mid-morning class is the mommy class. It’s the moms who aren’t working who can go at 9am rather than 6:30am. I don’t know how I missed it before, but this realization hit hard when I overheard a few women talking about breastfeeding. “I’ve been essentially breastfeeding since 2006!” said one woman, referring to back to back pregnancies and the accompanying nursing. For the first time I got teary eyed at bootcamp. Seeing the newborn photos at the sign in desk didn’t make me cry, just angrily frustrated. But hearing this, I was forced to hold back the tears. I didn’t get to breastfeed- I had the boobs for it, but not the chance. If Mabel were alive, maybe I’d be joining in that conversation, rather than hoping they don’t look at my red face and watery eyes. And then when it was time to get into groups, I purposefully avoided those I identified as mommies based on their conversations. But of course I somehow get paired up with the one visibly pregnant woman in the class.
There will be a time when I’m not so caught off guard every time I interact with strangers, though I’m sure I’ll always have my moments. As this first month has passed and I’m stumbling through my second month of grief, I feel like I’m learning the way things are going to be. They say that the first month you are numb. During that time I wouldn’t have necessarily described myself as numb, but I see what they are getting at. I was so terribly sad but I wasn’t interacting so much with the outside world. I was insular, on my own island of grief. All my thoughts where thinking about what will never be and what won’t happen. It was envisioning and projecting and mourning what I saw in those visions. It was just thoughts. Now it’s experiences. I’m beginning to live it- the things that won’t be, the way things will be now. This is a whole new kind of sadness. I’m not even in real life yet; I’ve just been testing the waters and it’s cold. I don’t want to go in but I have no choice. When I begin work again I’ll be jumping in. I’ll be interacting with people all day long, many of whom will catch me off guard. That is still a month a way. I’m in such a different (not better, just different) place now than I was a month ago, how will I be in a month? Will I be ready? Will I ever be? I am too familiar with this feeling. I wasn’t ready for labor to start, but it had to. I wasn’t ready to push, so Mabel could be born, but she had to. I wasn’t ready to take her off the vent, but we had to. I wasn’t ready to give her up to the nurse after she died, but I had to. I’m tired of doing things I’m not ready for.