A second chance to respond

She approached with a friendly smile. “Don’t you have a new baby?”

I was at bootcamp and the woman behind the words was familiar to me. I knew she had a little baby from an interaction I had with her a few months ago. I remembered her friendly face. In bootcamp we often have to pair up.   Many times I don’t know anyone in the class, so I look around to see who has a welcoming face. This woman had caught my eye.

The words caught in my throat. Six months after my daughter’s death I don’t get choked up when asked about her; I can say the words with out crying. But I get hung up on what to say, how to say it. I almost dread disappointing people when they ask such a simple question, one that deserves a simple answer. I pause awkwardly when asked, thinking how they have no idea the bomb I’m about to drop on them.

“I did… she died,” I replied after a too long silence.

“Oh,” her face fell and the easy smile that pegged her as a friendly workout partner disappeared. “Oh… I’m … I’m so sorry.”  Her brow wrinkled in a mix of concern and surprise and I watched as she walked away processing the information.

When the warm up was over, I found another partner and threw myself into my workout. I mulled over the short interaction in my head, sometimes thinking simply how surreal it was. This was my life now- killing conversations, saying my baby died. There was no other way to do it. The question was asked; the words had to be said.

At the end of the class, I stood, sopping with sweat, slurping my water bottler as I gathered my things to leave. She came up to me and got my attention. Her eyes glistened with tears held back and said in a wavering voice,

“I just wanted to say when I asked you earlier- I wanted to tell you that you look so strong. Even more so now that I know. I’m so sorry.”

“Thank you. Don’t be sorry for asking,” I said with a half smile. “It’s nice when people ask about her. She was real. It’s nice to talk about her.”

“I had a baby is November and that was my worst fear.”

“Me too…. I knew she was going to be sick, but I still hoped.”

“I just want you to know I’ll be thinking about you. About both of you.”

What a nice thing, to have a second chance. She handled the first interaction well, but she did even better with the second one. It was genuine. My first words caught her off guard, and she was decent. But she shined when she had some moments to herself and really process. If only everyone was gifted some time to reflect, perhaps kind words would flow more easily.

18 thoughts on “A second chance to respond

  1. That’s awesome that woman came back and offered sincere and kind words of support. It’s also inspiring how gracious you are during these interactions.

    I struggle when people ask about my baby and try to brace myself for their reaction. I also try to warm them up to news by starting with “I have sad news about the baby…”, especially when it is in a passing interaction with a person, like in the grocery store. It doesn’t change people’s deflated reaction, but it sometimes lessens their sudden shock and makes the situation a little easier for me to manage. It doesn’t always work out though. Some people still freak out even when I just tell them that there’s sad news about a baby. Sad things shouldn’t happen to babies, but sad things do happen to babies even when you do your best to make sure nothing sad happens.

    Stay strong Meghan!

    • I think I”ve learned grace from having to address this relatively frequently by seeing up to 25 patients a day, some of whom comment. The sign I put up, decreases the comments asking how the baby is, i think. My hope with it was that it provided people with that second chance (time to reflect before speaking). i’m always impressed and my heart swells a little when people read it and do say something.
      I like how you use that into- the sad news about the baby- my struggle is in that moment of them asking and how to let them down. I might try that and see how it works!

  2. I hear you… I still struggle with this as well, though for me I think it’s also about a misguided need to not make them feel bad? Do you know what I mean? It’s like, I say, “I had a son, but he died,” and then feel the need to immediately qualify with “but it’s okay though” or something so that they don’t get too upset or freaked out (or think that I’m going to). So I think my struggle with the question is more about getting used to answering authentically while not also trying to make it “all better” for the other person. I’m so glad she returned to try again. We need more people like that in our lives!

    • always want to make people feel better, right? I thought about it this time- whether I’d say she was sick or not. I decided yes- as almost a reward for her coming up again. she was sincere and I felt like she earned it. I could have been happy to tell her the whole story if given the opportunity (I’ve discovered I really “enjoy”- wrong word but something like it- telling her story, the long version).

      Its funny, I imagine I’ll see her again and I kind of want to give her a business card with this blog on it, you know? So she can read how I wrote about our interaction and the positive feedback from the community. give some good reward to her.

  3. What a thoughtful reaction…
    I am amazed at how common it is for parents who have lost their children to try and make it better for the people we are interacting with. I have found myself many times in a similar situation, saying a version of “but it’s ok” and then realizing “no, actually, it’s not ok. at all!”

  4. What a great story to share, and I’m glad she came back up to you, and that she now has both of you in her thoughts. The awkwardness fades a little bit with time, but yes, with strangers its not like it just rolls off your tongue as you consider who you’re talking to, how often you’ll see them, whether there is room for friendship and vulnerability, etc. Proud of you!

  5. These are never straightforward interactions, but good for you for following through with your heart and I’m thankful it was with a relatively compassionate person.

    My after-Zachary response is exceptionally difficult. “Yes, I do have other children. Two sons. They are both dead. Yes, you heard me right…”. It is a conversation killer for certain. It hurts when people just have to look away, when it’s just too much for their happy, happy. I want to ask why I should feel ostracized when I am already intensely bereaved.

    • I imagine it’s always going to be a bit of a conversation killer. The looks I get when I say my baby died are tough- I can only imagine what kind of looks you get wen you say two of your babies died! But yes, you should not be ostracized on top of your grief 😦

  6. How lovely that lady came back to you with such a kind and considered response. In my experience some people have been great, while others haven’t known what to say. I’ve prepared kind of a script to try to deal with these situations, but it frustrates me a little that I have to think of other people’s sensitivities. Like others have observed, it really can depend so much on the person and the situation.

    • What’s your script, Leigh? I”m clearly still working on mine. It is totally frustrating to have to think of others during our own grief? we do it though, right? unfair, but life is unfair!

  7. How sweet that she came back. It is so hard to talk about our babies, given the all too common reaction. I wish I knew a way to communicate that, while it’s not okay that they died, it is ok to talk about them. In fact, we often want to talk about them.

  8. Yesterday, while meeting with my midwife (a fellow TG) I asked her if she knew the woman at the gym that had lost her baby. She said yes and I burst into tears, “I said everything wrong…” and proceeded to tell her my version of my interaction with the Mom (Megan) at the gym. I have my own experience with loss (as we all do) and my combination of suffering recurrent miscarriages, having a baby brother that lived 24 hours, and two good friends that have lost late term pregnancies brought up my own issues in the moment…I honestly just wanted to run out of the gym and cry my eyes out for this Mom and her baby. But this gym is a unique place with wonderful women and coaches so I stayed…because she was so gracious…and tried my jumbled words again…

    My amazing midwife talked with me and mentioned Megan’s blog…and now I know Mabel’s story. And it is good. And Megan is strong.

    • I”m so glad you found me (and us here)! This literally made my day. I hope you’ve read through the comments and seen how much you impressed some of these babyloss moms. I’ve learned that my news is so shocking that I don’t usually get a “perfect” response (not sure what that would even be…)> I try to give a lot of credit for effort. May you be a good example for everyone else out there.

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