Muppet and I preformed a rescue mission last week. It was my day off and a particularly warm day for those of us in the northeast. My car thermometer hit the 50s as we drove to a local hiking venue. The snow on the main and easiest path is usually packed down enough for hiking up to the top in just hiking boots and the day was no exception. There were several other hikers, many with dogs, out that day too. We had just turned the first few bends of the path when we stopped in front of a lady crouching down, two dogs at her side.
“Is this your dog?” she asked somewhat confused. I then realized that one of the dogs was leashed and the other she had by the collar alone. When I spoke my no, she then asked “did you see anyone looking for a dog?” Apparently she found this dog walking down the trail unaccompanied. I took a turn holding the dog, calm and content sitting with us, as we investigated his collar for tags. His name was Max and we found some phone numbers. The other woman tried one, but had no service. After a few attempts I was able to get someone on my phone. Before I had a chance to speak, a woman’s voice asked “do you have a little brown dog?” She wasn’t far downt he trail and Max apparently was a little hard of hearing, but we held on to him until his owner appeared and leashed him up.
Pretty content withourselves, Muppet and I continued up the trail with the original woman who found Max. We chatted for quite a bit- mostly small talk, about things like our dogs and the weather. I remarked how it has been frustrating taking a puppy out so much in the freezing temperatures, always on a leash. I went on to say how the past weeked was really rough because it was cold, but I was also super sick and had to take care of the puppy alone, because my husband was out of town.
“Oh, do you have kids then?”
Such a benign question in most other scenarios. I sighed mentally as I tried to decide how to answer. I still hate denying Mabel’s existence with a simple “no.” And the “none living” doesn’t sit well with me either. But this woman was a complete stranger- we hadn’t even learned each other’s names. I knew far more about her dog and her previous one than I did about her and here I was debating how to tell her such an intimate detail of my life.
“Not in the house…” I mumbled awkwardly. Ugh. I didn’t want that to be my answer. I just needed more time to think about it and craft the words that I really wanted to say. The conversation continued, but my response was still on my mind. But another opportunity presented. I can’t remember what exactly brought us to it, but I found myself saying, “Well, I had a daughter last year, but she died after birth. I got Muppet as a puppy not long after, so she could help fill that space. She’s my baby now.” My tone was cheerful and loving and her response was the appropriate “Oh, I’m sorry.” I was able to transition the conversation back to the dogs, talking about how protective I am of my puppy and the small talk flowed.
This interaction has sat with me though, now days later. I thought I was good at answering that dreaded question, especially when I’m in my office, where I hear variations of it most often. But I suppose I was unprepared on the trail. I guess I need to learn to be prepared all the time. I think I would have been happier if I answered “Yes- a daughter” or “I had a daughter” and see where the conversation went. Perhaps next time.
Has this happened to you? Thought you had mastered something in your babyloss world, only to be caught off guard and stumble?
My husband and I were in FL last week for a work event. We were being introduced to new people and because I’m obviously pregnant, the question came up. We were standing in a group of maybe 8 people when someone asked how many kids we have and how old. One person in the group was a friend, so he obviously knew our story. My husband kind of looked at me and said that our daughter was 6 and our son 1.5. I didn’t know what to do as our friend and myself became uncomfortable. I will say, it was not the time or place or audience to have ‘that’ conversation. It’s hard to figure out who to say it to. I tell everyone that asks about Benny, but this was the first time that someone had asked in a group setting. Just another hurdle to figure out I suppose. As soon as you think you have it figured out, a new situation is thrown your way.
I loved reading your husband’s response- it must have been hard for him, but I’m glad that’s what came naturally. It’s so so hard in that kind of setting- groups, strangers- to know what the heck to say, leaving you feeling satisfied with the answer (hah! will we ever?) or at least leaving you not feeling guilty, maybe, but also making it ok for the group? I constantly think why should we care about making it ok for others- but the sad truth of it is, that’s life. socially we cant derail conversations every time. ugh it’s such a hard thing to navigate!
I’ve worked through a few responses and find myself happiest with “My son would be one but he passed away last year.” So far, it’s still led to some awkward silences but I am happy with it, so I guess that’s what matters!
I totally used you’re phrase after I read it! I said something like “she would have been one but she died last year.” SOmetimes having a script is so helpful. thank you!
I call those moments “sucker punches”. Times when “the question” catches us completely off our guard. Mauling over this post has got me philosophically thinking about how our unrehearsed responses, may be the most candid indication of how we are really doing, regarding our minds coming to terms with the death of our babies? Going by this theory, Mabel is your “missing from the house” baby. Putting you in the pinning phase?
In my most recent “sucker punch” moment, which was at a work, talking to a colleague recently returned from a 2 years overseas placement and oblivious to the past year’s news. My first response to his “so, what have I missed out on” catch up jovial chat?…”I had a baby girl, she is in the cemetery!
I guess we can conclude that I am still in the morbid phase?
By the way, Muppet has the cutest dog eyes ever!
It’s so interesting that you brought that up- perhaps the unrehearsed responses are most candid. I hated my response- “not in the home?” really? but yes- there is subtlety there- suggesting a child that existed but not in the home. I think I didnt like it because it suggests my child was taken away from me, by like child protective services or something. fascinating to analyze or instant responses! Is it terrible that I chuckle a little at your response? I can often come up with good liners in my head- i think if anyone ever asked (like they would?) where my child was in daycare- i’d want to say, “oh, over at Hillside. YOu know, the cemetery?” a little humor only the babylost can appreciate.
and thanks- I do love my Muppet.
This question just suck. Does not matter how I answer them. I never feel it was justified. I only tell the truth to the ones I can trust and feel close to.
I dont think it’ll ever be an easy question.