At the dog park, we watch our dogs run around and play together. We refer to each other in relation to our pets. “I’m Muppet’s mom.” and “Oliver’s mom brought dog toys.” We swap names of groomers, complain about those who don’t clean up after their dogs and laugh our dogs romp around. Occasionally, the conversation turns to life outside of our dogs. Bringing Felix to the park often invites this kind of conversation. Today, I had the same question, but different conversations.
“He’s been cranky all day, which is not easy when I work from home!” I shared when someone asked about the little guyI was wearing in the baby bjorn.
“What do you do for work?”
I explained about my two jobs- I work part time as a midwife and part time for a non profit. Usually people, especially other women, pounce on the midwifery as an area of interest. But this time it was different.
“What non profit?”
“Hope After Loss- we support the pregnancy and infant loss community. We run support groups, do outreach and give financial support for burial and cremation.”
“Oh….” the light hearted tone of the conversation had changed. A beat later, the lightness returned as she changed the subject. “How was your labor with him?” she asked, nodding toward Felix.
“Hah! That’s a story!”
“Oh, was it long?”
“Oh no, it was super quick,” I said as I gave her the breakdown of how after a fifteen minute labor he was born into my hands over the toilet.
“Wow! And he’s you’re first!?” she said questioningly.
“My second, that’s why he came so fast.”
“How old’s your first?”
“She would have been 20 months…” I could see the confusion in her face as she tried to understand the past tense. “But she died.”
Her face fell as she struggled to comprehend. “Oh I”m so sorry… She lived for 20 months?”
“No, she lived for six hours.”
“I’m so sorry,” she repeated, looking distressed.
“Thank you. I like talking about her,” I reassured her. Then followed a short conversation about my daughter. It felt good to be open and honest.
As we wrapped up the details of Mabel’s birth and death, she looked at Felix in the baby carrier and said “at least you have him now.” Looking for the silver lining in the death of a baby.
I kissed my son on his head and said “Yes, I am so grateful to have him. But I miss his sister still.”
“Is he your first?”
“Oh, well then you know what you’re in for!” she said with a smile.
“Nope. No I don’t.” Except I didn’t say that. I thought it. I thought about saying it, especially after the previous conversation I had. But I didn’t. There’s just a split second I have to make the decision, whether I tell her. I spent that split second thinking and not speaking and the moment was over. Sometimes I wonder what the conversation would have been like had I spoke. It’s just so much easier to answer direct questions rather than volunteering the information.