I couldn’t do it.

I couldn’t do it.

We were out to brunch at our local spot.  I had Felix dressed in one of my favorite outfits. “Little brother” the onesie read.  I have three shirts that say this telling phrase.  One from a long distance friend who hold Mabel close in her heart.  Another from a kind patient. A third I bought, unable to resist.  He’s outgrown two of them and the third he practically busting the seams, but I’m reluctant to let it go.  I proudly dressed him in it that morning.

The waitress cooed at him and he flirted back.  “Little brother!” she read his shirt. “Where’s your sister?” she continued and looked at me.

I sat with a dumb smile plastered to my face- mouth partially open, waiting for the words to come.

I couldn’t do it.

She’s dead. She died. She’s gone.  I couldn’t find the right words.  I’ve said it dozen of times; I’ve gotten quite good at it, actually.  But in the bustle and noise of the restaurant, with the smiling waitress making fast chit chat, I just couldn’t do it.

Whether she sensed my hesitation or assumed I didn’t hear, she moved on to the next bit of chatter.

I couldn’t do it.  I’m sorry, my baby, I didn’t know how to tell her about you.  I’m sorry, Mabel.

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A complicated holiday

The holidays are upon us again.  I’m both looking forward to them and not.  I’m looking forward to be at this big family event with a living baby.  Two years ago I was at Thanksgiving, pregnant with a child that we knew had Down Syndrome, but did not yet know had failing kidneys. Though I was at the point in my pregnancy where I was trying to celebrate, I did so cautiously.  I was still in the second trimester, when the risk of loss was 20%.  I treaded lightly.  I was among family, some of whom where pregnant with healthy babies, and I was secretly (or not so secretly) envious, wishing I could simply just be pregnant.  It was a complicated holiday.

Last year was my first Thanksgiving without Mabel.  I longed for the year before when I could still hope, even if cautiously, for a take home baby.  Those were easier days.  On this next family gathering, I was well acquainted with the new life of child loss and I did not like it.  I did not like attending holidays without my daughter.  It felt empty and and wrong.  I even held within me a little secret- I was newly pregnant but this small developing life inside me was known only to me and my husband. The hope of this new baby was not enough to lighten my heavy heart- and it shouldn’t have been. A new baby did not negate the loss of my daughter. It was a complicated holiday.

And now this Thanksgiving, my second Mabel-less turkey day.  This year I bring with me, my son, a warm squishy body to fill my once empty, aching arms.  That hope of a new baby has turned into the reality of one.  He is my protection- a shield against some of the sorrow that is bound to creep in.  He is also my light- he has brought me so much joy and I am excited to share him with the family.  Because he is here with me, I have begun to enjoy things again- but cautiously. I would hate for people to think that because he is here I am no longer sad, no longer long for my first baby.  So still, it will be a complicated holiday.

May Thanksgiving be gentle to you.

at the dog park

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?”

“My second.”

“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.