I feel like my posts about Mabel lately are somewhat repetitive. They all center around the seemingly inevitable question of “is he your first?” I write about it because I’m finding that the question leads to so many different outcomes.
I awkwardly made my way into the shop door, pushing the stroller with one hand carrying a bag and the carseat base with the other. As I waited in the office of the autobody shop, I cooed at Felix and made silly faces. The shop owner asked “Is he your first?”
“My second ,” I said with a smile that I like to think comes off as peaceful.
“Oh yeah? How old’s your first.”
“She would have been almost two, but she died.” My tone was calm and warm.
“Oh, I”m sorry.” He should have stopped there, but sometimes people just don’t know when to shut up. “So he’s really you first?”
No, stupid, I just told you. He is my SECOND. My first baby- my daughter- my Mabel- she died. Her death does not negate her existence. If your mother died, it doesn’t mean you never had a mother.
“He is my first living child.”
I sat on the floor of an apartment we rent out as a handyman made a repair on the door. He had done some work for me in the past- a couple things over the past few years, so I had seen him very sporadically. He helped with a messy bathroom repair a bit over two years ago- it was messy in the literal sense as well as the figurative sense- with lots of fighting with the upstairs unit owner whose toilet overflowed causing water damage in my unit’s bathroom. The owner had given me a hard time and finally quite nastily snapped at me “I’m having ankle surgery in a few days, I don”t have time for this!” At the time I was newly pregnant with Mabel, but we thought I was miscarrying and I so badly wanted to snap back “Well I’m miscarrying a very wanted baby and I don’t have time for you!” But I didn’t. This handyman was doing the work on the bathroom and so he is intertwined in my memory of that time.
When I was letting him in the door, he say me juggling to hold Felix and find my keys in my pocket and offered to hold the baby. I let him easily. We chitchatted a bit as he made the easy repair. He was asking about Felix and to continue to small talk I asked if he had kids- a question I ask with nervousness, reminded of how hard that question has been for me. But I asked because I was totally prepared for an answer about dead children. I could handle it.
“No,” he said ” And it’s too late for that. I dont want to be a grandfather to any kids-” suggesting he thought he was too old . His parents had him in their 40s and he would want to be a younger father. I sensed a bit of sadness in him, though I wasn’t in a position to address it.
“And he’s your first, right?”
“My second,” again that peaceful smile crossed my lips.
“Oh I didn’t know you had another! How old?”
“She would have been almost two, but she died last year.”
“Oh my goodness, I’m so sorry. I’m sorry I asked!”
“Thank you- and it’s ok. I like talking about her.”
“Well I bet she would have made a really awesome big sister.”
I smiled at that. The first time I heard those words. My heart swelled. “Yes. Yes she would.”