October 2013- that was the last I had seen her. I knew because that was the date on the last note I had written.
You had a baby! Congratulations!
Thank you, I smiled warmly.
So much has happened since I was here last!
Yes- a lot has happened. The emphasis in my words hinted at a hidden story…
Well now you really know what it’s like, huh? she jested, referencing my my former life as a midwife who hadn’t given birth, who didn’t have kids yet.
My heart beat a little faster and my head spun a little- it was the shadow of a feeling I used to know very well, in the early days. I used to tense up- heart racing, palms sweating, chest tightening- when someone would ask “How’s the baby?” or “Do you have kids?” It’s a feeling of fear, grief, sadness, anger all mixed up, when asked a question I wasn’t quite sure how to answer. It was a feeling of anticipation- wondering how the other person would react, how to tell of my daughter without making the situation overly awkward.
Now the situation has changed. The tense feeling has softened. She didn’t ask if he was my first. There was no question to respond to. It was all assumption. The only way she could know the whole story was if I volunteered the information, something I have yet to master in a way that feels good. I wanted to say. I sure do! Two kids since I’ve seen you last! But doing so would only lead to follow up questions- how old is your first... I’d share that she had died and the requisite polite words or unhelpful platitudes would come. And it would feel like I’m fishing for sympathy.
I chose the path of least resistance-maybe not an outright lie but a lie of omission almost. It didn’t feel great.
Not telling the whole story felt wrong, telling the whole story felt wrong. Damned if I do, damned if I don’t.
what do you do?