Damned if I do….

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?


4 thoughts on “Damned if I do….

  1. I face the same dilemma. Especially now that I’m back in school mostly among people younger than me. The fact that I have a baby at home is already surprising for them, and I really haven’t figured out how to tell anyone that I have two.
    I agree with you, volunteering that information often feels wrong…

    I’m glad to read some news from you. I hope Felix is well. And sending many thoughts to Mabel.

  2. I gauge- put out my evaluation meter and quickly check for if the true information will matter to the recipient or not. I got arrested on Friday for unknowingly (on my part) parking in a restricted parking zone. The officer asked if I was a mother, because, he said, it was coming to a weekend, and if he detained my car it might be a huge inconvenience to the children. I said no, because detaining my car would in no way inconvenience a dead baby. He detained my car.
    I have come to believe my baby can see the truth that is my heart when I answer such questions, and understands that I am in no way denying her or loving her any less. Its always about the quality of the recipient, and I am sure so does your Mabel.

  3. I tend to put people into groups these days – if it’s someone I’m likely to see fairly regularly then I tell them, if it’s a casual acquaintance or an encounter in a shop I don’t. But it doesn’t always work that way – my 4 year old is quite vocal and often announces loudly that she had a baby brother and he died. As time has gone on, it’s less of a worry for me but I remember the early months had me feeling tense during any conversation with someone who didn’t already know. There really is no right or wrong, just doing what your gut tells you in the moment xxx

  4. I do not know your pain. I only know the parts of pain I can as a friend of those who have lost their babies.

    I recently made a new acquaintance and I appreciated how she answered my question. “I had a son and I have a daughter.” The tenses were so gently and mindfully spoken. I didn’t feel awkward or like a certain response was expected of me. I just felt like I was being let in on a sad and essential truth to who this lady is. And so I followed up, gently using the tenses myself. “How old is she and how old would he be?” She smiled sadly as she answered “18 months and 8 years.”

    To say that good is coming of Mabel’s passing seems far too flippant. But I do value the truthful emotions and experiences you share. Even though I cannot relate to them myself, they inform my questions and conversation. They slow me down and make me mindful.

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