A white lie

I lied….sort of.

Chris did the Best Buddies ride up in Cape Cod- a 100 mile bike ride to fundraise for the organization that helps people with intellectual and developmental disabilities- people like Mabel or who Mabel would have been. And so Chris rode in memory of Mabel. Turns out it’s good training for him, as he’s doing a half iron man next weekend (who is this guy??).

Our plans were a bit interrupted. We originally planned to spend the night before at my parents house, which is 20 minutes from the race start, but Muppet decided to eat one of Chris’s inhalers the day before and had to spend a night at the vet for monitoring. So Chris got up at the crack of dawn (before dawn actually- at 330am) to make it up to Boston to check in and ride at 7am. I stayed behind to retrieve the silly, but stable puppy and drove to meet him at the finish line on Cape Cod. We spent that night at my parents’ house instead of the one before. As we walked the puppy outside that evening, we ran into a neighborhood couple. My parents live in a community of town houses along the water, with a nice walking path right outside their doorstep. Neighborhood people often walk along there and this couple was very friendly. The man introduced himself and was quite chatty, in a way that made me wish my dad was with us because I’m sure they would have gotten along quite well (my parents were in Florida at a family funeral- one I would have attended had I not been grounded by my midwives due to my late gestation and history of preterm birth).

After the appropriate petting and cooing at the puppy, he amiably commented on my protruding belly. “Congratulations, I see!”

“Thank you,” I smiled softly (can one smile softly? I think so). I’m still working on accepting congratulations gracefully.

“Is it your first?”

“No, my second.”

“Oh boy, you’ll have some sibling rivalry, then, huh?”

“Mmm hmm.” I lied.

“We have two daughters five years apart. They warned us the older one might regress. I thought, no way- not at five. But they were right!”

I smiled politely at his story trying not to betray my reeling mind and pounding heart. I was still thinking about the subtle accession I had made with my simple “Mmm hmm.” He thought my first child was alive and I didn’t correct him. It wasn’t an outright lie- but it felt like one. I couldn’t do it though, not with this man, who I would likely never see again. I don’t think I’ll ever deny Mabel’s existence, but for the first time I denied her death. This protruding belly is an announcement to the world, something that people happily comment freely on, a public billboard inviting strangers to ask usually harmless, friendly questions.

I know this is a common conundrum among us. I’ve read so many of your posts in how you respond and yet I’m still caught off guard at my own response this time.

So tell me again, how do you respond to strangers?

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I need to stop talking about the furnance

I made small talk as she ran the credit card.

“Weather’s turned cold, huh!” she said.

“Yeah, and our furnace is broken, so we’ve been without heat for the past few days.” I replied, trying to be friendly.

“Oh no! That’s awful.”

“Yeah, We’re surviving. We have space heaters. It’s the no hot water that’s tough.”

“Oh, no. Do you have kids?”

Ugh.

“None living,” I said quietly, the upbeat tone of companionship gone from my voice, and quickly changed the subject.

 

“Brr, it’s cold in here!” the phlebotomist apologized.

“It’s ok, it feels good! We’ve been without heat for five days!” again making small talk as she busied herself with getting the vials ready.

“Oh no! Do you have kids?”

“None living,” I replied, with that now familiar quietness in my voice, knowing that the conversation was about to die.

 

So much for small talk.

 

I can’t seem to simply just say no. These are the kind of people I should say no to- the ones I wont see again, who don’t need to know about the beautiful baby I brought into the world and said good bye to a few hours later. I should save her story for people who will respond well. But I just can’t. I know we all struggle when asked this question, and I’ve loved reading how people respond. I’ve really respected those who respond “no” or don’t count their one less baby when talking with strangers and sharing their story with closer people. It seems like the right thing to do, though apparently I just can’t- or at least not yet. Perhaps if I had kids, it would be easier to answer. “Do you have kids?” yes, and maybe the follow up of how many would not come. But being a childless mother- there is no simple answer to “do you have kids?” and my conversations over the past couple days have shown me just how pervasive the question is, even in conversations that have nothing to do with family!

 

Ugh.

Day 4: Now

Day 4: Now

Now…I hold puppies.  Before… I held babies.  Now, after my baby died.  Before, before my baby died.

My little pup is becoming my new world and a lifeline to the old world to which I belonged.  In The Before, I was very social and outgoing; I would talk to strangers easily.  In my Now, I’ve come a long way.  At first I was that pariah like lump sitting in the corner at social gatherings, ready to burst into tears at any minute.  Now I can socialize, being present in conversation, but I am far from the social butterfly I once was.  Muppet, however, is the socialite I once was.  Today, while at a cyclocross race, Muppet would walk up unabashedly to a group of people and stare up at them saying with her eyes “hi there! look at me!” So I was forced to interact with many more  people than I would have.  I practiced smiling and pleasantries with strangers, something I used to be good at.  Now… I hold puppies and am slowly re-entering the world I used to be so comfortable in.

#CaptureYourGrief

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Day 4: Now