Millie would have been four months old September 30…Almost every newborn I see, I think of Millie and how old and how big she would have been. I imagine how it might be in certain situations traveling around with a toddler and a newborn. I see moms with their Baby Bjorns and toddlers, smiling, and bouncing around. I think to myself, “That should have been me.” I wonder how life would have been different. Would I be as conscientious of planning our days and weeks with story times, ballet, museums, play dates, etc? Or would I be happily busy at home with both? On the rare occasion that I am struggling with Mon Cœur, I am dumbfounded as to how I could possibly be a good mother to both. Then I remind myself that no matter what “should have been” or “could have been” it’s not what is. Snap out of it.
Yesterday we were at the local library, and a well-meaning stranger asked me, “Is this your first?” I smiled and responded, “Yes.”
This wasn’t the first time I had been questioned – shortly after giving birth, a customer service representative had spent about one minute listening to my issue, and then five minutes trying to help fix the tech mistake while telling me about the woes of her family – her husband had died, etcetera, etcetera. I had listened quietly to her, offered condolences, and wished that she would just fix the issue so I could get off the phone. She paused from her story and heard Mon Cœur talking in the background and asked, “Aww….How many children do you have?” I was blatantly honest with her and said, “I have two, but only one who is with us, the other was just stillborn.”
A neighbor, with the best intentions asked, “You have a new baby, right?” when they saw Edith playing around in the yard. To which I responded, “No, she was stillborn…” before very quickly devolving into a spiral of blithering nonsense…
While I was on maternity leave, I was receiving well-intentioned emails of “congratulations” from parents of students who had questions about work and grades. I just said, “Thanks.”
While my mother and I were visiting a family friend, they asked how many children I have. My mother said, “One.” I emphatically said, “No, I have two.” Why did I feel the need to correct?
My answer and approach has been different each time. I know in my heart that I have two daughters. Sometimes though, it’s just easier to not have to explain to tell my story to a stranger. Sometimes without any prompting, when I am explaining why I am staying at home this year, I mention Millie. Sometimes, I answer honestly and see in people’s eyes that they wish they hadn’t asked me how many I have.
- Is this your first?
- How many do you have?
- Is this your only child?
It is a struggle to find the right answer because every time that someone asks, it’s different. Millie is always in my heart and will always be my daughter. I don’t want to “not include her” and yet, I am growing weary of answering completely honestly and seeing people’s faces of shock when I answer them with the truth.
I do want to be honest, I don’t want to shy away from saying that I have two, and yet, stillbirth is such a taboo topic that people are unsure how to respond. It is sort of a defense mechanism from having to deal with other people’s uncertainty in responding to my honest answer, that I choose to sometimes give the easiest one, “One.”