Sunday, September 25, 2011

That Question

Today my friend Jackie and I met for lunch at McAlisters with our rainbow boys (who are getting to be fairly high maintenance now that they don't just sleep through our meal like they used to, but they were still both pretty good.)

This older lady came by to bring us our food and touched baby Zackary's head which totally would have earned her a dirty look from me if it had been Lucas but Jackie is not as spazzy about that stuff as me- and I always try to keep Lucas strategically away from strangers as much as possible.Anyway, so she asks if the boys are related (at least she didn't ask if they were twins), how close they are in age, the usual stuff...and then came That Question.

"So are these your firsts?"

I pretty much froze and stared at Jackie who gave a strained "mmhmm" as she met my eyes. The lady babbled on for a second or two longer and then left us.

I gave myself permission to answer however I need to in the moment and my answer is totally different every time. There are times I've said no and made the person keep prying for details, I've said yes (I look at it as although he's not our first child, he's the first that we are getting to raise-which is sorta what the person is really asking I think), there are times I've said " no-our-first-baby-died" in all one breath. No matter how I answer, I usually end up feeling pretty crappy about it.

This was the first time we were asked together. And it would have really freaked the lady out, probably. And I will always hate that question.

It has almost been two years since Olivia came and left.  The day after we lost her some idiotic chipper young resident came into my hospital room and apparently missed the heartprints sign taped to the door which is the head's up for them to know that the baby died. I asked her how many days I had to stay and she assumed since I was in a recovery room (for the extremely close monitoring because of the meds I was on and my still wonky labs) that my c-section was that day and gave us a totally wrong answer. Then she asked me brightly, "how is your baby doing?" I answered flatly, "dead". She did the gasp of surprise "oh I'm so sorry blah blah" routine that I've become used to now. Joe, ever the protector, had a (probably not very nice) little talk in the hallway with her and the poor nurse who was standing there shocked. His intention was good and that made for an easy target to vent some anger at the entire crappy situation, but really, that was just the start of That Question. Here we are, nearly two years later, blessed with a beautiful, healthy, happy baby boy, and STILL that question comes up. I guess it will probably haunt us forever, "That Question". It isn't so much that it makes us think about Olivia, we are always thinking of her. It's that it always smacks you in the face randomly, usually when I'm least expecting it, and there never is a good answer.


Jenny said...

I got that question today from the midwife at my OB's office! I get it quite a lot now that my belly is pretty obvious and it's difficult. I usually say something like 'no, but my first is no longer living so this will hopefully be the first we get to take home.' I know it's awkward for people but I'm in a stage of dealing with my loss where I feel I need to affirm the existence of our first born, so they get to suffer through the discomfort of hearing my answer. You're so right though, it always comes out when we're least prepared for it and my response pretty much always comes out in a mess of stutters and false-starts (and often tears!).

Brooke said...

I remember you telling me a while ago in an e-mail that you gave yourself permission to answer however you could at that moment, and it seems like the only way to manage it because you're right--there is no good answer. The other day someone asked me if I had kids and I said, "I have two dogs." Otherwise known as, "Let me avoid answering your question and instead offer you a fact about me that will hopefully keep you from saying anything else about kids unless they are four-legged and furry." Plus people assume if I'm gushing about my dogs that I don't have kids (although I assure you I would still blab about my dogs even if Eliza was here with us). I hate the awkward. But I was thinking that we won't have to answer that question forever... I'm sure people no longer ask my mom if I'm her first. So you know. Just give it 30 years or so...

Anonymous said...

Your Olivia is beautiful. She reminds me of my sweet girls. Thank you for your comment. I can imagine at 2 years it is still a daily challenge. Definitely not big on small talk anymore, which is why I enjoy just hanging out with close friends. That's great that you have someone you can meet up with that understands. So cool that you live so close too:) Maybe we can arrange a get together. Lucas is a doll and I'm sure he has brought much joy to your family.

Jessica said...

I dread that question...I have been fortunate to have avoided the "do you have kids" question so far and the thought of it coming up if this IVF cycle works chills me to my core. I just don't even know how I should respond.

Thinking of you and your babies!

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