Never normal

For those interested in our birds, they left the nest sometime late last week, and I’m relieved that the saga is over.

We took Eleanor to the birthday party of a classmate yesterday. Eleanor is the odd child out in her class, the only one without a sibling at home, and many of her friends are from families of three or four children. Inevitably, the talk at school functions turns to how these moms can’t squeeze one more soccer game or birthday party into their crammed days.

None of the parents knows my history, and so yesterday, I sat through many of these conversations. Then, one of the moms asked me, “So, is Eleanor just going to stay an only child?”

“Well, we’re hoping not,” I said. “I’m going through fertility treatments now.”

Awkward pause. “Oh, did you do that with Eleanor too?” she asked.

“Nope,” I said.

For me, etiquette dictates that you should not ask a stranger about anything related to reproduction. No “When are you starting a family?” or “Don’t you want more kids?” If you do ask, you might find yourself listening to some poor woman shout about her stillborn daughter over the blaring music at the birthday party of a 4-year-old. Though that is not what I did. I stayed quiet in an effort at tact. And because even though I sometimes do want to wallop people with my words for asking such questions, I love Genevieve too much to treat her story that way.

Strangers ask me about my family plans all the time, and I’m always thrown off-guard. Much of my work now is focused on stillbirth, infertility, and other reproductive problems. So during the week, I’m often reading about these topics, and though they are sad topics, I find it immensely rewarding to use the knowledge I’ve gained to help other families. I sometimes forget that reproduction isn’t such an ordeal for most people.

That’s why it’s so jarring when I’m out in the world and get these questions. Most people are coming from a place where reproduction appears to be largely in their control. I’m coming from a place where you try and try and try to get pregnant and then hope and hope and hope to have a healthy baby. I’m sure I’d be happier in that other place. I have no way to get back there. I like to think that we all have our purposes in life, and so I console myself with the notion that I might be an oddball mom by night, but I’m a stillbirth survivor superhero by day.

7 thoughts on “Never normal

  1. One of my co-workers is constantly bringing up the topic of who will be the next in the office to have kids, and always hinting to everyone about how they need to get moving in the baby-making department! I know she means well, but it just seems like such a sensitive and private topic for anyone, regardless.

  2. I want to thank you for this blog Sarah. You’ve educated me beyond measure on these topics, and to not be one of “those” people who just blurt out things that stir up so much pain in others. Even when one knows someone like I know you, there’s a good chance that one will say something without thinking. As you’ve shown us, one can’t imagine how it feels until it happens to you. Thank you for having the strength to talk about it.

  3. Critia, I should probably add that I don’t mind these questions from friends because I know they’re asking out of interest and concern. With strangers, the questions feel like a form of subtle criticism.

  4. Superhero, indeed! It does take supernatural strength to get through it, doesn’t it? I started a new job with 2 pregnant people, and there’s constant talk of babies. Like you, I don’t always share my story. It feels like opening up such a private part of myself and my heart that I don’t do it casually. It’s difficult to navigate, but reading how other people are doing it is very helpful to me.

  5. Sarah, my son and his wife lost their/our baby at 39 weeks on January 1st. Her cord was tied in a tight knot below her feet – something that could only have happened when she was a little embryo swimming around in her sac. She had been breech 3 weeks before due date, but turned a week later. That’s when the knot must have tightened. It took a week …. The cord was around her shoulders…. My latest angst is wondering whether she was frightened as her food and oxygen-supply was being cut off and feeling that I wasn’t there to protect my precious little granddaughter. At least we know what happened and don’t have to wish we’d had an autopsy.
    I flew to join my kids the next day and held that perfect little angelic child, examined her hands, feet, stroked her gorgeous ginger curls, kissed her all over, tried to warm her up, tried to WAKE her up. Her lips were navy-blue – she looked as though she was made-up to be the baby in a Nativity play.
    I don’t worry about other people’s discomfort – I need to tell our story as often as I need. I’ll never lose the image of that precious granddaughter, and I tell people I’m a bereaved grandmother. I AM a grandmother even though my arms are achingly empty.
    Thank you for writing your story and “breaking the silence”. My daughter-in-law gave me the link.

  6. I love that you call yourself a superhero because it is 100% accurate. I wanted to let you know I think about your Genevieve a lot, and have so much respect for how you treat her story.

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