Seeking the like-minded

I’ve read that some parents who go through a stillbirth want to move immediately to restart their lives. When I was pregnant with Genevieve, we actually were talking about moving for a job opportunity. As soon as she died, we dropped talk of the move because I imagined becoming a recluse in a new city. I was only leaving the house — reluctantly — because my friends invited me out. And I liked having around a lot of people who remembered Genevieve. Still, I sometimes recognize why people would choose to move.

I took the kids to their favorite park this morning. It’s far from our house, so we typically don’t see people we know. A few minutes after we arrived, I saw a familiar mom, though I don’t know her name. Her daughter had gone to the same preschool and gymnastics place as Eleanor. I originally met her the summer that I was pregnant with Genevieve. Our girls would work on their puzzles side by side at the library each week. After I had Genevieve, she was one of the few relative strangers who talked to me about it. Now, I always feel happy to see her. She doesn’t know my name, but she knows that I have another daughter.

Later, I saw another familiar stranger. Her son went to the same preschool as Eleanor. I had also seen her at a barre exercise class a few months ago, as well as out running errands in her pint-size SUV. I had commented to Greg that it was strange she still drove that tiny SUV. She had two sons when Eleanor was in preschool, and she was due with a daughter the summer before Eleanor began kindergarten. How was she fitting three carseats in that thing? “Maybe something happened,” Greg said. I waved him off.

At the park today, she had only the two boys. I watched for a while, waiting to see a daughter toddle past. Nope. I already had Genevieve on my mind from the earlier encounter, and I wanted to approach this mom. Eleanor began preschool after I had Genevieve, so none of the parents there had known our story. What if I asked about the daughter and she had died? I should keep my mouth shut. But if her daughter had died, wouldn’t she be grateful to find another mom who understood? I expected to be able to somehow see the loss on her face, and I couldn’t.

Eleanor and Henry ran to play in the same area as her kids. I took off my sunglasses.

“It is you,” she said. “I couldn’t tell for sure with the sunglasses.”

She was with a friend, and she said they had just been complimenting my hairstyle. She asked about Henry, who had been a tiny nugget the last time she saw him. I pointed him out. At this point, the question begged to be asked.

“I hope you don’t mind my asking, but the last time I saw you, you were pregnant…” I began.

“Yes,” she said, starting to laugh. “We sold her off!” she joked. “No, she’s at home with my husband, napping. She’s 15 months and doing all sorts of adorable things.”

I smiled and got out of there as quickly as I could. I almost told her that my own daughter had died. I stopped myself. The implication would be clear. How ugly that would sound to her, my assumption that her daughter had died.

Sometimes I do feel like an ugly person for hoping to find other parents who have lost a baby. But then I also like to find parents with 6-year-old children and with boisterous toddlers, people who can understand this phase of life. I’m not wishing for babies to die. I’m merely hoping to find resonance.

4 thoughts on “Seeking the like-minded

  1. Isn’t that the truth? Not wishing for babies to die, but merely hoping to find resonance. Had you really voiced your assumption, she would’ve definitely been offended (and probably rescinded her cute hair comment). :/

  2. This really resonated. This, and the notion of trying to figure out who knows and how/if to tell those who don’t. It’s such a tricky, and often exhausting, path we have to walk.

  3. Oh Sarah, I would do the same thing. We always wonder now if a child died and yet, yet, no one else ever does. Case in point: I was at a staff meeting this summer when a coworker came up to me and with a laugh, asked “Heather, weren’t you just pregnant?” I responded, “yes, but my daughter died.” She was dumbfounded (and quickly stopped laughing). It obviously had never crossed her mind.

  4. I so appreciate your blog and perspective. I want to say that your words provide guidance for how we may all be more understanding – by which I mean, how hard it is for others who have not experienced loss to understand, but how important it is that pause is taken to be kind and patient with those we meet and know. I love your last sentence – so powerful and moving.

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