Three simple words. Three simple words that used to fill me with pride. Three simple words that used to give me a universal topic to connect with strangers. Three simple words that would fill my heart with joy and bring an easy smile to my face. “How’s the baby?” Ouch.
I know that my life, and my reality aren’t everyone else’s. I am not deluded or self-important enough to think that everyone has the complete 411 on my life. I just find it hard to believe that there are *still* people that don’t know that Alex has died. Really? It’s the only thing in life that I know is real. How is it possible that the whole world doesn’t know?
It hurts. Not just having to answer the question, but having to explain it too. It’s the look of shock/ horror/ confusion on the person’s face who asked. They were just trying to be nice. They had remembered I was pregnant and now wanted to share in my joy. Sorry. No joy here. We’re all sold out.
I can go through an entire day on the verge of tears. When you’re on the brink of tears your head hurts- an ache that radiates through your temples and continues through the middle of your skull. Maybe it takes a lot of muscles to keep the tears back. I have no idea. My eyes glisten with fresh tears for my baby and my mind just sort of floats away.
It’s not like I’m completely fixated on him day and night. It’s just that the thought of him being gone never leaves my mind. I see families walking together through the airport and I melt. I see two toddler boys fighting, or laughing or hugging and I almost forget to breathe. Happy families, arguing siblings, it doesn’t matter. Any and every family distracts me as I pull my suitcase through the airport alone. No sippee cups or blankets here… just me.
How is it possible that the very presence of a family can hit me like a slap in the face? I compose myself from the last blow and then I see a family with three boys all holding hands and the sight practically levels me. I fight back tears and try to focus on my gate number. Where was I going? And does it even matter anyway?
I see people I haven’t seen in a year, and they don’t know anything. They don’t know that I was pregnant. They don’t know Alex died. They don’t know how complicated their question, “how have you been?” is. I meet another mother. A mother I knew under different circumstances from a different time in my life. P.A. Pre-Alex.
I tell her about Alex. I tell her about his short life on earth. I tell her how hard things are for me. She gets a far-off look in her eyes. Am I over-sharing? Am I that person at a cocktail party you just can’t shake off? She tells me that her son died six years ago. Oh. We’re members of that club that nobody wants to join. And membership lasts a lifetime.
I stop stammering on about Alex and take a deep breath. I don’t need to explain anymore because she gets it. I drill her with questions. How old was he? How is she doing now? How did she make it through? Do things go back to normal? Is her husband okay? What does she say to people? How is her family? Good grief, did I even remember to tell her that I am sorry for her loss?
I can’t help it. When I meet another member of the club, I’m so surprised. And so sad. As alone as I feel in all this, I don’t want to have this in common with other people. Because that means that other parents out there also have this emptiness. And it’s not fair.
When people first hear about Alex, if they know anybody who has lost a child, they typically tell me about it. They tell me who lost a child, and how old the child was. And any other details they can remember. I don’t know why people do it. I’m sure I do it too. You would think it would bother me, but it really is comforting. It’s comforting to know that other families make it through this. To know that life goes on. To know that with enough hope and love and prayer that our family can be healed.
Tomorrow is Alex’s four month birthday. Yesterday was the 2 month anniversary of his death. I’m not sure which of these dates will stay with me longer. The date of his birth, or the date of his death. Please tell me that I’ll eventually remember my sweet piggy’s life more than I remember the tragedy of his death.
The hard part is that I was pregnant longer than I got to keep Alex. I have all these pregnancy memories, and we are just at the one year anniversary of all of them. We found out we were pregnant one year ago today. I’ll go someplace for the first time since I was pregnant, and it’s emotional for me. I don’t know why. I just have too many happy memories of my pregnancy. Of the joyful hopefulness that accompanies carrying a new life inside… It hurts to remember those times. It’s like I have permanent pregnancy déjà vu or something.
Soon I will reach the one year anniversary of my first morning sickness, the one year anniversary of my first doctor appointment, the one year anniversary of my first ultrasound. It all hurts. I was 12 weeks pregnant with Alex the day of my birthday last year. I couldn’t think of a better possible present from God. He had granted me a healthy beating heart inside the day of my birthday.
What a difference a year makes. I didn’t know how much joy would be coming to us, and how much pain would soon follow. I didn’t know how much I would need my husband and my family and my friends and my God. I didn’t know.
I can’t help but think about what the future holds for us now. Time passes so quickly. Will this be a good year for us? Will we grow new life in our family? Will we keep our family the same and look for joy in other places? Will the pain of Alex’s death lessen a year from now? Will I look back with pride at how well our family is doing? Will things get worse?
I don’t know. I can’t predict anything in my life, but I hope that things do get better. I hope that in the near future, someone will ask me, “How’s the baby?” and I’ll have a much better answer.