The dreaded question

I did it and it felt awful. The other day when a woman asked me if I had any children, I said no. It felt like a knife through my chest. Mostly because of the guilt. I didn’t mean to deny him. I am so proud of my baby and love sharing the story of his short yet powerful life with others but sometimes, it’s just too complicated to explain. Sometimes I prefer people to look at me without pity or sad eyes, especially the people I know that I won’t talk to again or at least not on a regular basis.

I could have said yes and left it at that. Yes, I have a son. However, there are always more questions. “How old is he?” was bound to follow. So it’s never as simple as yes. Some days I don’t want to say the words out loud… “Yes but my baby died, my son was stillborn, he died before he was born or yes I still had to give birth.” Some days saying no is a lot easier to bear-at least in that moment. It doesn’t come without consequence though. The days I say no are often filled with extreme guilt and at some point, wind up with big ugly tears. I try to apologize to my deceased baby for not acknowledging him. I want his forgiveness. I want my own forgiveness. I want this to all be a bad dream, even fifteen months later. I want to say “Yes, he just had his first birthday!” But he didn’t, not here at least. And then more guilt pours in because when people ask this question, I immediately think of Jake and not my other babies who I lost to early miscarriages. I love them very much but the truth is, it’s very different. The bond I had with them can’t be compared to the bond I have with Jake. It just can’t and can’t deny that. But it still makes me feel awful.

I am trying to be gentle with myself. If he was here, if they were here, I would never deny their existence to make a conversation easier. But it would be easier to talk about. Much easier. There is no other way to put it. Talking about living children is much easier than talking about dead ones. Everyone is left feeling uncomfortable, there is typically a period of awkward silence followed by a drastic change of subject and yet again, I feel guilty for making someone else feel uncomfortable. Oh the never-ending guilt of a bereaved parent.

Lately it’s not so much about how I make others feel, but I am more concerned how it makes me feel. Because honestly and without any resentment intended, people will go about their lives and my story will only be a brief, sad encounter that they eventually move past in a few days, hours, maybe even moments. They may think of me from time to time and send up a quick prayer. This is not their life or their loss to own so they have to carry on with their own stories. But for me, there is no moving past it. It’s with me always, even on the days where no tears fall. His life will have always existed to me and so will his death. So if it makes my day a little easier to say “no” then I will give myself the grace I need to forgive myself for it later.

I believe that they know this. That their hearts and spirits are so wise in angelic form that they know it’s not about me denying them but more about me preserving myself. And that’s okay. Saying no is okay, just as much as saying yes is. Either way, no matter how I respond, my heart always whispers, “Yes, yes I have children.”

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