Week 27: February 24 - March 2, 2005
~ So, Is This Your First?
And here they come, those strangers who love to corner pregnant women and play 20 Questions. It's been a good ride, up until now. I credit not gaining much weight and the coverage of winter clothes with the extra length of time I've been able to go without talking to strangers about being pregnant. But they seem to be coming on in droves, asking the typical questions about due date and such. A few bold ones have ventured to ask to touch my belly. (I'm NOT a fan of this at all!)
With Makenna, I was so proud and excited and probably (OK, for sure) pregnancy-obsessed. I loved the chance to chat about all things pregnancy and relished the conversations even with strangers and acquaintances. But by the time I was pregnant with Livia I'd mellowed out a bit. I didn't mind the basic questions but wasn't really interested in hashing out the details with all. Kind of a been-there-done that attitude.
This pregnancy, however, I've been very hesitant to talk about pregnancy and all things baby. I've read that it is common after suffering a pregnancy loss and it makes total sense to me. My family and friends have walked a fine line: asking politely after my well being but not seeming to mind when I answer and then move on to another subject. Strangers or near-strangers, however, don't know my background and are prone to putting us both in difficult situations. Here's the one I keep getting stuck in:
Stranger: Oh! You're pregnant! (Glee in voice)
Me: Yes. (In a tone that suggests we move on)
Stranger: How exciting! Isn't it exciting!!!
Me: Yes. Yes it is.
Stranger: You must be so excited.
Me: Yes. Yes we are. (Looking for nearest exit)
Stranger: So, is this your first?
Stranger: Oh, really? Your second?
Me: No, my third.
Stranger: Wow! Third! (As if I'd said 14th) That's amazing!
Me: Not really.
Stranger: So, how old are your other two?
Me: Well, Makenna is 5. And Livia would be 1.5 but she died at birth.
Stranger: Can you believe the weather this spring? So mild!
Me: Yes. Yes it is.
It is a rare person that handles being told of a baby's death well. For those wondering, my preference is for someone to sincerely say, "I'm so sorry to hear that." Then, in my ideal world, we move the conversation toward other things. I feel acknowledged and we don't have to spend a long time on the topic. Because honestly, I'm not going to bare my emotional soul to the average person I bump into. I don't want to go through the whole story with someone I don't know well.
So, I feel stuck as to how I should respond to the "Is this your first?" question. I'm sure some feel that I should ignore that Livia was ever a part of our lives and just answer that this is my second baby. I've tried that out and it feels so very wrong. Wrong because she was here and she does mean so much to us. Wrong because our culture really ignores death and hides from it and by giving in to that I feel that I give that idea even more power than it already has. Wrong because often I have Makenna with me and I've seen her screw up her little face in confusion and whisper, "But Mama, what about Livia?" So, I feel strongly that I need to count Livia and make sure she is included in our family count.
I've considered just telling folks that I don't want to talk about being pregnant. But that option seems a little presumptuous on my part: I'm assuming they'd like to obsess about me and my life. It also seems downright awkward. What I really hope for is that folks will judge by my tone that I'm not interested in really having a good, girly pregnancy chat. That when I try to change the subject that the other person will follow along rather than returning to pregnancy talk. But, since I can't control the thoughts and actions of all of the people I meet, maybe I just need to accept that there isn't a good way out of the situation. Maybe an awkward or silence-filled moment isn't so bad and we will both get through it.