If there’s one, achievable thing I’d wish for in the months since Michael’s death, it’s that. The ability to explain what happened — concisely! — and have people understand the full weight and tragedy of our loss… and that we’re healing. The ability to not get drawn in by prying questions and end up telling total strangers more than I’m comfortable with. The ability to speak these words in a manner that circumvents the stupid comments (“That doesn’t happen”), the insensitive questions (“Well, didn’t you DO anything?”), the too-much-information statements (“I knew a lady who died during childbirth, after losing several children herself…”).

The ability to acknowledge that I had a son — a full-term, perfectly formed, red-headed, beautiful little boy — and that he’s no longer with us, instead of just brushing his all-too-short existence under the rug as if he never happened.

My least favorite question at the moment is “Is this your first?”

No matter how I answer, no matter how delicately or bluntly I phrase it, this interaction with an innocent stranger always ends up terribly awkward… for both of us. They either A) turn red-faced and guilty and embarrassed, or B) begin the interrogation process. And I can’t help clamming up and feeling guilty over it. I flounder in a sea of words, where none is the right choice: gentle, firm, final.

Lately, I’ve tried halting the interaction as soon as it begins: “I’d rather not talk about it,” or “It’s personal.”

Strangers don’t understand that, either, and I’m awarded with looks of confusion, irritation, annoyance, and once, even outrage. Not only is my ever-pregnant belly on full display, but it is expected that a mother-to-be bare every aspect of her inner thoughts about her pregnancy at the slightest prodding. And when she doesn’t, or dares to ask for privacy… Well, there must be something wrong with her.

I asked for privacy once with a vague deflection and clear body language, and the lady asked me (in a snide, belittling tone) if I was going to get rid of the baby, put it up for adoption.

I almost cried. My only defense was to tell her everything, all the horrible, ugly, uncomfortable details I didn’t want to get into with her snooty, low-class self, because this is a small town and I’ll not have my reputation slandered. Let there be No Mistake: I love this baby, I want this baby more than anything, but I am plainly terrified, where every day is a tightrope walk and every night is a battle against my worst nightmares. And it is My Right if I choose to share or Not. (As soon as she learned the truth, she backtracked fast, but the damage was already done.)

How does one learn to walk this path? How does one learn the art of discussion with difficult subjects? Diplomacy? Tactful conversation?

I can only hope it will be easier when (I pray) I have a child IN my arms…

3 thoughts on “Conversational Acuity

  1. I just want to say that even now, almost 4 years ago, I know it is tough to come up with the right words to answer those types of questions. A lot of people look at Lauren as my first girl and sometimes I choose to explain that she isn’t. Another question I struggle with is how many kids I have. In my heart, I have 6 kids and one in the belly but here on earth it’s only 5 plus my pregnancy. It’s tough. I hope it gets easier for all of us that go through this.

  2. I wanted to have a nice helpful coherent answer, but I don’t. I tend to hesitate then sadly smile and say the first living or something like that. I try and not go there if it is a completely random person, but I’m upfront enough that I tend to just tell people anyway and only slightly care that they may feel awkward.


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