The soft tan leather armchair cushioned the blow as the twenty-five-year-old girl training me at my new job posited the dreaded question: “Do you have any kids?” Rubbing her nine-month-pregnant belly, my gaze fell to the floor as she casually added, “My ankles are so swollen! I am so ready to be done with this!”
With barely a squirm in my seat, I lifted my head up high, my shoulders drawn back, my eye contact steady. A brief moment of still air surrounded her hair-raising words, slowing time to a molasses-like drip. Her innocence drifted into my consciousness, rebelling against the internal struggle that ensued.
What should I say: A polite “no, not yet” or the real story? Will it make her uncomfortable with me? Will I damage a relationship in the budding stages?
Sophia, Baby Number Two, Baby G were real, and pretending they didn’t exist is unfair to the angelic presence they bestowed upon all of us who already loved them. Instead, I made my strategic move, volleying the hurt, embarrassment, and sadness back to her. Mentally crossing my fingers, I sent my response into her court.
“We have not been so fortunate as of yet.” Her expression held steady: not a flinch, not a tear, not a grimace, not a frown. “We have had three losses, so it hasn’t quite worked out for us.”
Withholding the air from leaving my lungs, my eyes scoured her body positioning. Squirming uncomfortably, her discomfort from the baby clearly outweighed the displeasure of my words. And then, it happened.
“We had a loss before this baby too. It’s hard.” Her face lined with compassion, her tone soft and gentle, her words freed from embarrassment. Never wishing for others to suffer this kind of loss, the comfort from having a brief united moment assuaged the awkwardness. The fear of sharing my truth dissipated. The apprehension of allowing honesty to overcome the fear of dinging others’ feelings evaporated.
These frequent situations are the distasteful, unpleasant, unwanted, dreaded byproduct of pregnancy loss. The fine line of protecting my feelings versus others’ feelings is a delicate balancing act. Yet it is one I am proud to face, proud to tackle, and proud to share. By annihilating the fear of What will she think if I just say the truth? I have made connections with countless people who share the pain and have the empathy that only we unlucky ones know. I have shed the shame, shed the anxiety, shed the heaviness of holding onto a secret too big to keep. Having this strength plows straight through my angst. Having this strength keep my babies alive. Having this strength keeps me alive.