Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Birth Order

“Is this your first baby?”


If I had a nickel for every time I’ve faltered trying to answer that question… well, I wouldn’t be trying to sell Husband’s kidney to pay for daycare. (Sorry guy- but you do have TWO and they won’t take mine.)

Seriously, though. I have two daughters. This is my second child. That sounds so odd, because I don’t go home every day to a little girl about to celebrate her first birthday. There are no large pieces of brightly colored plastic fun in my den. The dogs have never known the joy of high chair leftovers raining down on them. My work clothes don’t have faint yellowish spots on the shoulders and boobs. (Except for that one shirt… margaritas involved… long story.) Husband and I spend leisurely evenings playing with said dogs and chatting about each other’s days over dinner eaten in a room with *gasp* carpet on the floor.

And yet, there she is- Cecilia Ruth. Born May 2006. First child of Charles and Lauren. Grandchild of Kenneth and Lynn, of Michael and Eileen, all of whom were there to hold her, see her, love her, and kiss her goodbye. She is as real and as human to me as any of the folks who were in the room that day. She is my daughter and she was a living being, as sure as she kicked and tumbled inside of me.

I feel dishonest and as though I am dishonoring my daughter to just answer “yes” to the first baby question. In my heart, acknowledging her seems the only logical and natural thing to do. I will always miss her, and her short life left an indelible and bittersweet impression on my heart. But she’s still my child and I’m proud to be her mother. I’m proud of what a little fighter she was and I’m proud of myself for making incredibly tough decisions that were in her best interest, as any mother would.

I don’t include Cecilia in my answer expecting sympathy or trying to make the asker uncomfortable, yet those are the responses it seems to invoke. They wind up mumbling something like “I’m sorry…” or “you poor thing…” and I find myself stammering and apologizing for … for what… for acknowledging my own baby’s existence? I hate that. But I hate making people uncomfortable. But I also hate the idea of ignoring Cecilia. Maybe I’m overanalyzing what should be a simple superficial social situation. But to any mother who has lost a child, especially a child she has held and dressed and rocked, it’s WAY more important than that. And after some time and some healing, we don’t mention our babies entirely with sadness. We mention them because… well, because they’re our babies. I find myself saying things like “don’t be sorry – I’m ok…” because it’s true. I am ok. And I’m ok in part because I haven’t pushed Cecilia’s life and memory into some dark closet and thrown away the key.

A friend said of my quandary “well, how would you WANT them to respond?” I want to be able to name my daughter, to validate her life and her place in our family, and to have people view that as a positive, healing thing. A simple “oh, so this is your second child- how wonderful!” or something along those lines would be perfect. I know it’s not the easiest sunshiniest (patent pending on that word…) of situations, but it’s as simple as this- let my daughter be my daughter in the light of day and public discourse. By simply letting me count her among my children without feeling so incredibly awkward and without living mired in past grief, you have done the heart of a mother a huge service. Births are normally happy, wonderful events. All the world loves a pregnant lady (except maybe if she has a married boyfriend…) but be prepared to acknowledge all children- because they all have their place in that pregnant lady’s heart.


ccw said...

I think people trip over their own words because the loss of a child is a parents worst fear. Thank you for giving advice on what to say. I would hate to think I made someone feel badly in such a situation.

This is a very beautiful and honest post about your daughter Cecilia.

Lawyer Mama said...

People are afraid of saying the wrong thing. I've gotten a similar (though not quite as awkward) response whenever I've been asked what number pregnancy I was on.

ymp said...

Tell the truth as you know it and are comfortable with it. Let their problem/awkwardness be their's. Which is practically far more work than it sounds I know.
I also know that each of us who are willing to speak about the hard-for-others-to-grasp truths in our lives start to make it easier for others.