Last night I went to go get my hair done, and as the lady was washing my hair and making small talk she asked the dreaded question…
“So do you and your husband have any kids?”
I hesitated a moment. I wasn’t really sure how to answer. Part of me wanted to say no, just to make the rest of the appointment as painless as possible, but that always feels like I’m betraying Josh is some way. Finally, I took a deep breath and said, “Do you want the easy answer or do you want the truth?”
She said, “The truth.”
I took another deep breath and slowly and carefully selected my words as I replied, “Yes, we had a son in February, but we lost him 36 hours after he was born.”
After the initial, “I’m so sorry.” and “That’s just terrible.” She asked what happened.
I slowly began to tell our story. I told her about pre-eclampsia and our terrifying c-section. I told her about Josh, and how perfect and beautiful he was. I told her how the doctors offered little explanation as to what really happened.
I feel like I should wear a warning sign – “Always listen to your gut instincts. Ask for a second opinion.” That’s become my mantra over these past 12 weeks.
I realize that our story and situation was unique. I know that there are lots of women who develop pre-eclampsia and are able to take their precious little ones home at some point. But I also know that there are plenty of women who are just like me, sitting here with empty arms, and wondering why we had to be part of such horrible statistics.
Sometimes that’s all I feel like. It often seems like the doctors all look at me like I’m just a number, another statistic that they have to figure out what to do with. Pre-eclampsia develops in 5-8% of all pregnancies. My chance of recurrence is between 5-80% depending on who you ask. 1 in 4 women suffer some kind of a pregnancy or neonatal loss. Babies born at 29 weeks have a 4% mortality rate. I get lost in all of these numbers. All I know is that it happened to me…and I’m pretty sure that it shouldn’t have.
I stopped by my husband’s work today before heading into my own . He works as an assistant manager for a local retail store, and while I was in there one of his “regulars” came in. I was introduced as Patrick’s wife, and she went on to tell me how my husband is a pretty good guy. I smiled and agreed.
She continued on to ask how long we’ve been married, “It will be two years in August,” I replied with a smile.
She then asked the awful question. “So do you guys have any kids?”
This time I was out of energy and didn’t want to ruin this sweet lady’s day so I just said, “not yet,” feeling those familiar pangs of guilt and pain at that little white lie.
“Well that’s good,” she said. “You guys have plenty of time. It’s good not to rush into children.”
I just looked at Patrick and saw the same look of defeat that I’m sure was in my own eyes. I know for many simply asking if we have children seems like an innocent enough of a question, but boy does that question sting.
For the rest of my life there are going to be questions that hurt. The question “how many kids do you have?” How do I answer that? The truth will always be a painful to hear and painful to speak. I think that’s one of the questions I’m most dreading the next time we are pregnant. I remember how many times I was asked if this was our first. Next time around it’s going to hurt to say “no” and then hear the inevitable follow-up question of “how old is your first?” It’s not a conversation I want to have with everyone, but at the same time I want to tell the whole world. It’s a very strange catch-22.