The other day I bumped into a neighbor while checking the mail. This observant fellow must have picked up on the fact that once, I was pregnant, and now, I am clearly not, so he asked me:
“How’s your baby?”
It has been almost 5 months since Hudson died, so the question surprised me. I mean, we are sort of past that point where people ask – they either know what happened or they’ve forgotten I ever was pregnant. I haven’t had somebody ask me about the baby since September.
So I stammered a little bit and finally was able to come up with:
“She passed away.”
“She died at the hospital. We didn’t get to bring her home.”
Now, I’ve been in this situation a time or two before, and usually at this point I get a “I’m so sorry” and an awkward goodbye. But neighborman felt the need to continue asking questions:
“Was she born sick?”
Such a funny way to put it, I couldn’t help but repeat it in my answer:
“Yes, she was born sick. She was born without a heartbeat. But they got it going again and she lived for three days.”
“When did this happen?”
“How are you doing?”
“How is your husband?”
Neighborman was clearly concerned.
And the whole time we are having this strange conversation, at the back of my mind I am thinking to myself, “Wow I really spit that whole thing out well. I didn’t choke up or anything.”
Finally, I’ve satisfied Neighborman’s curiosity and I head back to my house, the conversation replaying in my head. Apart from this guy’s insistent questions, the one thing that really stood out for me was the tone of voice I used when answering him:
Like, “This is going to hurt you more than it hurts me” apologetic.
You get into these conversations, and really, you’re the one who is supposed to be hurt. But I find myself wanting to cushion the other party, to couch the blow, because I know how awkward the conversation is about to get, how bad they are going to feel for “bringing it up”, the head-shaking they’ll do when the conversation is over, the “Honey did you hear…?” that will happen when they get back home (if the matter is still on their mind).
Something I’ve learned about grief and loss is that you just live with it. The sadness doesn’t go away, but you learn to manage it. The impact of your loss is present with you constantly, but you exist through it. At a certain point, I think society expects you to move on, and so you do – outwardly. So when your neighbor that you don’t know that well is asking you incessant questions about the death of your baby, you almost feel inappropriate having any feelings about it, and for whatever reason you feel like you should be apologizing to him instead of the other way around.
When I told the Hubs about this conversation later that day, he was flabbergasted.
“What did he think we just leave her inside?!”
But then I have to remind myself: Neighborman’s world did not revolve around Hudson – OUR world did. Her absence seems so obvious to us, it seems almost impossible for it to have gone unnoticed by others. I wish I had a series of developments to report when somebody asks: “How’s your baby?” Teething. Smiling. Crawling. Walking. Going on dates (just kidding about that last one, Hudson was not going to be allowed to date).
But I don’t get to answer that question “normally” for a while.
I would never want to pretend that Hudson was never born, that we didn’t have this amazing daughter. But for those awkward times when someone you really don’t know that well is asking questions, sometimes, I wish the conversation would end just a little bit sooner.