at the kitchen table: for the sake of introduction

 photo by  Kate Inglis

photo by Kate Inglis

1.   In a word, how would you characterize yourself before your loss, and then after?

Bon:   Me.  And then...this broken, bitter, vulnerable open wound.  Now...me, tempered.

Janis:   Half-asleep. and then half-awake.

Julia:   Prone to occasional fits of complete happiness. Then: raw. Now: aware.

Kate:   Oblivious. Then roughly awakened.

Niobe:   Before: sad. After: sad

Tash:   Young, very young.  Then old, very old.

2.  How do you feel around pregnant women?

Bon:  In the early days, like their bellies were sharp as knives.  Now...i am one, yet again.  And still i feel different, utterly alien in the world of benign joy and expectation.

Janis:  Whole mixed bag of contradictory feelings. awe, dread, grief, etc

Julia:  If she is one of ours-- bereaved, infertile, or just someone who gets it-- protective and apprehensive. If she is "the other," like I am in a mine field. Them I try not to talk to much. Or at all.

Kate:  Filled with dread on their behalf.

Niobe:  Terror. What if the same thing happens to them?

Tash:   Blinding jealousy, anger at my limitations, fury at general naivete.  Can’t stand ‘em.

3.  How do you answer the 'how many children' question?

Bon:   If I think I'll see the person again, I may answer honestly. Usually, I just mumble.

Janis:  Depends on where, who and when and my mood. And how strong I am feeling in that moment. I hate to cry in-front of others.

Julia:  We have one living child. This is almost a dare, and a damn fast way to see what the one asking is made of. Or to at least to get them thinking about what they might hear next time they ask personal questions.

Kate:  It depends on my mood and the person asking. Sometimes, I need to speak his name.

Niobe:  One.

Tash:  Depends on the day, the person, the conversation.  I wish I had a pat answer actually, because sometimes the pause is a bit disconcerting to the listener.

4.  How did you explain what happened to your lost baby to your living children? Or, if this was your first pregnancy, will you tell future children about your first?

Bon:  He was my firstborn. With his younger brother, we mention his name, look at his trees in the backyard... but have not yet reached the place where there have been questions or stories, so it feels forced, a little, and sometimes like fiction.

Janis:  We told the girls that Ferdinand's heart stopped beating and he died and cannot be with us in the same realm. But he is carefree, living amongst the stars and always near us. And always in our hearts.

Julia:  We said "he won't get to be born" (long story about relatives and semantics), and two minutes later she asked "Did he die?"

Kate:  When it happened my older son was just two. One day he said quietly from the backseat, out of the blue, that Liam didn't need a carseat anymore. I told him that was true, that Liam was a star in the sky now. He is three now and I don't think he explicitly remembers anymore. That's fitting for now, but it makes me sad.

Niobe:  I didn't have to say anything. He already knew.

Tash:  The baby died, she was very sick, and she can’t play, eat, drink, sleep, or cry anymore.  No, we can’t take the milk to the hospital and make her better, we can’t bring her home, she stopped breathing.   We need to remember her now.  Why does Mommy have salad on her boobs?  Good question.

5.  What would another pregnancy mean to you, and how would you get through it—or are you done with babymaking?

Bon:  Doing it now, for the third time since we lost him. One living child and one miscarriage in the interim, and one currently stitched-up cervix, a lot of bedrest, and twenty-plus weeks still to go. It's an existential mindf*ck, like being a marionette strung between poles of hell and hope, jerking, without any control. And yet it is a gift.  Sort of like a pet grenade.

Janis:  Gosh... after this loss of innocence I think the next pregnancy will be hellish. Every seconda moment of dread; a threshold to the end(death). Yet, I feel defiant about it too. As in, I want to rejoice every second and not let this get me down.

Julia:  Also doing it now. Calmer than I thought I would be. Except when I am not. My hope is tiny and doesn't speak much. Love and fear are big, but spend much time in their respective corners. The mindf*ck for me is that very raely does love get to stand up without fear coming out too. But I don't know that I could handle this if I didn't let love in. Many more weeks to go.

Kate:  Another baby would be some kind of dysfunctional redemption. Even though our loss was due to a rare form of twinning that's unlikely to strike twice, my husband says that if I want to get pregnant again I'll have to find someone else because he'll be busy running away to Mexico.

Niobe:  I'll never be pregnant again.

Tash:  Another pregnancy would mean I was comfortable playing Russian Roulette with the Universe. And I’m not that brave, yet, plus I’m old. I may be done.

6.  Imagine being able to step back in time and whisper into the ear of your past self the day after your baby died. What would you say?

Bon:   Keep going.  Do not be so afraid to speak his name.

Janis:  I really dunno. I could not think of an answer for this one.

Julia:  It will get much worse than you think. The person you think might be an ass, will be. A lot. Trust yourself. But give yourself time. More time than you think you need. A lot more. That going back to work soon thing? Rethink it.

Kate:  I'm proud of you for being brave enough to witness them, to love them in ways that were tactile for them, for changing the diapers of two two-pound babies. For finding the voice to sing to him on his last night.

Niobe:  People are going to say a lot of things to you. Every one of them will be a lie.

Tash:  Point is moot, I wouldn’t have listened anyway.  But I suppose on my way out the door while I was giving myself the finger, I’d yell over my shoulder, “You’ll meet many people who will understand, and who will bring you great comfort.  Oh, and yes, you’ll have sex again, speaking of which, I’ll see myself out.”