Congratulations

 photo by  Meredith Winn

photo by Meredith Winn

"In our final moment together, one of my tears landed just below Cora's right eye, as though she cried it herself," writes Cameron, our guest writer for today. "My motherly urge was to wipe it off, but I let it be. Then the nurse rolled her away, my whole heart, never to be seen again. I now weave Cora's story into the tapestry of the human experience, sharing and seeking what's real, raw, and honest."

“Hey! What have you been up to?!” the acquaintance asked with a huge, bright smile, hot coffee in hand. I remember when I used to be like that—eager, prepared, happy.

Not knowing what he knew, I replied: “Oh, not much. How have you been?”

Not much? This couldn’t be less true, on so many levels. My heart sank. My friend then commented that he hadn’t seen me in a long time.

“Have you been to Toastmasters recently?” I deferred the conversation once more. It’s hard to speak about my own reality with anyone who hasn’t sat with me in its darkness.

We continued innocuous chitchat. I tried my hardest to feign interest in our conversation, about the speeches we’d given and whether we found it easier to prepare them in advance or to be more spontaneous. Ahh, the thoughts of someone who has the brain space for these topics.

I thought I had dodged the bullet but our small talk petered out and he asked, “Didn’t something big just happen to you? You got married, or you had a baby?”

“Yes, I had a baby this summer,” I answered. This is true. Can we just linger here for a while, pretending I’m just another new mom?

“Oh, phew! Ok, good. I wasn’t sure. Congratulations! How’s that going?”

It’s amazing! You know, it’s been a big adjustment, but it’s for the better. Her name is Cora, and she’s four months old now. Want to see a picture? She’s so cute. I’ve gotta admit, I am running on fumes. But all the cheesy stuff you hear about new parenthood is true. It’s the best. Maybe I’ll give a speech about it soon. Ok, here she is grinning at my husband. They’re adorable together, and she looks just like him.

My parallel universe. What I should be able to say versus what I must. The cruel tease of being a new mother, yet being robbed of the motherhood I was moments from knowing. A soul-crushing ultrasound told me that my perfect daughter’s life was suddenly over, 41 weeks into pregnancy and already in labor. My heart was racing. Cora’s was completely still.

“I had a baby, but my baby didn’t make it.”

My friend shifted his weight and looked around the room. “Oh gosh, okay, wow. I’m so sorry. Oh, man. Yikes."

Cora, my life’s littlest and biggest love, is a conversation stopper.

For days I thought about the exchange, and how badly I yearned to speak from the vantage point of a mother with a live child. No one had ever innocently asked me about my baby. Until I told this friend that Cora died, the dialogue was unfolding the way a typical one with a new mother should. It felt weird, wrong, wonderfully make-believe.

Despite how many interactions I’ve had about my story, this quick one lingered in my mind, almost taunting me.

I replayed the conversation over and over, my ears still reverberating from the shock and splendor of hearing 'congratulations' for the first time.

After loss, we eventually have to show up at the office again, or for the neighbourhood potluck, or in the grocery store. How did your first few re-entries into ordinary life unfold? Did it leave you with any particular reflections, wounds, or galvanizing effects?