“How old is she?”
“Is this your first?”
I recently gave birth to my second daughter. She came out breathing and screaming, so the world considers her legitimate and socially acceptable. I can almost hear the collective sigh of the unscathed.
Whew, maybe now she’ll stop talking about her dead baby.
“When the first baby has a good temperament, you’ll want a second!”
“Hey, mother of one!”
“You have a baby now.”
“The first grandchild!”
“You’re a new mother!”
“So you’re okay now?”
I can forgive a stranger’s incorrect assumptions about my motherhood. It hurts to accept, but I suspect I’m just a blip in the day, maybe some fodder for future gossip. I’m the girl who said something sad, and then normal life carried on. The stranger didn’t know better, and the interaction was small talk anyway.
Far more jarring is when someone who knows Cora’s entire story tells me I don’t have another child. I have a compulsion to remind anyone that my firstborn was real, as though I can make a case for her worth by proving she was equally human.
Cora was a month older in gestation when she was born.
She was well over eight pounds, about three pounds more than this time.
I had a five-hour pushing phase.
In my pregnancy with Cora… [fill in the blank].
I assume I will go to my own grave defending the integrity and value of her short life. I’m okay with that.
I have a foot in both the living and bereaved parenthood worlds now, and I still feel like a unicorn, an alien, damaged goods. I still carry a story that the vast majority of the world will not acknowledge and certainly cannot imagine. I still feel unseen, unknown, and unable to relate to the unharmed among us.
The subtle or explicit jabs at bereaved parenthood continue to insult me, from the questions I’m never asked about my own child, to the blasé assumptions that a pregnancy is a promise and nothing goes wrong after 12 weeks. Particularly prior to my second daughter’s birth, it seemed many fellow parents—old, young, or expectant—sent me a clear message.
You’re not one of us. Your baby died, so she doesn’t count.
Now the narrative has shifted slightly.
One of your babies died and one lived, so you have one baby.
Over time I’ve abandoned most hopes of fitting in with “normal” anything. I still come to Glow seeking the solace of strangers who understand, a refreshing contrast to people who can’t relate (at least, not yet), and to whom I cannot relate either (at least, not anymore).
The line that used to feel like a demotion is now a truth I own, believe, and even embrace.
You’re right, I’m not one of you.
But it seems we disagree about basic math.
She does count. One plus one will always equal two.
How do you answer to the world when it asks you—or makes assumptions—about your parenthood?