Avoidance

hold me, and help me to be heard, so I can heal….

“Is this your first one?”

“Yes.”

“Oh, how exciting!”

“…..Yes, it sure is.”

I’m pregnant. At the visible stage now, with just 7 weeks left to go until the baby will be here. For the last few months, every time a casual conversation gets sparked with a stranger, inevitably, this question arises:  “Is this your first one?”  and every time, I politely smile and say… “yes, yes it is.”

It isn’t.

Years ago, pregnant for the first time, I had a quiet, peaceful pregnancy, normal in every way.  Blissfully trusting of the dr.’s that I had placed in charge of my body and the birth of my child, at 42 weeks pregnant, two weeks over due, a 9 lb. baby boy finally emerged into this world.  He died ten minutes after he was born.

The details that surround this story are difficult to hear.  They are graphic, they are sad, and they are immensely angering. They are saturated in the hard truth and reality that life doesn’t always succeed, even in this miraculous age of modern technology that we live in.  Babies still die, and people don’t want to talk about it.

Life has moved forward for me, and here I am years later, pregnant again, nearing the time when this baby will make his grand entrance into the world.  I am excited.  I am happy. I am in love.  I have long accepted the past and I am eager to move forward with this new life… but lest not forget.

people have pain, and we should not be so quick to avoid its uncomfortable truths. It is understood that the stranger behind the desk at “Babies R Us” does not need to hear my traumatic first birth story when she asks “is this your first one?”  So of course, I will answer with, “yes, yes it is.”

But what strikes me most in this scenario,  is that she does not stop to think for even one second that perhaps this is not my first one, and that my first one did not necessarily result in a healthy new baby…even though one in four pregnancies results in a loss…  The thought of a pregnant woman having a baby previously die, just doesn’t occur in the mind of most people.  And why would it?

We have become conditioned to avoid our pain and the pain of one another.  We do anything to avoid it…  To such the extent that we do not even allow such thoughts to enter into our heads when speaking to one another.  We are hopeful always, that everyone has lived a well-adjusted life with only fuzzy memories attached, and when we are sudden to realize that this may not be the case, we squirm.

We try to keep things glossy and pretty, happy and fluffy, and at the first hint of expressing a “negative” emotion, we run from it, awkwardly and uncomfortably.  We meet behind closed doors, with professionals to talk through our “issues.” Nearly half of the people in this country are currently taking some type of antidepressant…. All the meanwhile, gliding through life with a gentle delicacy, void of anything potentially difficult to face.

It has somehow become taboo, or forbidden to admit, out loud to one another that we hurt, or have ever been hurt.. that we struggle with life or have had traumatic experiences… That we are human.

I am not suggesting that we should all start opening up our demon closets to expose each other of all our misery and sorrow at every chance we get.  What I am suggesting is; if we were to become a bit more aware of each other’s human qualities, then maybe we wouldn’t need to feel like we had to hide from our own pain so much… That instead of denying ourselves the ability to speak freely, avoiding the other half of the emotional spectrum, we could encourage each other, and VALIDATE each other, to heal each other.

That day that my first-born died, and the healing process that followed was the most transformative, powerfully life altering event in my life, and to deny that it ever happen simply to avoid making someone else feel uncomfortable, hurts every time I am asked, “Is this your first one?”  and I answer with, “yes, yes it is.”

a monster of emotional hardship, banished to sea that nobody wants to confront…but he is a kind monster with much to offer.

~Thank you to my lovely husband for hearing my every word, for asking me EVERYDAY how I feel, for accepting my challenges and working to conquer them with me instead of letting me attempt them alone.

44 thoughts on “Avoidance

    1. 27roots Post author

      Thank you Charlotte, I was hesitant to post this blog in the first place, but this first comment made it worth it alone. Hope you are enjoying life with your new little one!

      Reply
  1. alienredqueen

    I can’t imagine how it hurt to lose your first child like that. I had a miscarriage before my daughter was born, but I have to admit, I’ve been guilty of asking that dreaded question innocently as well… You raise a good point about how a question such as “Is this your first?” can be very hurtful if the answer is anything other than “Yes” or “No I have another [one, two, whatever] at home. Thank you for this.

    Reply
    1. 27roots Post author

      thank you. I think communication is the key for healthy life…. it is easy to assume that there is no history of anything traumatic when we speak casually with people about their life events… and we shouldn’t assume there is either… rather, give the comfortable opportunity to let it be known with acceptance and grace.

      Reply
  2. Kate - SPALS

    Hugs and love as you prepare to meet your new little one. Thank you for sharing your thoughts. Whenever I answered (incorrectly) that this baby I was expecting was my first, I would offer up a silent message to the universe that I still love and miss my tiny baby who died when he was just 3 days old. Kate – 3 miscarriages, 1 neonatal loss, and 2 living children.

    Reply
    1. 27roots Post author

      thanks! I def. take a few seconds to validate the short life of my first each time I deny he ever existed. It always feels wrong, but in the end, his story and mine are one, and I clearly exist! Nobody can deny that.

      Reply
  3. Mary - SPALS

    Very well written and an important message about our society. I too have answered the same question with the same response. Very brave and honest of you to share your thoughts and experiences here.
    Mary – 1 missed miscarriage after suspected infertility, and 1 living baby.

    Reply
  4. Renée

    Thank you for writing this. I answered the same way many times to strangers, trying all the while to remember that just because I did didn’t mean he wasn’t still alive and well in my memory and heart. Renée – 2 lively little girls and their big brother Desmond who lives in our hearts.

    Reply
  5. Amanda

    well written, and something I too have been guilty of, even though I should know better. Somehow it just seems like a natural question to ask even though for so many reasons it isn’t…what do you answer if you’ve given up your first for adoption, if it is your first but your partner’s third, if you, like us, have had a loss…? So many reasons to banish this from common speech. Thank you for sharing the grief that is ever present and that makes you the person you are today.

    Reply
    1. 27roots Post author

      thank you so much. Yes… those harmless questions that pose so much more than we think they ever could.. If people could only take the time to really consider their question and the person they are directing it towards, perhaps we would be able to live in a more accepting world.

      Reply
  6. Jess

    I have never forgotten your experience, despite me just being a bystander who you shared your story with. I always keep in mind the sadness you felt, the struggle you managed, and the strength you mustered to try again albeit years later. And as for all the insensitivity and careless ‘standard’ regards of others… The fact that you recognize these moments is unfortunate but also allows you to see hos remarkable you are and how strong you are. I love you and look forward to hearing about your success with your new baby 🙂 Here for you always!

    Reply
    1. 27roots Post author

      Thanks Jess, I still remember when you came over for a visit after I had moved back to NY just a few weeks after this event in my life. Justice was just a new born and we sat in my crappy Ilion apartment talking about how crazy, difficult, & wonderful life is…. thank you for always being a true friend.

      Reply
  7. Mary - SPALS

    I too have answered the question many times, but I answer it 99% of the time with “actually, no it’s not. I had one other son, but he passed shortly after birth.” My first son Patrick was born premature, and only lived just over an hour. To me, to not acknowledge him is not being true to myself or his brief life. I even answer complete strangers that way. My husband answers the question in a similar fashion.

    I was blessed with one living child (6 pregnancies = 1 living child, 1 deceased child and 4 miscarriages). My son (age 4) knows about his brother too and is sensitive and understands the loss, he says “my brother Patrick is in the sky.” (He came up with that concept on his own).

    I believe each woman/family must answer the question in whatever way is best for them. For us, to honor our son’s memory each and every time is important. Sometimes, the response we get is very caring, other times it is obvious we pushed a person out of his/her comfort zone, and still other times we will get an almost cold/indifferent, “I’m sorry.” Occasionally, it offers a complete stranger the opportunity to share her own pregnancy loss/miscarriage or loss of a child due to non-pregnancy related reasons.

    What has happened to women like us it not the norm, it is a taboo subject and it is difficult for many to grasp. To me, this simply means others have not had to suffer as we have,and are scared about what they do not know about or understand. Anyone with a child knows how life transforming it is to have a child; only those who have lost a child understand how life transforming that is also.

    Thanks for posting in SPALS and encouraging comment.

    Reply
    1. 27roots Post author

      Thank you Mary for sharing your story here. I have, on occasion, answered the “Is this your first” question with a truthful response, and I have gotten a variety of responses as well.
      I am bothered by the “Im so sorry” response…it just rubs me the wrong way, and I don’t get where that trend ever came from. Your sorry for my experience? Please… but I know there is no malicious intent there, rather just how our society is conditioned to react to things like loss.

      It is interesting though- this variety of reactions you have experienced. It is true, that you can only truly understand an experience if you have lived through it yourself, but I still believe empathy could be better taught and understood.
      5 losses….. It’s as if I can feel the energy of your experiences through this computer screen for how powerful that is and must continue to be in your life. I envision you as the strongest, most beautiful tree in the forest.
      Lynn

      Reply
  8. sandy ham

    First time I’ve finally heard you talk about that,I’m very proud of you,my Baby cousin for being brave then and now for sharing such a traumatizing,life altering time in your life ,

    Reply
    1. 27roots Post author

      Thank you Sandy. There really is never a great opportunity to just start speaking about our traumatic experiences now is there?.. I’m not sure I understand why that is either. I believe that our most difficult challenges in life are truly what give us the strength and wisdom to move forward… why they need to be cloaked with secrecy and the hesitation to speak about them freely is beyond me. I made the decision long ago to accept all of the emotions that exist in the spectrum, loudly and openly- now the trick is just getting other people there too.

      Reply
  9. ryanne

    Thank you for this honest post. I lost my first child at 38 weeks, no cause. Now with our second child everyone thinks its our “first.” I often say she is my first also in order to avoid the sad faces of others, but I always feel like it is a lie, because it is. I hate trying to make others feel less awkward when in reality my whole life is awkward because Caleb died. Wishing you the best as this second pregnancy draws to a close. I know first hand the stress of the second pregnancy. All I can say is take it one day at a time and somehow you will make it through. Hang in there!

    Reply
  10. 27roots Post author

    Thank you Ryanne, and thank you for understanding the stress of a second pregnancy after a full term loss. Saying, “don’t worry, everything will be ok”- just doesn’t work anymore.
    I know exactly the awkwardness you are speaking of… life is still beautiful and wonderful, but the awkward twist of truth that our hardships force each and every one of us to live with, has us walking around in a state of denial way too often.

    Reply
  11. giovanna

    thanks for writing this. i’ve lost my first son Samuel at 36 weeks and 2 days and my second son joshua turned 3 months today.
    i made a point of always saying that joshua was not my first pregnancy and that he is not my first/only child. the shock, anger, sadness of losing Samuel didn’t allow me to spare total strangers the pain/discomfort of my answer.
    i’m with you, wishing you all the best for these last weeks….yes, one day at the time is the only thing that helped me (and having a C-section planned for 37 weeks)
    try to distract yourself in any possible way,
    warmest hugs from a mother who knows what it means having a son in heaven and who now also knows how wonderful it is to be mother on earth too!
    i keep my fingers crossed and hope to hear the good news soon!
    giovanna

    Reply
    1. 27roots Post author

      thanks so much Giovanna! I am focused and ready for this next phase of my life, spending most of my time these days reading, meditating and thinking positively about the future. Thank you for your kind words.

      Reply
  12. Robin

    May your birth be smooth & when you go into labor try to visualize opening like a flower blossom opens to the sun to welcome this new life into this big wide world. What a loving family you will be.
    Lots of love to all three of you.

    Reply
    1. 27roots Post author

      Robin, Thanks for your reply- Its funny you mention the flower blossom opening during birth- I am taking a hypno-birth class and one of the main visualizations we focus on it the flower blossom unfolding as we birth. Love you!

      Reply
  13. bree

    Thank you for your amazingly honest insights. Maybe, in our culture, we should adopt the idea that life and death are an integral part of the cycle. In a cyclical nature, everything is a first and nothing is. Perhaps, you could reply, “Yes, yes it isn’t”

    Reply
    1. 27roots Post author

      Oh, so glad I got to share my thoughts with you my dear friend. Thanks for checking in to my blog, and thank you for your lovely comment~ I love “yes, yes it isn’t” and I might just give this a try. I can’t wait until we can spend time together again!

      Reply
  14. stayawhileletschat

    congrats on your little one! this hits close to home. my really good friend had a difficult pregnancy. All her friends, me included, tried to stay positive for her. Every time she’d call me, she would tel me there was bad news from the doctors but me, in my need to make her feel like all is ok, would tell her exactly that… don’t worry, they’re just doctors, they are extra cautious. She lost the baby and I felt terrible. i drove with her to the hospital, let her cry on my shoulder. After the funeral, I would listen to her cry on the phone many times having no idea what to say to her. I felt like I betrayed her because I told her all will be ok. We don’t realize how lucky we are… those of us who didn’t go through what you described. There IS a lot of sorrow out there and yes, we do need to accept it.

    Reply
    1. 27roots Post author

      thank you for your honest reply- It sounds like to me that you are a very good friend and the fact that she could cry to you, telling you how she was feeling in the first place says everything. No matter how uncomfortable or difficult the topic was, you were there for her, and she trusted you to hear her every word. That is all we can do, and it is the greatest gift.

      Reply
  15. Veena

    Thank you for writing such a beautiful and honest post. It is not easy to put ourselves out there. You have done it beautifully and expressed the thoughts that many of us who have experienced a loss(es) have. It is a hard road after and many of us try to figure our way through it as we go. I know I just trust my instinct at that moment and say what feels right. Many moms struggle because we also perhaps feel we betray the child(ren) who are not here with us. However- there is no right way- we have to do what is best for all of us at the time.
    All the best for a safe and happy delivery. I know you have some one watching out for you. 🙂

    Reply
    1. 27roots Post author

      thank you so much for such kind words. Your right, everyone responds to loss differently- listening to your instinct to know how to handle your emotions and how you respond to them is the key. I have felt the sense of betrayal when saying that this is my first pregnancy when it is not, as you describe- but always reconcile it with this instinctual knowing that sometimes its not necessary to call upon the memory of his passing, rather keeping the short life that he did have in mind always.

      Reply
  16. danettehudson

    I found your blog through DPchallenge
    Wow! I too have suffered loss through miscarriage (1) and stillbirth (1) and live daily with both the joy and exhaustion of raising my living children (3).

    I ask this question all the time and it never occurred to me how painful the reality maybe for the woman I am asking. Thank you for your insight and your courage.

    Reply
    1. 27roots Post author

      Thank you. So glad you found my blog. I’m happy to read always about women who went on to have happy, joyful children after loss.
      Perhaps next time you find yourself asking someone if this is their first pregnancy, the conversation could evolve into something more- about your own life and experiences. I find that the more I am wiling to share, the more I receive back to me.

      Reply
  17. LubbyGirl

    I found myself reading this with a mixture of pain and hope. I have not suffered the loss of a child, but I have suffered other losses…of others in my family…of friendship…of material things…but never the loss of hope. I’m so thankful to the LORD that you have a loving husband and family to support and encourage you.

    Reply
  18. Aunt Doris

    Dear Lynn, You may have noticed at our family party in October that we were all emotionally and happily tearful at your wonderful news. I hope you know that we haven’t forgotten or don’t think about your first baby boy. I myself wonder who he would have been, his characteristics, his looks, etc. In between Terri and Jill, I lost a child very early in my pregnancy and even then it was painful. I just can’t fathom what it must have been like for you. People don’t react as they should at times when someone has suffered such a loss. Your afraid you will say the wrong thing, cause more grief than that person has already suffered. Your afraid you yourself will break down and feel foolish. Words don’t seem like enough and you can’t really make it all better. So, often its not brought up again. When I was talking to your mom, I was telling her how Connor would not be alive if Jill had, had a natural birth and then I remembered and I saw the pain in your Mom’s eyes. She was remembering too . She saw the “I’am sorry” in my eyes. I didn’t have to say it, she knew.
    I can’t wait to meet your new little arrival. You and Colin will be wonderful parents and you will have much joy in your already joyful family. Love you Lynn
    Aunt Doris

    Reply
    1. 27roots Post author

      thank you Aunt Doris, I knew your teary eyes were saying a lot more to me than just a simple congrats when I walked into the party. Thank you for your kind words and loving support. Your right, people just never quite know what the right thing to say is… always fearing it could be the wrong thing. Im glad I wrote this to open up a bit of free standing dialogue about my past and now what lays ahead in my future! Thank you for sharing with me your loss- I knew we were connected on a deeper level.
      Im looking forward to introducing you to this little one so much. XO

      Reply

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