When we finally left the hospital after Gabriel’s delivery, we went out to eat. “We” is my husband and I, my parents, and my in-laws. A family with a little baby in a car seat was at the restaurant. Everyone tensed up, and looked to me. I laughed. “It’s okay,” I said to assure them I wasn’t going to freak out. “The world is full of babies!”
This was shock talking.
The world is full of babies.
At first, you may feel the way I did. The shock of losing Gabriel carried me through months of dealing with other people’s babies. I have a nephew who was born a month before we lost Gabriel; we spent Father’s Day with that family, my nephew sprawled on my husband’s chest and belly, sleeping. Close friends had a baby about five weeks after Gabriel died. We went to the hospital; we became that boy’s godparents.
And then, in October, another nephew was born, to my SIL — Dan’s sister. If Gabriel had lived, he would’ve been the first grandson on that side of the family. When this nephew was born, I met my husband at the hospital.
“I don’t know if I can do this,” I told him. I was in a panic.
“Just try,” he begged.
I tried. I walked into that hospital room. I managed to congratulate my sister-in-law, and then I walked right back out, sobbing. She wanted to ask us to be godparents, and I begged my husband to please talk her out of it. At the very least, to not ask me. I hope she has forgiven me for my (very understandable) actions when her son was an infant. He was the one who shattered the cocoon my shock had wrapped me in.
These years, your 30s, are full of pregnancies and babies. You may be able to deal with them with grace; you may not be able to deal with them at all. Please know that eventually, it will be okay to celebrate your friends’ pregnancies and babies. You may be able to deal with some people’s babies with more grace than others.
For a little while, it’s okay to say, “No.” Don’t make excuses. Decline shower invites if you think it’s going to be too hard; absent yourself from baptisms and birthday parties for awhile; send cards and nice gifts and warm wishes.
Other people’s babies can be hard. You and I know that what should be a time of joy and celebration can end badly. Sure, you can pretend to participate — you may be even stronger than I, and truly feel the joy with none of the anxiety and jealousy. I know that in my mind, I was very happy for the birth of healthy babies and excited parents. My heart, muffled in cotton wool for a while there, was a different story.
At the risk of repeating myself, be gentle. Know what you can do, what you can face, and what you need to say no to. And, at the risk of sounding mean, screw the people who give you a hard time about it.
As a final note, I don’t really have any advice to give you about moving forward with the next pregnancy, if you and your partner decide to do that. I am not your doctor, your midwife, your partner, or your heart. Dan and I were told to wait *at least* three months to start trying; we waited six. Flora, our oldest daughter, was conceived nine months after Gabriel died. I was more ready than my husband.
We have three living children now. My pregnancies were fraught. But with trust and faith, we got through them. It’s not going to be the same as your pregnancy with your first son. But it can still be good. I wish you all the peace and luck on that front.
You are in my heart.
red pen mama
Other People’s Children
What if I do look hungrily
at other people’s children?
Maybe I am raging with envy inside,
holding these living bodies,
running my hands over their supple skin.
Maybe I am crying inside.
It’s hard to be with these children,
particularly the sons and their laughing faces,
making them smile
drawing on a summer’s sidewalk with chalk
playing their favorite games
with their favorite toys.
And no one would blame me
if I didn’t
touch them see them talk to them
cradle their tiny heads
if I were envious
if I did shed tears over their lively bodies.
No one would blame me at all.