I don't think I'll ever forget the day I walked out of Costco in tears. I was trying so, so hard to get it under control and stop crying, but I was obviously completely failing to keep my emotions in check because I was receiving looks of concern and questions of "are you okay?" from everyone I passed. What was so upsetting about grocery shopping?Well, nothing really. Except a sweet couple had started talking to me in the checkout line about my obviously pregnant, swollen belly with my cute two-year-old boy happily chatting and smiling by my side. They asked questions about my baby girl, exclaimed how perfect it was that I would have a boy and a girl, and said my little boy would be the perfect big brother. As they continued talking, I felt my sweet mom moving closer to me and silently offering her support as she saw the pain flash across my face and the walls I'd built up around myself start to crumble. I'm sure she was secretly wishing she could magically remove me from this painful, but well-meaning conversation. And I definitely wanted to just leave my groceries at the checkout, grab my little boy by the hand, and run. But instead, we smiled, talked, and agreed with them. And then as soon as my last few groceries were loaded into my cart, we said goodbye and rushed to the door. I practically ran to the door, trying to maintain my calm and not show them how much their sweet and simple questions were hurting. This sweet couple hadn't said anything wrong. They weren't intentionally trying to cause me pain. They were merely trying to be friendly and maybe offer a little support. And I really don't know why this specific conversation was so hard. Most of the time, I'm able to just talk about our daughter without my emotions overcoming me, but every once in a while I'm caught off guard and struggle to stay strong. After having a handful of other similar experiences, I've wondered, how do you deal with these conversations? What do you do when people ask you why you don't have kids yet, and you're secretly struggling with infertility or recovering from a miscarriage? Or when you're going to have another child, and you're silently coping with the heartache of secondary infertility? Or about your very obviously pregnant belly, when you know the baby you're carrying will only live for a couple hours before you have to say goodbye. Or when you run into someone you haven't seen since you were pregnant, and they don't know that your baby was unexpectedly stillborn? As painful as these conversations can be, I rarely tell people the entire story. I didn't tell the sweet couple at Costco that my little boy actually wouldn't get the chance to be a big brother to the precious baby girl in my belly. And most people don't know that we didn't actually plan to wait five years before we had our little boy, and that we struggled with infertility and a miscarriage during those five years. Sometimes, I feel sad and almost guilty for telling people I only have one child, when I actually have two. But I've realized that, for the most part, people aren't really asking how many children I've HAD. They're asking how many children I HAVE. So I answer the question they're actually asking me.
I also answer the question I'm emotionally capable of answering at the time. Grief definitely fades over time, but it still comes and goes. Some days are harder than others. And every once in a while, I get caught off guard by a conversation at the grocery store. But when that happens, I try to focus on the intent of the person's questions and remember that they're just trying to be friendly.
The "Over the Rainbow" series is for, and from, mothers who have lost their little ones or experienced infertility. We know this can be a very sensitive subject, and is sometimes hard to talk about. We hope we are able to help others through these tough experiences as we share our stories with you.