“This is your second, right?”
“How old is your little girl?”
She would have been one year old this summer.
“What do you mean, would have been [one year old]?”
Well, our daughter passed away.
Remaining calm is not easy when someone looks you in the eyes and asks, “What do you mean, would have been?” after informing her your daughter would have been a year old this summer. Particularly when your answer to that question is followed by, “What happened?” instead of the much more polite and considerate, “I’m sorry for your loss.” In fairness, she did eventually say that after I explained that I had a Placental Abruption, but not before she requested an account of what happened.
I’ll admit that I was really worked up as my husband and I walked out of the building after that brief conversation. My head was spinning, and I wanted nothing more than to scream: Did a complete stranger seriously just ask me how my daughter died? It is one thing when a question like that comes from someone that I know. However, when it comes from a complete stranger who just randomly walks up and poses that question less than a minute into the conversation, it is completely different. It is almost like being stabbed with a knife unexpectedly, and then when you are processing what just happened, you are stabbed several more times. (I have clearly been watching too many NCIS reruns.)
She certainly didn’t know my daughter passed away. That part doesn’t bother me. I have had to address the topic several times when people inevitably ask if this pregnancy is my first child. Talking about it isn’t easy, but I expect such conversations and certainly wouldn’t blame someone for not knowing about Isabelle and what happened.
It is the last two questions this random woman asked that really ruffled my feathers. What else could, “would have been one year old” possibly mean, and why on earth would you pry for details about how a baby died from someone you didn’t know? Particularly if that person was pregnant again… Clearly this woman didn’t have children of her own and has never lost someone dear to her.
I recently had a wonderful conversation with a friend, who has lost two babies to miscarriage, about how well intentioned people sometimes say things that can be very hurtful to baby-loss moms. Over the years, I am sure that I have said my share of inconsiderate things out of ignorance. Although I was taught basic manners and etiquette as a child, losing Isabelle has certainly made me think a bit more before I speak. It has given me a new perspective and encouraged me to view the world through other people’s eyes. It has also taught me to look for God’s hand in everything.
As we were walking to our car in the parking lot, my mind was trying desperately to acknowledge that this stranger was probably well intentioned. Despite my meager efforts, anger and frustration still consumed my thoughts. Just two parking spots over from our car, a familiar smile emerged from another car – a friend who worked with me last year and also sent her son to the youth group with which I volunteer. We chatted pleasantly for a few minutes, catching up, and I introduced her to my husband. As the conversation continued, I felt a clear shift in my attitude. It was as if she was sent solely for the purpose of lifting my spirits. That simple encouraging conversation lightened my thoughts and positively affected my mood the rest of the afternoon.
I know that days like that are inevitable, and no matter what I do, I really can’t fully prepare for them. However, I have learned to take a step back and look for God’s hand. Sometimes it comes in the form of a smiling friend and encouraging conversation. It is moments like those that I cling to on days when frustration threatens to plague my mind.
“Mama Said” (The Shirelles)