“We lost the baby”.
“He didn’t make it”.
“Our son didn’t survive childbirth”.
As far as I know, I’ve pretty much exhausted the list of possible people I could run into that wouldn’t know about Rowan. The only remaining person I can think of, who I’m avoiding, is my chiropractor. I even returned some books I had borrowed from her after hours, surreptitiously slipping them into the mail slot of the door. Part of me doesn’t want to have the conversation, and it’s one of the ones I can control, unlike someone I randomly run into at the grocery store or park. Another part of me doesn’t want to lose the ability to have that conversation, just one last time.
But the hardest part of the conversation is always how to say it. I wish there were specific words that always worked – you could rehearse, saying them over and over again until they conveyed just the right thing, with minimal emotional backlash. You could even be caught off guard and just rattle off the magic words, effortlessly.
The problem with this is that you can’t control how you will feel at the moment you are asked, “how’s the baby?!” Well, the baby’s not good. Not good at all, actually. And thank you so much for asking, crazy park lady with TWO BABIES. I’m so glad we’ve spent the last several months chasing our kids around the park and making occasional small talk so that you could ask me that question today. I especially love the look of horror on your face and I’m glad we left the house today.
That’s the other problem – people’s reactions. Half the time, that’s what you feel yourself bracing against, involuntarily – not the onslaught of memory and emotion, but the navigation of THEIR reaction. Most people are sensitive, compassionate. Even when so, they rarely know what to say and desperately try to find something. They want to do something, to make it better. There’s nothing they can do.
It helps when you are able to deliver the news in a pre-emptive and strategic way. Chase learned this the hard way after calling his mom at 2:00 in the morning while I was in labor, and of course she thought he was calling to share good news. To go crashing from that high is too far to fall all at once. The rest of the calls he made that day were pre-empted by a text message that said, “are you up? I need to talk to you, I have bad news”. At least that way, the actual conversation begins with a somber expectancy, the ability to be intentional for both parties.
So, what do you actually say?
I can’t bring myself to say the words, “he’s dead”. Not because it feels too final, I don’t think. And not because I’m that crazy mother pushing an empty stroller (although don’t put it past me) or staring vacantly at babies or burping an imaginary child. It’s because, like I wrote about in this post, right now I want to remember that he was born more than that he died.
I prefer to say “when Rowan was born” rather than “when Rowan died”. Fortunately, the day he died and the day he was born are the same so I can avoid any logistical slip ups. I don’t know how it sounds to people. It just feels right to me, at least for now.
But we did lose the baby.