It’s a Saturday afternoon, and you’re strolling down the isles at your local store. You find yourself in the baby section, looking at all the items you have to stop yourself from buying for your babe on the way. Some you may need, some you don’t. Picturing just how adorable they may look in each outfit, you continue to stroll, hand on your beautiful baby belly, purely out of habit.

And in the aisle with you, is the complete stranger who is going to make your heart stop for a second. She doesn’t know it, but you’re about to have a quick moment of panic.

Politely, and ever so innocently, she asks, “Is this your first?

And there it is. The awkward silence. The question that caught you off guard. What do you say?

Do you say yes? Do you avoid sharing the most intimate part of your life with this complete stranger, who may not remember it anyhow? Do you tell a white lie, to scurry out of the question?

Do you say no? Do you tell them the truth? Do you allow this stranger a peek into your story – and let them know that it is not your first?

This is the question to which there is no correct answer.

Because the answer that is right for me, may not be the answer that is right for the next loss mama. But nevertheless, it still catches us off guard. Because this isn’t our first.

Maybe this is your rainbow baby. Your first was too beautiful for this world, and with all the anxiety that already comes with pregnancy after loss, I feel like the question stings a little extra, when it’s in your initial pregnancy after loss. Maybe this is your pot of gold baby. You’ve already brought your rainbow into this world, and this would be your third child. I’m underway with my pot of gold, and the question still catches me off guard. I even went to see my eye doctor the other day, who asked me if this was my first, and my heart skipped a beat.

Nathan and Teddy's bear - The Question

Author’s Personal Collection/Elizabeth Michalski

I can almost remember everything about the first time I was asked this question.

I was in Walmart, with my rainbow babe. I was asked exactly, if this was my first. In general, I’m not great with being put on the spot with questions. I get flustered and just blurt. But I wouldn’t have changed my answer. I told this complete stranger, that my first was in heaven. She apologized, and I responded with, “It’s okay.” She wasn’t wrong to ask this question. She was simply a curious stranger, making conversation. And I wasn’t wrong to give her that answer. Because I was telling my truth, and with this being the first time I had to answer that question, I felt like I couldn’t lie. I couldn’t deny Teddy – I couldn’t pretend like he didn’t exist. At the time, that’s what felt right, for me.

As time has gone on, and the question has been asked time and time again, I pick my battles differently. Sometimes based on my audience, sometimes based on my mood. And that’s okay – because I don’t owe anyone my story, unless I feel like sharing such an intimate detail regarding my children.

Sometimes when asked if Nathan is my first, or if Delilah is my first, I simply say, “Nope!” and leave it at that. Sometimes I say that Delilah is my third, and change the subject. And sometimes I do share, that my first is in heaven. And these are the methods of answering that question that work for me. Every mama feels different. Some mamas may just say yes, it is their first and move along. And that’s okay, too.

As a loss mama, you don’t owe a stranger your full story.

Not mentioning the child you lost doesn’t make them irrelevant. Because you know they did exist. You did a happy dance when you saw those two lines on the pregnancy test. You saw their heart flutter on the ultrasound. You planned for a future, only for that future to fall apart. Your story is yours – and whether or not you share your whole truth with a stranger, is your call. You get to choose who to be completely vulnerable with. There is no wrong answer – the only answer that matters is the one your heart can handle at the time.

Elizabeth holding Nathan at the cemetery - The Question

Author’s Personal Collection/Elizabeth Michalski

Delilah is now 24 weeks in my belly, movement growing every day and my anxiety lessening with each kick I feel. After being asked this question twice this week alone, I just felt the need to talk about it. Delilah is my third and final babe who will enter this world. Nathan was my second, my beautiful rainbow. And Teddy is, and will always be, my first. Teddy made me a mama. I carried him for 22 beautiful weeks, and although our time was short, I cherished every single second I had him with me.

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