Every week of this pregnancy brings a little more hope that we will get to meet our son. But with more hope comes even more reminders that Sophie isn’t here. This week especially has been filled with so many tears. As I mentioned in a previous post, my husband and I are trying to get out as much as possible and soak up all the quality time.
Those outings inevitably lead to more encounters with friends and strangers that are centered on my growing belly and the imminent newborn life.
There’s a piece of me that is excited about these conversations and I try to enjoy the opportunity to recognize this baby that my body has been working so hard to grow. Although mostly, they make me sad and angry. People congratulate us and shoot us a big smile and sometimes that’s the end of it. Other times, they want to share (unwanted) advice or information on what delivery may feel like or what to expect in those early newborn days. Eventually, they ask, “Is this your first?” and I’ve gotten really good at smiling and simply saying “yep”. My husband and I have chosen to skip past Sophie’s story with strangers or people we’ll likely never see again. We don’t owe them those details and frankly, I don’t want to see the smile drop off their face or experience the awkward tension they will inevitably feel when I tell them we have a daughter who died last year.
This decision to skip over Sophie’s story with most people brings some unwanted side effects, though.
This is where my emotion stems from this week – guilt. Am I doing Sophie a disservice by not sharing her name with these people? Am I doing other loss moms a disservice by not educating people on the pain that these conversations can cause? I go back and forth on these questions and most of the time it boils down to what I can handle emotionally at that moment. I’ve tried to be bold and share about Sophie in those conversations with strangers. Some days are better than others and some people respond really well. But those conversations are far and few between. Most everyone redirects the conversation back to my current baby who is alive and they don’t ask me any questions about Sophie because she died and they feel uncomfortable. It’s a tough pill to swallow knowing that you have no choice but to live with this grief for the rest of your life, but your grief may also be too heavy to share with others.
A word of advice for anyone that speaks to a mom or dad who is navigating pregnancy after a loss…
If they share about their baby who died, ask them their baby’s name and offer a gentle congratulations for their growing family. It’s simple and the acknowledgment means so much. It’s also important for others to understand that this new addition to our family does not “fix” the pain we feel about losing our daughter or “replace” her. We love our babies equally and that remains the same regardless of if they are in our arms or in our hearts.
I don’t know if writing this post has convinced me to start sharing Sophie’s story with strangers and I don’t think that’s the intention. I just want other people to understand the complexity of these conversations and the difficult decision a parent makes each time they choose to share, or not share, about their children.