It never fails when I’m out with my daughter, someone always asks, ‘Is she your first?’ They must assume that because she’s the only kid in the cart, she’s my only child. It has become a reflex to smile and say yes. A little chit chat about how quickly they grow and how I should cherish these moments usually follows and then my toddler always gives a big grin and a wave goodbye when we part ways.
But she’s not my first.
She’s the first baby I carried for 9 months. The first baby I gave birth to. The first baby I got to hold in my arms. The first baby I got to bring home. But she is not my first baby. My first baby was too perfect for this world.
I never realized how many seemingly innocent, yet incredibly personal questions people ask one another. Before you enter into the journey (AKA shit show) of parenthood, you don’t realize how complicated it all can be. I know I didn’t. You know some couples struggle with fertility and have to move heaven and earth to create their families. But you assume that those are rare circumstances.
1 in 4 is the statistic that’s tossed around regarding pregnancy and infant loss. But it doesn’t refer to the number of women who experience loss. It reflects the number of pregnancies that result in loss. So the number of women who experience a loss…that number might be higher than you think. Before my own miscarriage three years ago, I don’t think I personally knew anyone who had had the same experience. Not until I shared my unfortunate news anyway. I now know more women who’ve had a loss than haven’t. There’s something about sharing that news that makes anyone else who’s ever experienced it want to share, too. Because they don’t want you to feel alone.
Because life after a loss is an incredibly lonely place.
It wasn’t long after my miscarriage that we were blessed with our rainbow baby. But those months of waiting to conceive again felt like an eternity. During that time I think I counted 12 different people who shared news that they were expecting. And each time it stung a little more. My husband and I had been married for a little more than 2 years at that point and the questions about when we were going to have children were relentless. I know now how incredibly inappropriate those questions are. Back before I knew better, I thought nothing of asking a newly married couple when they planned to start a family. Or pestering a friend who passed up a glass of wine at dinner. I realize now that calling out a pregnancy before someone is ready to announce it doesn’t make you smart, it makes you a jerk. Sharing the news that you’re pregnant can sometimes be one of the biggest moments in a person’s life, especially if they’ve struggled with loss or infertility. Don’t take that moment away from someone. If you suspect it, and they haven’t told you, there’s a reason for that.
Making the decision to bring a child into this world is personal. And private. And nobody’s business but the people trying to do it. Fertility struggles have to be one of the hardest battles a person can face. Especially when it comes so easy, or even by accident, for others. And no matter how many times people tell you it’s not your fault, you can’t help but shoulder some of the blame when it happens to you.
I don’t want my daughter to grow up in a world where she has to walk on eggshells. We live in a time where everyone is so easily offended that sometimes you can’t breathe without worrying about what someone might say about it. And that’s not good for anybody. We should be able to talk freely, and openly. I like when strangers approach us in the grocery store and try to get a smile out of my little girl. There’s nothing wrong with a friendly conversation. It often is the highlight of my day…because honestly, I never get tired of hearing how cute she is.
But we should also be mindful. And respectful. And remember that there are certain places where we shouldn’t stick our noses. A woman’s uterus being one of them. I don’t know why people ask me if my daughter is my first. What difference does it make? But it’s probably not going to stop anytime soon. At least not until I have two in tow, in which case the question will change to, ‘When are you having a third?!’ So for now I’ll continue to smile and say yes, she’s my first, all the while thinking about my sweet angel baby in heaven who I can only imagine is giggling as I roll my eyes and appease the sweet old lady who will go on to tell me that they grow up too fast.