"Is this your first?"
I am asked that question almost everywhere I go.
And my answer is different, even in the same day.
It is not a simple questions for us mothers who have lost little ones in this way.
Everyone is always excited about pregnancy and babies and are so enthusiastic in their questions, especially over a first child. But it is the question I dread.
Today, following this question, I gave two different responses. To the first woman who asked today, I said, "yes", indicating this is my first child. I immediately regretted my response, feeling guilt, apologizing internally to my daughter, considering going back and telling the stranger that this was not my first baby, my first baby is already in heaven.
Later today when asked the same question, I said, "no, it's our second". In that conversation, it was sufficient and no further questions were asked. No need to explain. A response that left me with no guilt.
However, the line of questioning does not typically stop at that point. The following questions usually involve a question about whether my first is a boy or girl, or the child's age. One woman asked if my first was excited about the new baby and I said yes. (is that considered a lie? with such joy in heaven, isn't she joyful?) Other questions force explanations and my response then also varies.
I have tried the response, "My first is in heaven", both to the initial question about my pregnancy being with my first as well as to the subsequent questions that all to frequently follow. It makes for some awkward situations where the questioner looks quite uncomfortable and drops the topic or leaves the conversation entirely. Sometimes an apology comes with the look of horror, but not always. I think it just shocks most people.
I've tried a direct, "my first was stillborn" and it brings the same awkwardness and end to the conversation. I think I have yet to meet someone who responds in any other way.
Either I have guilt for saying "yes, this one is my first" or it is a conversation ender for me to say, "no, I lost my first." My husband consistently answers "no, this is my second", but he has never been asked the follow-up questions. Then there is my mother who sees and verbally acknowledges Isaiah as her first and only grandchild, but that is another topic entirely.
Ten months later and I am inconsistent in responding and struggle with the question. Maybe I always will. But what feels best to me is stating how things are and letting that person feel what they feel. They may feel uncomfortable, but they don't live with it daily. It might not make new friends, but so be it. Maybe one day my honesty will allow someone else to be open about the same thing.