Tuesday 22 November 2016

Is This Your First Baby? Why This Is the Toughest Question.

Being my third maternity leave, I have encountered many strangers in my travels. I enjoy the slower pace of the grocery stores and malls, where I often spend a day running one simple errand. The trip to the grocery store can be my one outing for the day and my only interaction with adults aside from my husband. I enjoy the time chatting with those who come my way.

This announcement confused many. Are there 5 or 6 people in our family?

However, being a grieving Mom, especially with my rainbow baby, I’m confronted with what most people would consider innocent conversations. The question I hear the most (and I’m sure you have too) in public while pregnant or with a newborn: “Is this your first baby?” A typical conversation starter about a topic most moms love to talk and share about – our children. To many people it’s an easy question to answer, but for others who have suffered the loss of a child, it can be extremely hard.

For me, I always want to include my daughter Stella. To pretend like she never existed is burdensome to me. Depending on how I feel that day, will determine how I answer the question. I may not bother explaining and include her as being alive to the young Lululemon salesperson.  I am emotionally strong enough to answer the question, for the hundredth time - so I do.

I answer like this. “No, this is my 3rd pregnancy” or “I have three kids” or
“I have four kids”. The latter usually has a surprising reaction.

The next question always is, “What do you have?”

My answer, “I have 4 month old twin boys, a 2 year old son and my daughter would be 4 years old this past summer. She passed away two and a half years ago.”

Days before the person who would change our lives entered the world
The answer is shocking to most. Some will leave it at that, others will react and some will take it further by asking what happened and delving into my personal heartbreak. To some unknowingly and kind people it brings tears to their eyes and the emotions cannot hide. I feel bad for making the person upset. Do I answer the question differently to spare their feelings or my own?

For me, I can cope because I want to include Stella. 

It’s my choice and I have experience and am strong enough to deal with the situation. For others who have experienced the same thing, they cannot. And for this reason, those people don’t put themselves in the possibly unbearable position; they don’t leave home or make eye contact in public, hoping to spare the upset.

Since having my twins, I am in this spot again, but now it is two-fold. I not only have the questions relating to the number of children, but I have questions about my twins being identical and the very apparent size difference between the boys. As always, I can’t help but give an honest answer; unfortunately it again often shocks the person, “Walker is smaller because he has a heart condition and has a hard time gaining weight, until he has surgery”.  
Other upsetting comments relating to postpartum weight loss, size of baby being big or small, identical twins not looking alike, questions relating to visible differences in the child happen to many mothers myself included, as well as those suffering with mental illness such as postpartum depression.

Stella will always be our first born
I am open about my life, it is normal for me to over share. But for other parents, it is very intrusive and upsetting to feel the need to answer these questions and in turn feel bad for it. The people who struggle to answer are those who often struggle with everyday life. Getting up in the morning and simply going out to fetch milk at the grocery store can be a difficult task.

Most days I am at home caring and feeding my twins, not showered in my pajamas. I long to have a reason to get out and can spend the entire morning preparing for the big outing of the day. I have gained strength and resiliency these past years, I am fortunate, and can handle the situation and want to get out daily.

To be approached by an “unmindful” stranger during my one chance to free the twin household chaos, is disconcerting. On a good day, I can deal. On a bad day, it can send me into a downward emotional spiral! 

I consider myself able to cope, but what happens to those who can’t?  

My Twins - my 3rd and 4th babies

Is it possible to be mindful? To be aware and present in a situation? You might see a pregnant or new mom pushing her stroller with her hair and makeup done, seemingly put together, on the outside. Or the devastated mom dashing out to try and get a few breaths of fresh air and what she thinks will be simple and safe interactions with few people. Or you may notice and watch the mom struggling to feed her baby, with vomit on the floor and her foot rocking the second twin in the stroller, who is near tears.

That (last?) Mom was me.

We don’t know what burdens others bear.

If we can attempt to be mindful of others, it will go far. Watching what and how we ask stranger’s questions can change their day. Lending a nonjudgmental hand or giving a quick compliment can mean so much and could be the one positive thing in that mother’s day, let alone week.

How can we be mindful? Be aware of our surroundings and those in it. Take the lead of others and think twice about what we say. Look back at situations and the results of your actions and the impact on others. No one is perfect or says the right thing all the time, but stay positive and kind in WHAT you say and HOW you say it and treat others.  Be present and put yourself in their shoes (many of us have worn those shoes before) and you may turn that person’s day around when they need it most!

The moment our 2nd baby physically became our eldest
And for the suffering mothers out there, in time you will be able to handle the questions and will be forgiving to others for not approaching the situation perfectly. It’s often not intentional or out of vengeance. You will learn how to answer and be able to tolerate these interactions better and will feel good talking about your loved one and including them in your answer. You made this human out of love and should be proud of them – in your own time you will be able to speak about them if the situation arises. And you won’t take the questions in a negative manner and hopefully won’t have to, if we can all work together to be mindful.

To finish the thought that inspired me to write this blog, after a bad week where I publicly couldn’t handle any questions, I’d like to address the lady in the coffee shop who made the comment about how difficult it must be to have two babies, let alone one. 

I know you felt bad for making me burst into tears, but know I took what you said as a compliment, as I AM handling these babies despite that one moment in time and my explosive reaction. 

I appreciate she knew when to stop speaking and slip away to avoid additional upset or embarrassment – because she took the moment to think, and be mindful. 


  1. I remember the moment we met, both pregnant, and my mum amd I gushing over Hudson. I know we asked something that initiated the conversation about Stella and I was astonished by your strength in being so open and honest about my biggest fear...it took us completely off guard. The way you speak about your experience and your beautiful Stella is a tribute to her memory and opened the doors to a friendship and absolutely reminded me to be a bit more mindful when making conversation ♡

    1. It was great that you asked the question to me as I wouldnt have met you otherwise! It's hard to know what to do, it's a double edged sword. And to be true to our friendly selves you spark up conversations naturally..and why not. I guess to start a conversation with a compliment and see where it goes..treading lightly it will all be ok. I didn't include how I had a hospital volunteer tell me that I still have weight to lose after I told her how old Conrad was (3 weeks at the time) and that we were here with his brother in the NICU. She then pat my stomach and told me I still had weight to lose... :)

    2. Bish is lucky I wasn't there :) I would have patted her head and told her she still had some things to learn. Honestly, you look great. Period.


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