Two days ago grandmother joined my daughter and I over at my aunt’s house for dinner. As we walked up to the front door, a family of four followed us in from the street. I immediately recognized my cousin’s long time friend but couldn’t remember her name. She had a son who looked about 4 years old walking beside her and an infant who couldn’t have been more than six month old cradled in her arms.
Later I found out that her older son is 4.5 years old and her younger son is 4 months old. Even before I heard their definitive ages I assumed that something in her family building experience had gone awry. I doubt there are many young families in St. Louis that purposefully space their children four years apart. I would have bet really good money on an infertility or loss story hiding between those two siblings.
I asked my cousin about it yesterday. She said her friend had struggled greatly to have her second child. Actually, the difficulties started when she was diagnosed with preeclampsia during her first pregnancy and her older son was born over two months premature. He weighed only three pounds at birth and spent months in the NICU. I don’t know if that experience caused them to wait a little longer than most would to have another but the experienced two losses while trying for their second son. Again she dealt with preeclampsia and was put on bed rest from five months.
She seemed like the nicest woman, so gracious with her everyone around her, even us. Watching her for those few hours at my aunt’s house I was sure she was one of those women who, outwardly at least, took her struggles in stride. I can’t imagine she even complained about what she was going through to people she knew; I wonder if she talked about it at all. She just seemed so happy, but maybe that is only how she felt after her second son arrived safely in her arms.
My cousin and her friend sat on the floor with their baby boys and talked and talked. It was interesting to watch them and notice all the feelings that came up. Normally I would have felt a certain anger or bitterness watching two young mothers (or at least younger than me) sitting with their second babies, cooing over them as they compared stories of what it was like to parent two. But feeling so certain that my cousin’s friend had dealt with something difficult to get that baby in her arms, those emotions couldn’t quite manifest. I wasn’t quite sure how I felt, I couldn’t name any of the swirling emotions.
Instead I spent most of the time wondering what that woman’s story was, what her struggle had been like. I wondered how she had processed it all, if she had handled it as graciously as I imagined she did. I pondered what it might have been like for her on the inside and I even cocked my head at the sudden realization that she might even write a blog of her own, that maybe I even I read her.
This blogging community has made me so much more aware of all the infertility and loss stories out there and I find myself noticing the landscape of families and inserting my own assumptions when there seems to be something amiss. I wonder if other women I see have struggled to build their families, whether they reached out for help if they did.
Most of all, watching that woman sit with my cousin and talk about her infant son, I ached to know how much of her story she carried with her that day. Was tshe actively conscious of her losses in those moments? Did they teeter on the tip of her tongue, during that entire conversation, present but never mentioned? Or did the birth of her beautiful baby boy push them farther back into her mind, where they linger like light shadows on a cloudy day, only visible if one purposefully looks for them?
I suppose I wanted to know because I wonder where my struggle will end up, if/when my baby boy arrives safely. Will I always see him as the miracle I consider him to be today? Or will there come a time when I barely recognize the struggle that today feels so prominent in the space between my children? I guess only time will tell.
Do you find yourself wondering if women have struggled with infertility or loss? If you know that they have, does it change the way you feel about them?