I was sitting in a breastfeeding support group this morning, and one of the facilitators asked me if this was my first child. I swallowed. This question still hits me sometimes. I don’t think anyone realizes when they ask that the answer might be complicated.
My little peanut is three weeks old. I love her so much it’s almost painful. I look into her eyes, and I feel everything: she’s tiny and beautiful, a miniature human being. And she looks so much like her brother.
Peanut wasn’t my first pregnancy. She’s the first that a lot of people know about here. She’s the first one to receive a birth certificate, the first to draw breath and scream. I moved shortly before I started trying for her, and most people here didn’t know my history. I think many just assume.
But two years ago, I was pregnant with my first child. Two years ago, he was kicking and growing inside. Two years ago, he was almost full-term, and I was dreaming and putting the final touches on the nursery. Four weeks from now, it will have been two years since I delivered him without a heartbeat.
I look at my peanut now, and I think of this first pregnancy. I think of all the times I had to explain my history. I think of the emails and piles of documentation, and the fact that there are stickers you can use when you just don’t have the energy. Because some days words are unbearably hard.
I think of the first time one of my coworkers here asked me if this was my first child, and how I said, “No.” And she followed up, wanting to know my older child’s name and age. And I told her: his name is Adrian, and he passed away. And I think of how many times this conversation was repeated, and how every single time, there was either an apology and a quick change of subject, or there was just the subject change. Because it was always awkward. And often there was the question, present but unspoken: “Why would you tell me this? Why would you give me this information nobody wants to know?”
And I think this is the crux of things. Because my son existed. We had a pregnancy and a nursery and I live with a lifetime of broken dreams. And despite the pain, these things are important to me. He is a real person. And if you ask if Peanut is my first child, I am always going to say, “No.” But I wish that “No” didn’t have to be confusing.
To the fellow mother in the waiting room: “No. No, I’ve never had to change a diaper or warm up a bottle late at night. No, I don’t know anything about potty training or planning a birthday party for 10 rambunctious children. My other child is not in daycare or waiting home alone. I don’t have those experiences. No.”
To the nurse at the hospital: “No. No, I’ve never had to deal with cluster feeding or count diapers with meconium. No, I don’t know how to tell if this latch is right or strong. I am asking you questions because I’ve never been responsible for the life of a living newborn. These things are all new to me. No.”
And I can understand why there is this constant confusion. Because when you tell someone you have a child, certain assumptions are going to be made. Very few will understand there is a space between number-of-children and number-living, or that sometimes the enormity of that space can be overwhelming.
And I understand that when people ask if she’s my first, so often they are asking a different question entirely. They’re asking about my experience, or if I have children at home. They’re asking to find commonality, or to know if something needs explaining. And because of this, when they ask, I now have something else to say.
So when the lactation consultant asked me this morning if Peanut was my first child, I told her: “No, but she’s the first one to come home with me.”
And I could see the understanding crawl across her face, and there were no more words, and none were needed.
I am a mother to two beautiful children. One of them is living, and one is my firstborn.