I was at the vet on Thursday with my puppy, a rambunctious four-month-old beagle, so friendly and pack-minded he literally cries when strangers don’t stop to say hello. With the exception of my mailman, (who probably has good reason), this is almost never a problem; my Charles is adorable.
So I definitely noticed the couple in the waiting room, very pointedly looking away. I don’t know why they were there, and I didn’t pry, but I had the feeling they had just gotten bad news.
I remember that kind of day. I remember when my active senior poodle mix starting turning in sudden circles on her morning walk. I remember the month of treatments, and the agonizing Tuesday when the vet told me there was no longer any hope. I remember the tears when I said goodbye to her for the last time. Those days never get any easier.
So I understood when the couple looked away. I understood when they leaned into each other and didn’t meet my eyes. Sometimes it’s just impossible to appreciate the innocence of a puppy’s kisses when your own world is falling down around you.
I wonder if I would have understood that before?
When I was pregnant with my son, I loved babies. (If I’m being honest, I’ve loved babies since pretty much forever). For years beyond counting, I have wanted to be a mom. And then my son died.
I still don’t always know how to process this. 18 months after his death, and it still feels incomprehensible. And when I see babies now, I still want to hold them. I also feel like asking, “What was the secret? How did this one get to survive?”
I remember that first waiting room afterwards, back in the hospital. I remember walking in, surrounded by people. They were pregnant and they were holding newborn babies, and I wanted to scream, “What is this nightmare? What happened to my life?”
I’ve heard this is a pretty common experience. In fact, many women who have lost children don’t ever grow out of it. The joys we used to find in someone else’s pregnancy have all become painful. The smiling newborn faces can feel like a mockery. I don’t feel that way any longer, but I don’t fault those who still do.
And I think back to that couple in the veterinary waiting room. And I wonder what they were waiting for, and I hope it was good news. And I comfort my puppy, in his indignant outrage, and I tell him, “They just weren’t ready to see you.”
And that’s okay. Some things just take time.