Yesterday I took Elizabeth to the baby group at our local hospital for the first time. I took Henry and Kathleen to this group, and there was some part of me that wanted to get there with Elizabeth at least once just to go with all my babies.
As we entered the hospital, I saw a woman at the front desk. She had met Henry when I brought him to the group. Two years ago, she met Kathleen and asked about Henry, not knowing he had died. Yesterday, she cooed over Elizabeth's profuse red hair. Then she looked at me and said, "So that's three for you, right?"
There was another part of me that needed to go back to see how far I've come in the two years since I was there with Kathleen. I remember the struggle of figuring out how to talk about Henry and how to talk about my past experience as a mom (which led back to talking about Henry). I fretted over it. I had awkward moments and surprising moments of grace. The leader of the group knew Henry and encouraged me to talk about him. He would come up in passing conversation—with my son we . . . , my first baby ___, but Kathleen . . . —and I felt awkward every time like I needed to explain my situation or afraid that somebody would ask me dreaded questions: oh, how old is your other child?
Yesterday I walked back into the little conference room that looked dingier than I remembered, but bright in the sunlight. I sat next to the mom of a little boy just a little older than Elizabeth. In the group conversation, my experience with Kathleen came up. "My two year old . . ., with my older daughter we . . . ." When we did introductions, the leader suggested including names and ages of older children, which hadn't been part of the routine when I had gone in the past. I rattled off my name and Elizabeth's, her date of birth and age, the town we live in, Kathleen's name and age, "and my son Henry would turn four this May, but he died when he was six and a half months old." It amazes me sometimes how matter of fact saying that can seem now, how I can say it as if him dying didn't break my heart and shatter the world I had known.
I'm not sure if I will get back with Elizabeth. Schedule-wise it is hard with Kathleen to consider. I'm glad, though, that I got back, no longer wishing I was just a "normal" mom as when I was there with Henry or feeling like not quite a brand-new mom but not quite an experienced one either as I did with Kathleen. I was just there with my third baby, ready to talk about my experience, looking for moms I might like to plan playdates with. I don't know if the new confidence came about from having worked further through my grief or from feeling like an experienced mom now or from having gotten more used to saying that my baby died. I expected it to be easier to go back and it was.
"So that's three for you?"