The thing is, to the outside world, to your friends and family, you look the same. Maybe they can nitpick a little about your appearance -- a nudge that some make-up and clean clothes might do you a world of good; a plea to just wash your hair because you'll feel better, they promise. Maybe they'll suggest you join a gym or go out with friends or stop drowning your sorrows in bags of Doritos every night. But other than these little grievances, you look the same to everyone who looks at you. You laugh at a joke someone tells and they think "oh, there, you're happy now. It's fine now." As sad as they are for you, as great as they believe they feel your loss, their lives go back to how they were before. Their lives go on. You live and breathe each day -- you even have really great days -- but your life never really feels like it goes on. That old life sort of stopped when your child died and, at the very tail end of it, another little life sprouts and begins to grow. It grows slowly and delicately. The outside world likely cannot decipher a difference between your old life and your new life, but you know the difference.
Before losing Wylie, I was the friend everyone came to for anything remotely related to childbearing. After all, my husband and I had Ethan years before any of our friends had even begun to consider families of their own. By the time we made our way through the newborn days and crossed the infancy finish line that is the first birthday, our friends were settling down and making plans for future families. We had made it, as far as they were concerned, so we must have all of the answers. I loved talking about pregnancy and childbirth and all those silly little details you don't know about until they're happening to you (oh, hey, someone is going to come in and squirt your vagina clean with a squirt bottle each time you urinate post-delivery during your hospital stay so, you know, be prepared). Any time was the right time to discuss ovulation or ring slings or which shampoo held the lowest amount of toxins. I was just a phone call away to answer a question about registries and car seats and butt cream and weigh in if they should call a pediatrician if their infant has spit up or their OB if they think they may have lost their mucous plug. I loved helping. I loved planning parties. I loved every bit of the excitement that was watching the people we love step on board into the wonderful world of parenting that we love so much.
But then my child died.
No one likes being told that they can't understand things. No one likes thinking that their sympathy and empathy and compassion isn't enough, I get it. But the harsh truth is just that: if you haven't lived it, you can't really understand. For a loss mom, the grayscale envelopes the cut and dry, black and white world that everyone else sees. It's an alternative universe, at least just a little bit. You see, in my new life, as the new me, when someone tells me they're expecting a child my instinct is no longer to throw my arms up, giggle, laugh, celebrate. My mind doesn't race to "let's plan the baby shower!" and "oh my gosh, how will you design the nursery?" Instead, I smile and nod, offer a congratulations (that will get shit-talked for not being excited or genuine enough) and silently hope this baby lives. I will celebrate when it's born, when it takes a breath, when you're discharged home from the hospital with a healthy child in tow. It's only then that I will be able to breathe and share in a piece of the joy.
This doesn't make me pessimistic. This doesn't make me bitter. This doesn't make me jealous. This doesn't make me negative. This doesn't make me a bad friend. This doesn't make me unsupportive. This doesn't make me unhappy. This makes me realistic, because my reality is different than one you can imagine. It's a reality that is different than the one I myself knew before May 12th, 2014 when I first learned I probably wouldn't be bringing home my baby alive.
I don't really like to talk about pregnancy anymore. I don't really like to talk about any of it. If you met someone who survived a shooting, you wouldn't call them up to discuss your excitement over purchasing a new firearm. If you met someone who survived a nearly fatal car accident, you wouldn't call them up and ask them to joyride in your new sports car with you. If you met someone who gave birth to a dead baby, you probably shouldn't call them up and expect them to want to discuss pregnancy. I hear the word pregnancy and I am back on that exam table, the doctor's hand on my shoulder, being told that there's something terribly wrong with my daughter. Just as you wouldn't call up someone who lost their limbs in a bombing and complain about how fat your arms and thighs are. You see where I'm going with this? Because most people don't.
To most people, I am Lindsay. The go-to friend. The one that wants to plan parties and talk about morning sickness and fill you in on how exciting it is when you feel kicks for the first time. I'm the sounding board when you want to complain about your swollen legs and gestational diabetes drink and how tired you are at the end of the day.
I'm not that person anymore.
I'm not that person anymore, and that's okay. It doesn't make me bitter. It doesn't make me a bad friend. It doesn't make me unsupportive. It doesn't mean I don't care. When you see pink lines and think "I'm going to have a baby," I see a tiny little urn on top of the mantle and nine months of a nightmare -- something more like a hazing than a miracle of life -- that just maybe you may come out of in the clear. That doesn't make me negative. It doesn't make me pessimistic. It just means my reality is a lot different than yours.
I'm now the friend people come to when they know someone faced with grief. I'm the recipient of the text message when someone delivers a still baby, when someone's friend's cousin's neighbor learns in utero their baby won't be making it home. I'm the voice on the other end of the phone serving as proof that you won't die even if you're convinced you will. I'm the comfort giver, the I'll-go-through-it-all-with-you assurance. Whereas a year ago I wouldn't begin to know how to appropriately comfort someone who lost their baby, now it is one of the few things I know. (That, and how to raise a kick ass three year old.)
I don't want to be the go-to friend anymore. I don't want to plan baby showers and hear your plans for your child's future on your drive home from your six week prenatal visit. I don't want to know how your morning sickness is the worst thing in the world or you're hoping for a girl because the clothing is cuter (spoiler alert: it's not). This doesn't make me mean. It doesn't make me a bad friend. Now that I've realized that, and now that I've accepted that, I can continue to work on being Lindsay after loss. Because it's only been seven months since I kissed my baby goodbye forever and that is not a very long time at all, especially not considering I had 28 years to perfect being Lindsay before loss.