We haven’t met yet. I’m not sure when that day will come. We may be standing next to eachother in the shopping queue or you may be on the next table over from us in a restaurant. Maybe you’ll be the person sat next to me on a plane as we both travel to somewhere exotic for our family vacations? Maybe we’ll meet this week? Or maybe it will be in years to come? And depending on when we do finally meet, you will see a different version of me.
You will find yourself looking at me and my family. I have a son. You’ll probably see him running around like a loon. I’ll even make a joke about how I can’t remember the last time he just walked nicely. I have a daughter too. She’ll be older than she is now. If you met her now, she’d probably be sleeping in her buggy and you’ll tell me how sweet they look when they’re napping. But maybe you’ll meet her in a few years time when she’s chasing her big brother and he’ll be getting annoyed because having your little sister hanging around you just isn’t cool.
I also have a child who you can’t see.
To you, she’s invisible. But I know at some point I will have to introduce you to her because it’s very rare that she doesn’t pop up in conversations with strangers. Because I know at some point you will ask me how old my children are. Perhaps you’ll ask me if I have any more? Or perhaps you’ll ask me if I want a third at which point I will have to politely interrupt you and tell you that my youngest is actually my third child. You’ll look confused at first. People always do.
Hopefully you’ve caught me on a good day.
On a good day, I can smile sweetly and when you apologise for inadvertently bringing up my painful past I can say to you not to worry about it. That I enjoy talking about Evalyn. That yes, stillbirth and losing a child is incredibly hard but I feel blessed for all of my children.
I hope you haven’t caught me on a bad day.
You see, I always remember every one of Evalyn’s dates. The day I found out I was pregnant, her scan dates, the day she was born, her funeral. I do hope you haven’t caught me on one of these days when I may feel more reflective and sad. It doesn’t matter how many months or years pass by, I’ll tell you. Sometimes it’s just so hard.
To be honest, I’m sure no matter what day we meet, you will still walk away from our conversation feeling like a terrible person. You’ll get home and tell your partner how bad you feel because you met a woman today and asked about her children and it turned out that one of her children had died. What an idiot I am, you’ll curse yourself. You’ll think back to her eyes as she spoke about her little girl called Evalyn. Was there a hint of a tear there? O God, did you make her cry? Did she go home to her husband and cry into his chest as he soothed her? Did she recount to him the awful person she met who brought it all flooding back? Now you’re even more certain you upset her. Your own imagination is convinced of it.
You’ll never know what really happened.
Why should you? We’re not friends. We only met for a brief moment in time and chances are, we’ll never meet again. You’ll never know that I walked away from that conversation with a big smile on my face and a lighter heart. You’ll never know how I got home and smiled at my husband and told him about this stranger I met today.
They asked the awkward ‘children’ question, I’ll tell him. I always feel bad when I start telling them about Evalyn and their faces change. I could tell that they felt bad. Of course, as always, I told them it was absolutley fine. They weren’t to know.
How are they to know that today was a good day for me? Today I got to tell them about my daughter. I got to introduce them to my invisible child and all at once, she wasn’t invisible anymore. Because to them, she now had a name. She now existed. She is now a small part of their life too.
So, Stranger. I hope when the day comes and we get to meet, you don’t feel bad when you walk away from me. You haven’t opened up an old wound because some wounds never heal.
But you asked me about my daughter. And you leave me feeling awful for asking a Mother about her lost baby. You probably broke her heart all over again, right?
Please know that as I watch you leave, that isn’t the case at all.
You asked me about my daughter. And for a moment she wasn’t gone at all.
For a moment she wasn’t invisible.
And that is a gift.