When tables turn

She enters my office and shuts the door. She sits down across from me. It’s a cold, Friday evening in January. It’s after hours, already dark outside. My office is nearly pitch black, as there’s no sunlight coming through the window – no sunlight to make up for my lights being off. Only the light from my two monitors illuminates my face. The light from the hallway transforms her into a shadowy silhouette like from one of those crime shows where they black out the witness to conceal her identity. I abruptly stop what I’m doing.

From the silhouette comes a voice – some statements, some questions… A conversation ensues, but it’s all such a blur… Though I retain some of it – “I would have liked to have seen more enthusiasm from you during budget time. Sometimes I think you’re back to normal, but other times I’m not so sure. I just want to make sure you actually do get back to normal. What are your career motivations in light of what’s happened? I want to confirm that they’re still the same. I need to know that your heart’s still in this.”

I can barely speak, unable to formulate any coherent thoughts. I’m confused. I can’t provide any answers. My son is dead. And I can feel the rest of my world crumbling too. Just when I think I’ve identified all of my secondary losses, more appear just over the horizon. I’ve lost, and am continuing to lose, everything. (At least it feels this way as I’m cross-examined, yet again, about my career goals in the midst of my intense grief. Meanwhile, little does she know, I’m fighting against all odds just to get out of bed each morning.)

I start sobbing.

She stares back silently, as if stunned by my reaction. “I’m sorry to have upset you,” she offers in a detached sort of way.

I try to speak, but instead I continue to sob.

“Well, have a nice weekend,” she states unemotionally as she leaves me there crying.

**********

It’s late April. I’m 23 weeks pregnant with Jay. I know I have to tell her soon. It’s Friday afternoon. I have two doctor appointments coming up. I decide today’s the day. I take a deep breath and enter her office, shutting the door behind me. I steel myself, cutting off all of my emotions. It’s almost as if I’m dead on the inside. (Interactions like the one above cause bits and pieces of your soul to die…) She abruptly stops what she’s doing.

And, from across the room, I explain, almost robotically, “Yeah… I have a few doctor appointments coming up… It’s because I’m pregnant again.”

She gasps, wishes me, “Congratulations,” in the guarded sort of way that I appreciate.

“Thanks,” I answer flatly.

“When are you due?” she asks.

“August,” I answer flatly again, “It’s difficult for me to talk about it,” I further explain, attempting to snuff out any potential additional conversation.

“I understand – I won’t tell anyone until you’ve told me that you’ve made it public,” she reassures me.

“Actually, I have no plans to make this public…” I clarify.

Her eyes fill with tears as she reaches for a tissue. “I’m sorry,” she says, as if surprised and embarrassed by her sudden display of emotions, “I don’t know why I’m so teary about this.”

“I cry every day,” I sympathize, though in a very detached sort of way. And I stare back silently. I’m stunned by her reaction – it’s not a cry of unbridled joy, rather I get the sense that she’s happy and hopeful for me, yet she also possesses some understanding of how complicated and terrifying this is.

She continues to dab her eyes with the tissue.

“Well, have a nice weekend,” I state unemotionally as I leave her there crying.

**********

The two situations feel like a near reversal of each other.

Later I stumble upon a quote…

“Tears shed for another person are not a sign of weakness. They are a sign of a pure heart.”― José N. Harris, MI VIDA: A Story of Faith, Hope and Love

And I’m filled with a renewed sense of hope that the first situation isn’t a reflection of her heart, rather perhaps it’s a misunderstanding of my loss and my grief and other things… Perhaps she’s a good person. Perhaps I can forgive her someday for all of the damage that’s been done – damage that, not too long ago, I believed was irreparable.

Most of all, I’m just thankful that she was nice to me. And it makes me wonder whether, in time, I’ll be able to warm back up to her – makes me wonder whether the piece of my soul that died on that cold, dark Friday evening in January could possibly come alive again…

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8 thoughts on “When tables turn

  1. This was very moving.. I have a pregnant friend who recently questioned “so what are you doing with your life now? Aren’t you working yet?” As if five months down the road I should have reinvented myself and found a new challenging career.. Because grieving isn’t enough for some people.. I hope Jay can heal many things xxx

    Liked by 1 person

  2. So beautiful, my friend. You are right in that little parts of our souls die with encounters like yours in January. Sometimes it’s so scary to venture out and to try anything. Sometimes it feels safest to keep our hearts and our doors closed.

    I love that quote, and I loved the vulnerability in her response to your news. I found that in my subsequent pregnancy, it was like I was the only one who wasn’t 100% certain everything would work out, and it was incredibly isolating. I felt such a need for people to recognize how scary it was, how unsure. How very hard.

    It made me happiest to read that although you were incredibly disappointed and hurt by this person, your heart was still able to acknowledge hers. Despite all that you’ve been through and continue to lose, there is still a space that’s very alive and warm and waiting for others to surprise you. Here’s hoping that many, many more inhabit this space 🙂

    xoxo, Love,
    Nora

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I am so glad you got that over and done with and your boss showed you compassion.

    I told an old friend that I was pregnant with Bowie when she came to visit. I said it flatly, and of course she was surprised to hear I was 14 weeks along. She started crying and it was the most perfect reaction. She didn’t gush congratulations or tell me everything would be fine this time. She just cried. She acknowledged all the complexities of pregnancy after loss, and I appreciated it so much.

    I hope you feel better at work now, with that reaction.

    Liked by 1 person

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