“Is he your first?”

It’s 3:30pm on a Sunday. I finish feeding Joel, and Mark and I dress him and ourselves for the cold weather as quickly as possible, so we may run an errand, while Joel, hopefully, falls asleep in his car seat. Our goal is to kill two birds with one stone – we hope to avoid the dinnertime fussy period that can result from no afternoon nap whilst attending to some unfinished business that is picking out new throw pillows for our living room. “I don’t want Joel to choke on one of these errant feathers,” Mark recently suggested, and I agreed with his sentiments.

We’d tried to shop for throw pillows back in July, but I couldn’t do it on that July 24, as I was too concerned about monitoring Joel’s movements, and then the mission fell off the radar, because hours later I landed in the hospital for what would be my last (four day) stay, as I refused to leave without my baby.

SO ANYWAY, Mark’s wearing his “sleighin’ it” shirt, an oversized orange Nautica hoodie he’s owned since high school, and some grey sweatpants, and I’m wearing the same grey sweatpants in one size smaller over some neon green Adidas soccer shorts with a not-so-white, white North Face fleece over a black, Target maternity shirt and some navy blue Tom’s, and my hair’s in a ponytail, and I’m wearing no makeup, and my rough past 18 months is causing me to look… much older than 31, or like a former prisoner of war, and we basically look like some classy ass mofos, as we enter this high end furniture store – the type that makes you realize, “OMG MY HOUSE LOOKS LIKE COMPLETE SHIT – EVERTHING NEEDS TO BE REPLACED IMMEDIATELY.”

And, as expected, as soon as we enter the store, I’m distracted by a BEAUTIFUL lamp, and Mark’s holding Joel’s heavy car seat (because he’s 19 pounds now), and this saleswoman greets us excitedly like, “Heyyyyy!!! So what are we in the market for today?!” And I’m still staring at the lamp, but Mark is like, “Throw pillows. It looks like they’re scattered all over the store, so I guess we’ll just walk around?” And she answers, “Yes, but let me show you where to start – follow me!” And she leads us down a flight of steps, and as we’re descending said staircase, she turns to Joel and is like, “OMG – who do we have here?”

And Mark’s like, “This is Joel…”

And she’s like, “How old?”

And Mark’s like, “Four months.”

And, trying to divert the topic a bit, I make my go-to, obvious comment in my sweet, sing-song voice, “Yep – he’s a chunker!” But my efforts fail, and she isn’t taking my bait, and I can feel myself silently cringing, as I know what she really wants to know – I can almost see her brain formulating the question, the words radiating in her vocal chords (I’m describing this poorly) before they even come out. I can tell that, perhaps she lacks creativity as to what else to say, or maybe she’s one of those people who just.has.to.know.

“IS HE YOUR FIRST?!” she asks.

“No. Our second,” Mark answers nicely, but shortly.

And I assume the conversation will be over from here, but, unfortunately it isn’t.

“Ohhhhh! So you left your first with the babysitter?! So you could go on a date night?!” she asks.

And, because in our marriage, I’m the asshole, comparatively speaking, I’m silent, as I formulate my ideal response in my head, “Yes. This is how we dress to go on one of our first date nights since having our baby four months ago, because this is such a turn on. And we strategically picked a Sunday afternoon, and we decided to visit your furniture store with your $170 throw pillows. And we left our first child with the babysitter, but not our second child, because when it comes to date nights, we go big or go home.”

“No actually, sadly, our first child passed away just over a year ago,” Mark answers.

And this woman doesn’t miss a beat – she’s like, “Oh gosh… Sorry… So what color is your living room?”

Because it is completely normal to continue the throw pillow discussion upon learning someone’s child has DIED.

So we peruse the store for throw pillows, and we eventually decide they’re gorgeous, but too expensive, so our rapidly-deteriorating throw pillows might live to see yet another day, and I also decide my entire house needs to be redecorated, and this saleswoman takes all of our information, because, despite her awkward response to our answer to her question, we like her store. We like it a lot.

And our attention later shifts to rugs, as I would like to purchase a new rug for Joel’s room, and this saleswoman asks, “So, what color is Joel’s room?”

And I answer, “Well… It’s kind of a lot of colors… I don’t really know. It’s a work in progress. Joel doesn’t sleep in there. It’s a hard situation given that our first child died.”

And again, she stares at me blankly. So I offer, “I love that chandelier over there.”

And Mark’s like, “Call us if the rugs ever go on sale!”

And we leave, and though I may seem bitter towards her, I’m not. I’ve accepted that this is the way people are. They’re clumsy, and they make these inquiries, because they don’t know what else to say, and society conditions people to ask certain dumb questions.

But I’ll never be able relate to people like this, because, even before having Matthew and Joel, never, ever (NOT ONCE!) did I spot a woman with her baby in the vegetable section of the grocery store, zero in on her, and say to myself, “Before she exits the store I must corner her to ask her if this is her first!” (Yes, this recently happened to me too. *sigh*)

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After date night, in front of the refrigerator. (Good thing we purchased a selfie stick last Thanksgiving.)

 

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15 thoughts on ““Is he your first?”

  1. Seriously, why do people ask about babies being our first?? It’s so weird. Like wouldn’t the other child be with us too? Ughhhh and the blank stares after we tell them our child died. This happened to me recently too. It’s so awkward and terrible. Hugs to you guys.

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  2. Okay so I smiled reading this, I totally related, why do people even ask us that and like you, I have never saw the need to ask anyone that, even before my first child, who is now seven, was born. And in the three plus years being a first time mum, I was never asked that until after my second child died in 2013, then they’d ask, is he the only one… wtf. The universe is indeed conspiring against us. Such a good post.

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  3. Your posts never fail to make me smile or laugh, even when they’re dealing with painful things. I can relate to so much of this, doesn’t matter if it’s the USA or the UK, clumsy people asking dumb questions are indeed everywhere. I’m yet to have a living rainbow but I can relate when people feel at liberty to ask me if I want/have children or make comments about my body/fertility or parental status!! xxx

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    1. I’m so glad to bring you smiles and laughter even though it’s most often times re: dark subject matter. Not surprised that there are just as many clumsy people in the UK – it is a universal human trait for most people, I’ve discovered – to be clumsy… Sometimes it sends me into tears and other times I can’t help but snicker at all of it… So sorry people ask you so many inappropriate questions too. Thinking of you and Freddie. xoxo

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  4. I say the exact same thing! “He’s a chunker”. And hope that they’ll take the bait and only ask questions about him. Always bracing for the dreaded question. And as much as I hate it, I often lie to complete strangers when they ask. My heart used to ache when I would say he’s our first (during pregnancy and after) but I think of it as only choosing to share Logan with special people in our lives. People that will remember him and love him. Not the random stranger in the grocery store that will forget about him in 2 minutes. And also because I don’t have “lady balls” like some do. 😀

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    1. Haha – “He’s a chunker!” is my go-to!! Love our chunky boys! I can see taking the angle that you’re only choosing to share Logan with special people. It is okay to answer how you see fit – there’s no right or wrong… I do find I feel much better though if I’m honest, but this is just me personally. And some part of me hopes the asker will actually remember my answer for longer than two minutes… Could be wishful thinking perhaps, but who knows?!

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  5. I get a lot “how many kids do you have?” And when I say three, a lot of “oooh you must have your hands full.” I usually smile and say, yes I do. But then of course many ask how old they are.

    You just never know because I get a lot of awkward responses just like the throw pillow lady, but it’s also brought about some really quality conversations. Just recently someone told me how her brother died five years ago but her her mom always still says she has two kids – because she does. And then on her own accord, she told me she imagined my subsequent pregnancy must have been very difficult and I wanted to kiss her. A stranger who seemed to get it.

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    1. I’ve had some quality conversations too, which is the main reason I always talk about Matthew. Mark had one the other day too – a client of his asked how many kids he had, and he answered two, and then the guy asked how old, and he answered that his oldest died, and the client actually said, “This happened to us too.” So they spent a lot of time talking about our Matthew and their Alexander. I’m glad Mark was able to have this conversation. He never would have had it had he been scared to talk about Matthew.

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  6. I hate these questions. My little girl, Evalyn, was stillborn in November, and although we have a four-year-old son, it never fails to amaze me the inapropriate things that people say (both strangers and people close to us) . .

    “Be thankful you only have the one! My two are SUCH a handful”.

    “Do you think you’ll have another?” (asked less than a day after we lost her).

    “You are such a strong person. If it was me I honestly don’t know how I’d carry on living!”

    I’ve learnt that some people are nice people who just say stupid things. And some people are stupid people who think they’re saying lovely things! X

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