Tonight, the women's ministry at our church hosted a Bunco night and I invited two friends who live on the windward side to go with me. I am trying to fill my days with people and activities and it is fun. Bunco is a fast-paced game with rounds of rolling dice for points. You switch tables and partners quickly. At one particular table, a woman asked me 'How's baby doing?" Oh, baby is doing great. She's so big. She's at home with daddy. And a girl at our table who I had never met before lit up with curiousity. She was a new mom so she peppered me with questions.
"How old is your baby?"
Well, she's like a 3 month old.
"Wow, she's only 3 months. You look good."
Well, it hasn't been just 3 months. She came prematurely.
"Oh, how early was she?"
She was 3 months early. So, she's almost 6 months old but like a 3 month old.
The girl was super friendly and sociable and rattled off all her friends who had given birth early. Weeks early now, not months early. Then she asked
"Is she your first?"
Then the discomfort began. There's just four of us on a small table rolling dice and any second the horn is going to blow and we're going to change tables like little kids playing musical chairs. I certainly am not going to tell the truth but lies hedge in my throat.
I answer, yes.
I say nothing more, hoping that the conversation changes direction rapidly. The other two women on the table are quiet, engrossed in the game. I make a dismal joke about my luck rolling the dice. Still, the table is kind of quiet so the friendlly girl tries to pick up the conversation again by asking the question...again
"She's your first?"
Now, I'm tense hoping that someone...anyone will say something else. Anything else. I don't know what other questions there possible could be but I'm wary of what other questions I might have to dodge. See, if she just asked "Is she your only?" I could answer that quickly. But "is she your first?" I can't because Casey's not my first. She's the youngest. Of three. But you can't say that. It's not the place. It's not what I feel like talking about when I'm trying to pretend I'm a normal new mom who didn't spend the last 6 months agonizing over losing two daughters in the span of three weeks.
If you read Scott's post, our good friends lost their 8 year old son tragically and unexpectedly. I can't even compare or begin to understand how you cope with losing your son. He was going to turn nine in the beginning of February. We scattered his ashes just last week and someone took a picture of her beautiful family on the beach, her, her husband, and their three daughters. As I looked at the picture, it looked so strange not to see Isaiah in the picture. He should be standing there next to his 5 year old sister, both of them side by side with identical grins. My friend says she wonders what she'll say when she meets people and they ask her how much kids she has. I shook my head. I have no answer. I'm guessing she'll do what I do. Your lips say one answer out loud while your heart whispers another.
I think I'm doing so much better now. But there are set-backs. Seeing our good friends go through pain that no one should go through. Watching a show and one of the fringe characters tells their sob story about losing a loved one. Even watching Teen Mom on MTV. One of the teen moms has twin girls and one of the twin girls seems to have nerve damage that keeps her from using her legs. I was holding Casey and floored by how thankful I am that her legs are strong and straight. I don't know why but I just started to cry, remembering how perfect my baby girls were. So tiny but their arms and legs were just perfect and strong, just in miniature. Just a little mistake in Rory's heart. And allison, so tiny, but so fierce. Brought down by an infection in her intestines.
Have you heard of that saying "play happy until you feel happy." I think I've been doing that for the last six months. And as I've been healing and feeling more happier, I play at being even happier. Just take what you feel and go up a level. Some nights when I come home, I wonder if I've "played" too hard. Have I wandered from "trying" into "faking." I can't always tell when I'm really all happy and when some of it is happy with a bit of effort. In my effort to play happy, I lose track of where exactly I am. I apologize. I don't want to be fake. I want to be genuine and real. I just don't actually know where that is sometimes.
It's when I come home and my mind keeps replaying that question "Is she your first" over and over again that I remember...I still have a ways to go.