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Caroline had her preschool orientation today. The children played, they interacted, and they met the teachers. The parents talked with other parents, and had a chance to talk with the teachers. As I looked around the room, I realized I was the only parent playing with the children. The other parents were chatting with one another. I had talked to a couple of the moms, but kept getting pulled back in as Caroline called my name.
Of the two moms I’d already had a chance to talk with, one was super chatty and friendly, and the other seemed to not want to talk when I’d attempted. So, I decided to sit down next to the chatty mom and tried to stay in the background so Caroline would interact with her new classmates more instead of just with me. As we started talking, this mom asked me a typical question. She asked me a question that is standard for a situation like this when you are meeting another parent. As parents, we ask if this will be their child’s first time in preschool, and if they have any other children. It’s normal as a topic of conversation.
I hadn’t prepared myself for this moment. I should have known it was coming today. I should have known that for the first time since April was born (and died), I’d be asked the question of how many children I have. I should have known to expect this. But I hadn’t thought about it and I was caught off guard.
This wonderful lady looked at Caroline and very simply asked “You just have the one?”. Without even hesitating or thinking I said “Yes”. Before I could finish the word ‘yes’, my heart sunk. For a split second I’d forgotten that I was now a mom of 2. I felt horrible and this huge sense of guilt fell over me. I sat trying to make small talk and smile for several more minutes. When Caroline called my name I felt so relieved to be able to get up. I felt like I’d lied to this woman, except I hadn’t meant to. I felt like I’d failed April with my response.
Then the realization came to me- not only was I struggling in this moment now emotionally, I was going to have to tell Caroline’s teachers. I also hadn’t thought of this, but they need to be aware of what Caroline is going through. They need to know that when Caroline talks about “the baby dying”, that it’s a very true story. They need to be able to watch out for concerning behaviors, and they also need to know that if Caroline mentions that she’s sad or angry about the baby, that it’s appropriate to address this and talk with Caroline openly. They need to be aware.
And so I knew I had to talk with her teachers. And quite suddenly the guilt turned to fear. How do I just casually mention this? I don’t want to make anyone uncomfortable, but it needs to be said. It needs to be discussed. And so I took the opportunity. The chatty, friendly, wonderful mom that had asked me if Caroline was my only, was sitting next to one of the teachers. I simply opened my mouth and the words came out. I apologized to the mom for not knowing what to say when she’d asked, and for answering incorrectly. I told her that “I actually have two daughters”. I explained to them that this happened 3 weeks ago and was all still very much in the forefront of our lives. I told the teacher that I wanted her aware, and that Caroline would probably talk about “the baby”. I told them her name. I spoke about April Rey. It was done, and it felt so good to just tell them.
I hate sitting in a room full of people that have no idea. I feel like I need a sign that I can just hold to announce “my baby died 3 weeks ago”. This way, people wouldn’t expect me to act normal. They’d understand the sadness on my face that most certainly comes through even when I’m smiling. They’d understand not to ask me questions unless they actually want to hear answers. They’d know. And I wouldn’t feel so alone. And I wouldn’t be caught off guard.
Once I started talking about April, I realized I felt much better. I still came home feeling so guilty, however. How could I have forgotten in that split second? How is it that I didn’t hesitate?
I’m so so sorry, April. I haven’t forgotten about you. You are so very present in my mind and heart all the time. It was a question that has been asked of me countless times over the last 2.5 years, and it’s always had the same answer. It’s a rote response that I’ve just gotten used to saying. I’m still getting used to our new normal. I love you so much and I’m so proud to be your mama.
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