I've never cared for small talk. Small talk in the dentist's chair is even worse. "So where do you work?" "Where do you live?" "Do you have kids?" Meanwhile, I'm thinking the answers and then trying to spit them out in between suctions.
Lovely conversational flow.
Through the broken small talk I manage to answer that I have a four year-old son and then the inevitable next question comes...the one I never quite know how to answer:
"So, any plans for a second one?"
I think to myself "Yes, there were plans and there was another child, but he didn't arrive. And, yes, I still want another...but I'm scared."
I know this is NOT the answer she (or anyone else who asks in the midst of small talk) is looking for. I know it would be too much and so I usually push the real answer away and, for the sake of keeping conversation going, just say what's easier: "oh yea, sure, probably one day here soon."
But this time I hesitated giving the canned response because even just thinking it brings up that familiar pang of guilt: glossing over my experience with my unborn second son as if he didn't exist - exactly what I feared would happen when we first learned that we'd lost him 17 weeks along.
Maybe I had too much time to think in between suctions on this one or maybe I was just tired of trite conversation, but I decided to respond differently this time - to risk her possibly feeling uncomfortable in order to honor Blake and my own feelings. "Well, we did want another and were expecting him this past February but we learned that we lost him early in the second trimester."
She didn't stiffen or stumble on her words like I'd expected - instead she stopped what she was doing, pulled her mask down, and leaned in close. She whispered, "I'm so sorry, I know that feeling, I had the same experience in between my two children. I'm so glad you said something because no one ever wants to talk about it, right?"
And that's when the REAL conversation began. The energy between us became completely different - we talked like two girlfriends at a slumber party, wide-eyed and leaned in close and finishing each other's sentences. Not because we're excited about what happened but because we found someone who could not only relate but was willing to actually talk about it.
When I headed out to leave we smiled and nodded to each other in a way that said "I get you". We were no longer strangers but connected in some unspoken way. Had I passed on TRUTH in favor of pleasantries, we could've talked for twenty minutes yet still left strangers. But more importantly, I would've sold myself and my son short by choosing not to acknowledge him.
That day in the dentist's office, two strangers traded in small talk for a conversation that mattered.
And my unborn son? He mattered, too.
I imagine some of the people who love me worry sometimes when they see me still speak of him, write about him, or keep some mementos out around the house. "Is she having trouble dealing? Has she not moved on?" they probably wonder. The truth is, as I sit here writing this a year later, I've accepted the loss of our son and grieved him fully...but I'll never stop talking or writing about him.
Because we love our kids and are proud of who they are, regardless of how long we have the honor of mothering them. When someone speaks my living son's name or wants to tell me a story about something funny or wonderful he's done, I light up. My heart and soul pleads "tell me more!" And it's no different with the son I carried for four months - when people speak his name, when they're able to recall a memory of my pregnancy with him, I light up. My heart and soul pleads "tell me more!", only they can't because his life was so short.
I figure the least I can do to honor him is to tell his story in the hopes it may give someone else comfort during a difficult time. The least I can do is not gloss over his 17 week life in conversation as if it never existed.
This is the reason I keep telling my story - his story...because he mattered.