I have heard many bereaved parents express the desire for people to say their babies’ names out loud, to affirm not only their existence but also their uniqueness as individuals. I consider myself in this camp too. Then why is it that I so often forget to say his name when I speak of him?
Last night we were invited to dinner at our friends’ along with another couple who we have never met. Luckily, the other couple were relentless talkers. As obnoxious as that was at times, it also avoided inquiries about my 7-month-pregnant belly…at least until the end of the night.
Throughout dinner the topic changed a handful of times. I tried my best to keep a neutral, engaged look on my face as the newly introduced couple delved into their birth story and the fright of the complications throughout her pregnancy, trips to the hospital a couple times for pre-term labor and her bed rest until their daughter was born healthy at 37-weeks. She spoke of her precipitous labor and the OB group who attended the delivery. I nodded and listened but did not speak up about my own pregnancy and birth experience.
Finally, I played the sober-tired-pregnant-lady card and announced it was time for E and I to head out. At that point the new-to-us husband asked what number baby this was for us. Damn, I thought, we were so close to sneaking out. But, as usual, part of me was relieved someone else brought it up. Because I do want to talk about A and I do want to acknowledge him I just feel awkward bringing up something so devastatingly sad in social situations, especially first meetings.
So I calmly replied this was baby number two. “Oh, so how old is…” he trailed off, his inquisitive face finished the question. “Our son would be one, but he died.” I said.
Next, I resorted to years of social conditioning and yammered a few more unnecessary sentences about how we therefore don’t have any living children at home but we do have a fully stocked nursery. WTF? I wasn’t even making sense. In hindsight I realize this was a reaction to the stifling awkward silence. But really, my rambling made the whole situation more awkward. I should have stated the fact and then shut my trap. There isn’t much more to say after, “Our son would be one, but he died.” Yes there will be an uncomfortable silence as the truth of that statement sinks in; there ought to be!
We left a couple minutes later and although I was relieved to be on our way home, I chastised myself for not saying his name.
As the months have passed, it has become easier for me to state the facts; easier to say the words, “Our son died.” - “Our son was inexplicably stillborn a few days after the due date.” - “Our son died last year, actually.” But so often I unintentionally omit his name. I should say, ““Our son, A, died.” - “Our son, A, was inexplicably stillborn a few days after the due date.” - “Our son died last year, actually. His name is A.”
I want others to speak of him. I want them to say his name aloud. I need to be the role model and encourage such behavior. By speaking his name I demonstrate to people that it’s ok to talk about him and talk about what happened. So why do I get so flustered that I forget to say his name?
Surely there will be plenty more opportunities like last night to speak of my son. Hopefully with more time and more practice I will be able to confidently sit through the inevitable uncomfortable silence and also remember to include his name in my description.