I think I mentioned it earlier this year, a coworker of mine had a healthy son in March; born just 5 months after A. Any baby born near A’s birthday stings, but when they’re little boys it hurts even more. Ever since I returned to work 6-weeks postpartum, this particular male coworker has been saccharinely nice to me. Still I avoid him in the office because just the sight of him roils jealously and anger within. Not anger directed at him, just anger over the fact that my child is not here as he should be – you know that little thing that never ceases to piss me off.
Anyway, Tuesday afternoon a half-hour before quitting time, I bid farewell to two clients in the waiting area then turn to head back to my desk and there, in the hallway, smack dab in front of me is that coworker, his wife and their blonde spiky-haired infant son with a gaggle of middle-aged female colleagues swarmed around. I smile and quickly walk past to my desk.
I sit down and can feel my cheeks flush. I’m feeling hot all over like I need to strip off my sweater. I can hear the ladies oohing and ahhing over the baby. I frantically untangle my headphones and turn up the volume. My heart is POUNDING inside my chest. It’s difficult to breath.
I try to distract myself by continuing with work tasks. I am blinking back tears, fighting the inevitable. Check the clock, 15-minutes to go. God, can I hold it together that long? I feel like the need to flee. I just want to get out of here! Perhaps I can talk a walk around the block. But the wife and baby are probably leaving soon too and I could not handle being stuck on the elevator with them. Shit.
I could call my good friend. But where to make that call? I am surely going to burst into tears any second now. The conference room? The floor below? The stairwell? Except the happy family is making their rounds through the office visiting and proudly showing off son. I can’t bear to bump into them again. I am fighting back tears now.
I tug off the headphones and make a beeline for the ladies’ room. My office neighbor is talking with another colleague about how she can’t believe he’s 6-months old. He’s so small!
I muffle my sobs while sitting in the stall. Luckily no one comes in. I grab my cell phone and plan to call my friend from the floor below thinking it will be a bit more private. As soon as I open the bathroom door I can hear coworker’s and wife’s voice in the reception area – they are blocking the stairwell and elevators!
I am legitimately sweating now; heart still pounding; eyes red from crying in the bathroom. Naturally I head in the opposite direction and pop into a deserted office. I crumble to the ground and cry as quietly as I can. I call my friend. She doesn’t answer and I don’t leave a voicemail. I text E and ask if he can pick me up, I can’t face public transportation or a prolonged commute.
I feel trapped. I wish one of my sympathetic colleagues would come tell me when the coast is clear. Kneeling on the floor I continue to cry by myself. Why didn’t I grab more tissues?
Finally the clock strikes five and the suffocating need to escape trumps the possibility of seeing them again so I mop up the best I can the makeup dripping down my face and cautiously head back to my desk.
I see a couple people on the way but avert my still-stinging eyes. Swiftly, I shut down my computer, snatch my stuff and speed walk out of the building to my awaiting knight in
shining armor dusty station
wagon. I don’t think I’ve ever had a panic attack before and I’m not
self-diagnosing, but whatever that shit was, it sucked.
Not one person came to check on me or see how I was doing with the baby visit. Maybe I didn’t really want anyone stopping by because surely I would have devolved into tears but even an email? Some form of acknowledgement? Nothing. Perhaps they were all too enamored with that spiky-haired kid. Maybe it is that I intentionally keep work friends at an arm’s length. Regardless I was a little hurt that not one single person connected two and two – his living son and my dead son; his life busy with growth and development and my life fantasizing about A’s milestones; him parading his adorable son around and me with A's photos tucked away in an envelope at my desk, desperate for someone to ask to see them again, too considerate to frame one.
That right there might be the gist of it. I don't necessarily want outright support from my colleagues (or any non-babylost folks) but I need acknowledgement. Don't try to say the right thing, don't try to make me feel better, don't tell me everything is going to work out. Just acknowledge that my son was here, that his sudden death is god awful and that my life is wrecked. That's all I'm asking.