When Dragon was born we were flooded with presents. The deluge continued for months and months. It was an overwhelming outpouring of generosity – toys, books, baby gear and clothes, so many clothes! But that jaded bereaved part of me always felt that some of the gift giving was compensation for A’s death. Like people felt so bad and pitied us so much that when the opportunity arose to shower us and our newest, living baby with presents, they went above and beyond, overcompensating for their own sorrow and discomfort and for our pain as well.
This shouldn’t bother me. I feel like a jerk even thinking it. I wish I could just shut that part of me up and be grateful that so many people in our lives care about us and adore our daughter.
The same occurs when we run into folks for the first time after Dragon’s birth. To my wary ears when someone emphasizes their joy over the birth our daughter it feels more like relief regarding our son’s death and the subsequent fallout. “I’m so happy for you two!” Why because you think we’re fixed? Because you think we’re moving on and healed? Truth is we are healing and moving forward with our life but I don’t want that misinterpreted as we are “okay” or “over” A’s death. We are still absolutely broken and anguish over our missing boy each and every day.
Related to the overcompensation is, I think, a sense of relief for family, friends and acquaintances. Relief that Dragon arrived safely. But more so, relief that this must mean E and I are doing better and that judgment alone makes my guard fly up.
When we became pregnant with Dragon six months after A was stillborn, I immediately knew I didn’t want to discuss my pregnancy or feelings with anyone other than E and some close babyloss moms who knew where I was coming from. To that end, I sent an email to all of our family, friends and even my coworkers asking them to please not ask anything and to not expect me to share much about the pregnancy. For the most part, they respected our wishes. Perhaps that restriction fed into the overcompensation when Dragon finally arrived alive and well. That I held our loved ones at arm’s length for a time that when the floodgates finally came down the gifts rushed in.
I really do wish I didn’t feel this cynical. But I can’t help but think about what the response would have been to A’s birth and homecoming had he lived. Sure our there would have been fanfare surrounding our firstborn child, but would it have been as over-the-top?