We all have our own personal stories. When a question from a stranger, seemingly harmless, challenges our story, we are forced to question how much we actually want to reveal. For are forced to instantly decide what’s appropriate to share, and what’s not.
In my case, now that my little baby is truly a toddler, she doesn’t just attract attention when we leave the house. She commands it. Pointing, laughing, yelling, and babbling in the language that she has created that sounds really similar to German.
When we are out at the grocery store, park, or another errand and she has managed to indirectly introduce us to a stranger, the first typical question is “How old is she?” After answering, the next question is usually “Oh, and is she your first?”
This question always make me pause. This well-meaning stranger, often a parent and just looking to swap stories, doesn’t know what they are asking. How could they? And yet, I still pause. No, I think, but I can’t tell you that. I can’t wreck your day.
I want to say: You see, kind stranger, I’ve been hurt. This charming toddler, she has an older sister. One that would likely have been equally as charming, and someone that she will never get to meet. Someone that I was blessed to know for minutes, and somehow those minutes have shaped the rest of my life. This little girl has a sister who is not here. They will never get to run and play, tell secrets late into the night in the room they share, play dress up with all of my old clothes, fight over toys that they both don’t even like that much…because her sister couldn’t stay. The doctors said that she wasn’t compatible with life; I say she was too beautiful for Earth. And so, I’m not sure how to answer your question. If I say yes, she is my first…am I dishonoring Darla? If I say no, is that fair to Gracie? Is that fair to you? Is that fair to me?
I could tell you that no, she is not my first child. There was one before her. However, she is my first in so many other ways. She is my first baby to cry. She is my first baby to laugh, and she has the best laugh I’ve ever heard. She is my first baby to smile, and sing, and ask for a hug, and give me a sloppy, open-mouthed baby kiss. She’ll be my first to potty train, sleep in a big girl bed, start kindergarten…so many firsts. But when she eventually hurts me, as all kids unfortunately do at one time or another, she won’t be the first to break my heart.
And it’s because she isn’t my first baby that I am so abundantly thankful for every single first.
And yet, I can’t say all this. Not to a stranger. It’s too much to unload, especially to someone who is looking for a friendly exchange; I don’t know if they also have lost a child. And so, I smile and say “Yes, she is.”
I pray she is the first of many more. Now that I have experienced all these new firsts, I don’t want them to be the lasts.