I met my new dentist the other day.
I’ve been going to that dentist’s office for 10+ years, but my dentist recently retired and I haven’t had the chance to meet one of the partners who took over the practice. As I was uncomfortably reclined back in the chair, my mouth hanging open and drool — made even more … drooly … by pregnancy — practically flowing out of my mouth, the dental hygienist informed the dentist that I was pregnant.
“Oh, congratulations! Is it your first?”
Then, my mind did what it always does when someone asks me what number kiddo is currently making his home in my ever-expanding belly: raced through all the possible responses.
“Nope, he’s our second.”
“Nope, he’s number 3.” And leave it at that, knowing the next question is how old our other two are.
“Nope, he’s number 3 … but number 1 died, so he’s like number 2. But really number 3.”
It’s exhausting to pretend like Penelope Joy didn’t exist because it makes people uncomfortable to talk about her. I love my children. All three of them. They are all a huge part of who I am as a person and as a mother. They are our family. Dottie Lou is no more important in our life’s story because she is alive, just as Penelope Joy is no more important because she isn’t. And Wink? He’s right up there with them.
Please don’t get me wrong — I know, with my whole heart, that people mean well. No one wants to purposely hurt someone’s feelings or open old wounds or be uncaring when it comes to subjects that cut so deeply.
But to ask me about my kids — ALL of them — doesn’t remind me that Penelope Joy died. Trust me, I remember that every single day all by myself. Instead, it gives me the opportunity to talk about her — to celebrate her life.
I share funny stories about Dottie Lou every day, and daily (or even more often) photos of her have pretty much taken over my social media accounts. Wink even makes his appearance — especially now that he’s making himself known (in size and full-on kicks to my bladder). But I don’t get that with Penelope Joy. There are no new photos to share; there are no new stories. All I have of her is what lives in the past. Her book has been written, and the only place it lives on is in the stories I get to tell every now and again — when she accidentally comes up in conversation.
So, I did what my heart told me to do when Mr. New Dentist asked about my kids: I told the truth.
“He’s number 3. Our first died when she was 38 days old, and our second just celebrated her 2nd birthday.”
There was, as there usually is, an awkward silence and a little stumbling as he found the “right” words to say.
“Oh! You’ll have a boy and a girl! How exciting!”
Yes, but no, I wanted to say. Instead, I smiled (drooly mouth and all) and said (slobbered), “We couldn’t be more excited.”
Because it’s so very true.