I was volunteering recently in the local park, pulling ivy from long-neglected paths, when I ran into a woman from one street down. My neighbor gazed at Little A, who was waving her arms and bah-bah-bah-ing in the stroller while Big A spun circles around us.
"She's almost eight months old," I said, even though the woman had not asked the question I was answering. I tried to look her in the eye, but she stared at her feet and then left a few minutes later.
I don't need to be told how old her children are. Her daughter is just a few months older than Big A. Her son is just a few months older than my baby with trisomy 18 would have been, if the baby had been born on time. This neighbor and I were pregnant at the same time in 2005. We'd casually exchanged pregnancy info that fall at a block party, both of us innocent and hopeful about what lay in store for us at that moment in time.
The next time I met her was Halloween, 2006. She stood at my door, costumed baby and older daughter happily clamoring for candy. I was home alone, too ill to go out trick or treating with DH and Big A. Little A's pregnancy was kicking my ass. It was the beginning of the third trimester and I was round as a pumpkin -- exhausted, haggard, obviously pregnant.
I had not seen this neighbor in awhile. Yet I assumed she'd heard about my dead baby. It was ten months since the loss and I was no longer guarded when I ran into people on the street. Nobody offered condolences or stared at me anymore.
"Where is your little one?" The neighbor asked lightly.
I froze. God, she didn't know about the dead baby. The only words that sprang to mind were completely inappropriate to say in front of her kids. Like, can't you COUNT? If I'm very pregnant this Oct. AND was pregnant last Oct., how could that be, unless I'd lost the first baby? Are you an IDIOT?
"Oh ... Big A is out with her father trick or treating," I finally stammered.
"Yes, we just saw them. But where is the BABY?" she asked again, clearly not catching my drift.
What the fuck? Do I just look fat? Or does she think this is some kind of a costume -- tired suburban pregnant lady is now a character you dress up as?! Exasperated, I pointed at my belly. "I'm not due until January," I said firmly.
It was too dark to see if she blushed, but she finally got it. She thanked me quickly for the candy and hurried away. I leaned against the door, bowl of M&Ms propped up on my belly, feeling a whole new level of bad that night. In fact, I think that I switched off the porch light and stopped giving out candy after that.
I wonder if she'll ever actually be able to look me in the eye again?