It’s the well intentioned, “is this your first kid?”
question that has become a daily struggle. A struggle not to cry. A struggle to
say nothing. A struggle to tell everything. A struggle of discomforts- yours
and mine.  But the reality is, I often
have the opposite problem. People tip-toeing around me. People not talking
about Teddy, or even their own kids out of guilt or uncertainty. I feel like my
presence now creates discomfort for some people, and that’s frustrating. There
needs to be a handbook for this- how to deal with the mother who lost her
child-but there isn’t. There needs to be a couple handbooks, one for you- and
one for me.

 

My handbook should have told me how to answer that terribly
simple question, “is this your first child?” Alex and I hadn’t talked about how
to handle this when someone finally asked. We were at the pool store buying
chemicals about two months after Teddy passed. At this point I was clearly
pregnant…pregnant enough for a man to safely assume I was pregnant. So he
asked…”do you have any more kids at home?” And like a scene out of a movie, I
said, “yes,” Alex said, “no,” and the salesman said, “huh?” The next 20 seconds
were so uncomfortable. Alex tried to keep the conversation moving- but I was
already crying….

 

I know why Alex said “no.” It’s easier. This man is a total
stranger selling us pool chemicals and now he has a pregnant lady sobbing in
front of him…But at the same time, I’m not willing to say “no.” I had a son, a
very perfect, loved, and missed little boy. So I say “yes, I had a son.” They
always miss the tense, or choose not to ask about it…but I choose to bring it
up. Now depending on my mood is where is gets tricky. When I get the, “how many
kids to you have question?” I say, “two, but one is in heaven.” The discomfort
is visible especially when they see the tears in my eyes. The conversation gets
awkward and usually quickly ends. But if they look particularly uncomfortable I
turn into an NIH scientist lecturing them about kinky hair and early diagnosis
of Menkes. If you’re going to be uncomfortable- you might as well be
educated.  I could stop at “two” but I
don’t- ever.  Alex does.  Alex cares about your discomfort. I do not.

 

We want to keep Teddy’s memory alive. We want to keep his
name present. So I sign cards with “love, Mary, Alex, Teddy, and Tuna.” He’s my
son…he will always be my son. He will always be my oldest child, my first boy,
my angel. So I include his name.  When
I went to create Royce’s birth announcements the other day- I asked my sister,
“truthfully, is it weird that I include Teddy?” 
She hesitated but then said, “I think it makes other people feel
uncomfortable.” And she’s right. To see the name of someone who has passed is
uncomfortable- especially a child. And I know it also makes some people
uncomfortable to look at pictures that I post. But it helps me. It also helps
me to talk about him…but this seems to push people’s comfort level to the
brink…

 

Just to clarify- I don’t want your children. I don’t want
your son. I want MY son. I want my TEDDY. 
I don’t mind talking about your children. Sure, it makes me sad, but
that’s my problem-a problem that I need to learn to live with. Just like your
discomfort around me saying “I had a son” or signing my cards with his name is
your problem-a problem you need to learn to live with.  But I also want to talk about my son. I want
to be able to brag about my superhero like you want to brag about your kids
potty training. I want to show pictures, just like you do. I don’t want to be
tip-toed around…with the exception of one thing…so I’m adding this to the
very needed handbook. Don’t tell me about your kid’s health problems. Don’t
tell me about their thrush or diaper rash. Don’t tell me about their ear
infection, strep throat, or broken arm. Just don’t. So many people try to
relate to me on that level. The ‘oh, I have a sick kid, she had a sick kid- let’s
talk about that.’ Let’s not- especially given the difference in scale. Your kid
has reflux, mine is dead. How do you really think this conversation is going to
end?  

 

I went to a fundraiser not that long ago, after Teddy had
passed. There was a little girl there- she was adorable. She was wearing a
party dress, running around with her friends having a great time. She had a
cochlear implant; we all noticed it. It wasn’t until the car ride home that we
talked about it. My dad said, “There was a time when I would have thought that
was devastating.” He was right. Before
Teddy, we all would have thought that was life shattering. But she was happy,
enjoying life… And by no means am I
down playing what may be a life shattering illness of event for you- I’m just
saying my definition is different. I try not to get jealous, and I try to
control my sadness. I just wish Teddy was enjoying life.

 

I love you to the moon and back Teddy Fish. I’ll never let
anyone forget you. And thank you for Roycie Roo – you picked out the best little girl…like I knew you would.