Military Spouse Magazine

FEB 2019

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"SO YOU HAVE JUST THE TWO GIRLS THEN?" This kind of question comes up a lot. Anywhere that moms of young children congregate, our small talk centers around the kids. As common as this is, I am always caught off guard when some- one asks me to quantify my children. I was 39 weeks and two days preg- nant with our second child when my husband and I arrived at the hospital in the early hours of May 12, 2017 and learned that the baby I was in labor with no longer had a heartbeat. Our son was stillborn at 6:51 p.m., weighing 7 pounds, 15 ounces. We named him Samuel. Sam's entry into the world was silent and sad. We had to say hello and good- bye in the same instant, and everything after that moment has become so much more complicated than everything that came before; especially something that comes up with such regularity as smalltalk about my children. The moment someone asks me if my daughters are my only children, it triggers an anguished internal debate as the spectrum of potential answers swim through my head. There's the obvious but untrue "Yes, just the two girls." Then there's the truth-but-not- the-whole-truth "We have two girls at home," a subtle equivocation that I feel leaves some wiggle room for the fact that I have another child who does not live in my home. I am always aching to say the honest answer: "No. No, I have a son as well, but we lost him just before we got to meet him, and I'm not really OK." THE SORROW WE CARRY It is in these moments that I most want to explain Sam to someone. I want to say how he looked so much like his big sister before him and his little sister after him. I want to tell them how old he would have been today, because on the 12th of every month I always consider the fact that had he lived, we'd be saying he is so-and-so many months old, and how he would still be young enough that we'd be counting his age in months. I want to recount how we gently introduced Ellie to the idea of her younger brother Sam, a brother she would never actually meet. We had to do so in a way that she wouldn't fear her own death, or ours, but would also understand that death was permanent, and happened to everyone, however uncommon it was for it to happen to a baby. I want to emphasize to them that we did this in the midst of our own debilitating grief, before we'd even had a chance to process it ourselves. I want to brag about how impres- sively Ellie rose to the occasion, at just 2 1 ⁄2 years old; accepting and loving and including Sam, and helping us make him a real presence in our family. I want to rehash the anger I felt at his funeral, as my breasts leaked and my stitches pulled and everyone around me cried while I just kept thinking to myself, I shouldn't have to be doing this. I want to describe how obsessed I immediately became with the idea of getting pregnant again, and how that led to Poppy's birth just three weeks after what should have been Sam's first birthday. I want to explain that my pregnancy with her was filled with anxiety from start to finish, but that her screaming entry into the world pierced the deafening silence that had accompanied Sam's arrival. I want to contemplate how we can make Sam a real presence for Poppy in our family. I want all of these things to spill out of my mouth, one after another, so that anyone politely ask- ing how many children I have can understand what my life has been like for the past two years. I yearn to give an entire picture of the way that the bleakness and richness of having Sam in my family has shaped us. O U R L I V E S A Silent Story Choosing the words to share about our son, Sam. By Katie Wallace, Navy Spouse SHARING OUR STORY But I usually decide that all of that oversharing is too much to dump onto a person initiating some small talk at the playground. So I instead choose my equivocating option and give some of the facts. "Ellie is 4 and Poppy was born in June." And only silently in my heart do I say, And also Sam, who we buried on his due date. Introducing Sam to people who don't know about him is 14 MILITARYSPOUSE.COM / FEBRUARY 2019

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