I know I have talked in the past about things you should and shouldn’t say to a grieving mother. I’m never really upset or mad when someone says something, as I understand that it’s not the easiest thing in the world to talk to someone who has lost a child. I know that those who have said something I didn’t necessarily like were only saying these things with the best of intentions. However, many grieving parents have told me there will come a day when someone says something to me that will set me off. That even though they may not know the right words, I will feel that any normal human being would know better than to say what he or she did. They told me examples of things said to them such as, “You should be over this by now” or “God chose your baby because you are strong enough to handle it.” Granted both of those things would anger me, but nothing hurt me more than an innocent older lady I met at a restaurant. She saw my belly and asked the questions everyone does. “Is this your first child? Do you know what you are having?”
This line of questioning always leads to some form of question that forces me to tell them that my son passed away. In this case it was, “Where is your son now?” Answering that question rarely upsets me. I usually know it’s coming and am more concerned about the person asking me. The look of embarrassment or shame they feel when I explain that my first son died is terrible. They usually feel horrible that they even asked, but I know that they had no way of knowing. I always try to let them down easy and smile the best I can so they don’t beat themselves up over it. This was not the case with this lady. She was the first one to shake me to my core. To make me actually gasp out loud as I looked at her with complete shock. She said, and I quote, “I’m so sorry for the loss of your son. So you are pregnant now with your replacement child?” I just looked at her with huge eyes, mouth wide open. I couldn’t even bring myself to answer her. To her, my pause must have meant to continue to put her foot in her mouth and get in as many idiotic statements she could before some timer I wasn’t aware of went off. She then said, “l had a friend who had a replacement child. He was treated very unfairly. It always made me sad for him. It’s not his fault he is the replacement child.”
I kept staring at her, thinking to myself if you say “the replacement child” one more time, I’m going to lose my shit. After she was done, I told her that I don’t see this baby as a replacement. It’s all I could muster. She said, “It’s not how you see it honey, that’s what he is.” I thought to myself that she was saying it in a way you or I would refer to a middle or first child. It’s just where he falls in the order of things. She sat there smiling as she talked about my replacement child and the story of her friend’s replacement child. No care in the world. As she spoke, I pictured myself jumping across the aisle to her table and punching her in the face. My friend Shawn says that I have a gift she just doesn’t possess, and that is patience with stupidity. I looked at the lady, smiled and said, “I think calling their baby a replacement child is already setting them up for failure. Maybe that’s why your friend struggles with her child.” She looked at me, confused and bewildered.
As she walked out, I sat there with my thoughts. I wanted to cry. It felt like someone just casually insulted my unborn son. Is that really what people view him as? Are there more people in the world with this thought process? A replacement child this little boy will never and could never be. There is only one Nash. Just like when I meet this little boy there will only be one him, special in his own ways. I like to think of this little boy as something extra special. He paints rainbows in the sky with his older brother. He was conceived in the middle of deep heartache and emptiness, and is now helping heal his parents from the loss of his brother. One day, I know I will look at him and think that I could not imagine life without him. Then I think he would not be here if Nash hadn’t died. What does that mean? A replacement? No, I don’t think so. That makes him our calm after the storm, our miracle during crisis, a ray of light in the darkness. Not bad for someone I haven’t even met yet.