Clanking dishes and dropped silverware were the melodies that morning. The brunch crowd was clinking Mimosa flutes, as we sat. Two friends from past lives. Two friends reuniting over brunch.
“You remember that guy I dated when we worked at the restaurant together?” she said.
“OMG! Yes! I remember him. You still talk to him?! He was soooo cute! What is he up to now? You should totally date him!”
I was squealing like a schoolgirl. Reminiscing with my college girlfriend made me feel like I was back at college. Like we were catching up after a night of partying, gulping gallons of coffee to cure our hangovers in a cheap diner. We were getting back to our roots. It felt right as rain. Refreshing, exciting and desperately needed.
The sunlight streamed through the window slats. A glowy golden haze hung in the air of the restaurant. It was cozy, warm and welcoming.
Me and my college friend hadn’t seen each other in 5 years. I wasn’t on Facebook for those years, as I was a bit busy with my career, getting married, and having babies back-to-back. Oh yeah, and I hated social media for a good long time. Mostly before Facebook started taking privacy seriously. I missed many highlight reels. Including my friend’s reel of life for the past five years.
I had no clue what was going on with her. Sadly, we didn’t keep in touch. Not even through email. But all of that distance dissipated at brunch as we exchanged snippets of our lives.
“I was with that one job through my college internship with for a while, then I needed to move on, so I took this new position. My boss is awesome. I have a great team,” she said.
“That sounds amazing. I’m so happy for you. Yes, while you were climbing a very cool career ladder, I was getting the life sucked out of me by back-to-back pregnancies, and then groped by two small children for about three years. Ugh, up to my ears in poopy diapers. For real. Thankfully toddlerville is all over,” I said with a sigh of relief.
She paused, and took a sip of her mimosa. She looked down, and furled her bottom lip.
“I miscarried last year,” she said, “I had a boyfriend, and I got pregnant. And we were ready to raise the baby, and I was going to have it.”
“Oh, I’m so sorry, how far along were you?” I said.
I tried not to look shocked. The news was indeed jilting. But, I didn’t want to appear awkward or uncomfortable, even though this news very much made me feel uncomfortable.
“I was 16 weeks.”
Four months along. That’s around the time you find out the sex of the baby. That’s the time you start showing. You buy maternity clothes. You tell your job. Your extended family. You start thinking about a nursery. You might even pick up a few items next time you’re in a chic, baby boutique. You start to fantasize what your baby will look like.
My friend went on to describe the grueling process of eliminating a baby. I listened at first. Then I must’ve glazed over. Not with boredom. Thoughts consumed me about what I was going to say next. What I was going to say to comfort her. What I was going to say to make it all better. What I was going to say to make myself feel better.
I should’ve been listening. I should’ve been really listening. This friend that I haven’t seen in five years, is opening up. And all I could do is feel icky and uncomfortable. All I could do was ponder my own words. As her lips moved I was calculating phrases and sentiments that would make me sound sympathetic and encouraging. I wanted to validate her sadness, her loss. But, I didn’t want to make her feel more sad by saying the wrong thing. Whatever that means. Whatever the “wrong thing” is.
While I plotted by next sentence – she poured her heart out.
Death talk, minus the kind that happens from old age, makes me feel really squirmy and awkward.
I know my squeamish feelings about death, are a result of my own issues with death. I fear it. It makes me scared. It makes me feel like time is so incredibly finite. Mostly, death makes me so profoundly sad.
The first opportunity that came to steer the conversation in another direction, I took it.
“So that boyfriend, do you still talk to him? Will you guys get back together?”
Maybe she wasn’t done. Maybe she was not finished adequately sharing her grief with me. And all because I couldn’t handle it, she was stopped. I silenced her. I couldn’t handle her talking about it. But, how the hell did she feel about going through it? About living the life as a woman who miscarried?
If I was a half-way decent friend and person, I would’ve let her talk freely, no matter how excruciating it was for me. I would’ve asked her if she knew the sex of the baby. If she had a name picked out. What her hopes and dreams were for the baby.
I would’ve added recognition for the human life that grew inside of her. I would’ve participated in her grief over this unborn child. I would’ve offered to do something her for gawd sakes. Okay, a year had passed, but I could’ve still offered something like – do you want me to take anything you bought for the baby away for a bit? Do you want me to get rid of your maternity clothes? Do you want me to help you find good literature or support groups to deal with your pain? Do you want to have a ceremony of some type to celebrate this tiny, short life?
As a mother myself, I should’ve known what to do. I remember being 4 months pregnant. The physiological changes alone are dramatic. I cannot imagine going through a miscarriage, and then being silenced by everyone I open up to – because it’s uncomfortable. Because no one knows what to say.
At some level, whether you’ve dealt with death or not, you know that no one truly gets over death. Grief isn’t something you move on from like a bad breakup. You don’t get over someone dying. Grief becomes a part of who you are. It stamps on your soul. It should not be silenced.