When I was pregnant with Matthew, a co-worker and I had a conversation – she offered to give me all of her son’s baby clothes, because she didn’t plan to have any more children. I happily told her I’d accept whatever she wanted to give me. We chatted about this (and some other things baby-related) so joyously on this day in early July. And little did I know that less than two weeks later Matthew would be dead.
When I returned to work a few weeks later, it was budget time. It took everything in me to schedule the meetings and prepare and distribute the needed materials. And it was especially difficult to walk into the first meeting, knowing I’d have to see five random co-workers at once, thereby spending time with the largest group of people (aside from a support group) I’d encountered since my tragedy.
I wondered if they’d stare at me, what they’d say, what they wouldn’t say, whether I’d cry….
And this co-worker, the one who’d offered her son’s baby clothes, was to be part of these meetings.
And she sauntered into the first one as if nothing had happened and was like, “Uhhhhh… Chr-ris-teeeen! Why is this meeting only scheduled to be 15 minutes long?”
I almost replied, “Go fuck yourself.” But instead I replied, “Because the COO requested this.”
Our next meeting wasn’t much better. I had a nasty cut on my hand from falling on the sidewalk. And this same co-worker trounced in, immediately spotted my cut and exclaimed, “Oh my God – your hand! Are you okay?!?”
I ignored her, exasperated that she’d have the audacity to ask about a cut on my hand, when my C-section incision had yet to fully heal – the one resulting from my emergency C-section, after which my BABY DIED.
From then on, I spoke to her only on an as-needed basis, shouting profanities in her direction (in my head) as frequently as possible. But mostly I just avoided her.
But today I had to meet with her one-on-one, face-to-face.
I probably looked like hell, because, minutes before our meeting, as I was perusing Instagram, I stumbled upon another baby loss mom’s post of an angel ornament made to commemorate her baby. It was beautiful and not cheesy, and it was this baby lying on his stomach on a heart, and the baby had these gorgeous white angel wings on his back, and even though I know Matthew isn’t an actual angel, I just lost it and started bawling in my office.
So then I went up to her office, and she explained to me her new software (snooze) and how it will make my life easier (not-snooze), and I smiled and nodded and congratulated her on a job-well-done. And then I was like, “Yeah, I’ll review this so we can reconvene… When do you want to meet again?”
And we established a follow-up meeting, but our conversation didn’t seem to be wrapping up, so I went over my points again like, “Job well done. I’ll review this. When do you want to meet again?” But I added in some additional words so it wouldn’t sound as though I was exactly repeating myself.
And our conversation STILL didn’t really wrap up. It was almost as though she wanted to say something.
And I guess she did, because, as I stood up, she asked, “So how are you?” But not in the usual way, rather I could tell by her body language and by the tone of her voice that she was intending to ask, “Like how have you been since your tragedy and trauma, and how are you still alive?”
So I sat back down, and I answered as best I could.
I said, “I’m doing okay… But it’s been really hard. It continues to be. Gosh, these last 19 months…”
“Does it ever get any easier?” she interrupted.
“It gets easier to function,” I explained, “But the loss itself? Not really… It mostly just gets different,” I continued, “I mean, there’s certainly more joy now with Joel here, whereas in the early months it was just one giant slog of pain, but when the pain comes, it hurts just as bad… Because Joel isn’t a replacement. There should be two of them… And I think I’ll struggle with the grief and the resulting anxiety and depression, to some extent, for the rest of my life… And while I am thankful to have some joy now, it’s a new adjustment learning to live on this rollercoaster…”
And as I gave my honest answer, she began to cry.
And there was some more conversation. And she continued to cry. I was too cried out to cry. (See above regarding angel ornament incident.)
And she ended by telling me, “There are lots of us up here (she works on the floor above me) who think about you often.”
And I told her, “I appreciate it. Thank you for telling me that,” before we parted ways, with her still in tears.
And then I packed up my things, left work, and called Mark to tell him about my most recent interaction, and then I started crying again, because I miss Matthew so much, and so many aspects of this loss don’t get easier, but when something nice and unexpected like this happens, although it usually makes me cry, it also provides momentary comfort to know someone is thinking of us.
And it restores some of my faith in humanity to know some who initially appeared awful maybe aren’t sooo awful after all.
It isn’t like this co-worker and I are besties now. (I mean, we didn’t book a vacation to Aruba together.) But there’s been some redemption now (I only hate her a little bit), as a small comment and a genuine show of compassion can go a long way, even nearly two years later.