So, have you ever just stuck your foot in your mouth? I mean, just put it in there and chomped right down on it?
I have. Oh my gosh, I so totally have.
But for me, something that's almost unbearable is when someone else does it-- and what I mean is that I can so totally relate that the sympathy I feel is almost as painful as having actually been the one to do it!!
Here's what happened this week. It all happened on one afternoon and within three hours' time.
Situation One: Meeting in Ms. K's room (you should read her travel blog, by the way. But only if you're sitting and don't have to go to the bathroom. She's hysterically funny and a precious friend of mine). The woman leading the meeting is from the county office and she's really nice. I'm on my way to the meeting when it occurs to me that I was pregnant the last time she saw me. Now, we come from a small community and literally received well over 300 cards and letters when Ben died, but I felt fairly certain this woman wouldn't have known about what happened because I can't think of her name right now and I'm pretty sure she just knows me by sight. It occurred to me that she might ask me about the baby, and I knew that she would feel like crap if she asked me about it and I had to tell her, so I hoped she'd ask someone before I got to the room.
No such luck. I walked in and that sweet woman's face lit up. "Hey! How's that baby?" The moment she saw my hesitation, her hand flew to her mouth and pure panic registered on her face. "Oh no." I knelt down to her and laughed nervously as five of my co-workers watched silently. What to say? I laughed and said something like, No, no, it's alright... I'm okay. Which isn't exactly true, but it's mostly true, and what are you going to say? I felt so badly for her. She didn't know and we were in front of people I love and trust and she had no way of knowing that it was alright that she had asked me. She was so gracious. I was embarrassed for her even though she had no reason to feel badly, but we ended up having kind of a beautiful moment and it was alright.
Situation Two (which will collide with Situation Three): I was leaving school about two hours later. A parent of a former student was driving into the parking lot as I was pulling out of my spot. My window was down and I didn't feel like talking to anyone-- plus, I just had this feeling again.... So I was trying to get Don on the phone so I'd look busy when she called out to me, "Hey!! Mrs. Swaney! How's that baby boy??" Oh gosh. She was four or five cars away in a parking lot. How do you just yell that across the parking lot? Oh gosh. Awkward. So, I sort of tried to back my car closer to where she was. Just as I got kind of close and said, "Um, he, uh, didn't make it..." another car (Situation Three) drove up almost between us. The mom's hands covered her face and she gasped, "Oh my gosh, I am so...." and she was just shaking her head back and forth. The mom who just pulled up didn't see what had just happened and she leaned out her window, grinning and smiling. "Hey! Did you ever have that baby?"
It was actually kind of funny in a really terrible way.
There's no good response to that question, you know? It's awkward to greet such a joy-filled question with such a crummy, crappy, awful answer. Just suck it up, say what happened, and try to make the asker feel better.... it's not their fault. They didn't know. They were happy for us-- and now they feel really, really bad for us....
Don had the same thing happen the next day at Rockdale with a former student. It happened in a parking lot, too. It's tough-- you don't want to really start an in-depth conversation about it, but you want to stand closer to the person to say it quietly-- it's not really "shout-across-the-yard" kind of information.
Anyway, it was weird. It was literally the first time it had happened to us with people who had known us before Benjamin was born, being asked how he was by folks who didn't realize what had happened (we were so surrounded by church and school communities when it happened, I'm often surprised when someone doesn't know!). And it happened four times, between the two of us, in two day's time. Crazy.