The other day, I took my kids to the library. Getting out of the house is quite a feat these days, but I find Ben is better behaved outside of the house, and once we're there, it becomes worth it.
Let me preface this by stating I couldn't take Ben to story hour for a long, long time after Lydie's death. I couldn't bear to sit next to normal moms, I couldn't stand all the happy families, I was afraid of seeing babies and siblings with the same age gap as Ben and Lydie.
I managed to take Ben a couple times over the summer, but it was hard on me.
Now on maternity leave, I've been trying again.
Ben clapped his hands and danced and sang, listened intently to stories, and counted to ten during story hour. I held Josephine, and he'd glance back at us, grinning every so often. Afterwards, he sat at a table with other kids, coloring, while I sat in the corner, with my nursing cover and my baby underneath.
And I felt like I was handling this two living, one dead kid thing.
Soon I told Benjamin it was time to go, but he noticed a new story hour beginning and begged to stay. I explained to him that was for younger kids, and he begged anyway.
What the hell? I thought, thinking of how it bought me another 30 minutes of an entertained toddler. We joined the masses of moms and kids, and sat about as far away from the exit as possible.
Ben sat Indian style (yeah, yeah, I know that's no longer PC) in front of me and I held Josephine in my arms. The librarian asked me about my "new one" and asked me to introduce ourselves. So I introduced Josie and Ben introduced himself as "Benjaben Johnston" (yeah, he thinks his full name is "Benjaben." Cute, huh?) and told her he was two and a half. I thought the stories and music would start next, but nooooo, the librarian proceeded to ask every mom to introduce her child and share where they are developmentally... and all were around the age of one.
So here, I am, with Benjamin listening intently and for once on his best behavior, and Josephine in my arms, and tons of people in the way of the exit. And all these other women stating things like, "This is Ella. She turned one last week and she just started walking!" and "This is Avery. She'll be one in two weeks and she says about five words!"
That's right, all of these babies were around Lydia's age.
And I was trapped in a room with them.
I started to panic. I debated what to do. I texted one of my closest BLM friends. She said, "Just when you let your guard down, huh?"
And in the end, I did nothing. I looked out the window, I looked at my phone, I looked anywhere but at those one-year-olds, and I am sure I looked like a very bad mother.
The introductions lasted for 15 fucking minutes.
And the final song was one I listened to when I was pregnant with Lydie, imagined singing to her, and haven't been able to listen to since the day she died. It's a kids' song, of course, and here are the lyrics:
I'm sitting here, I'm one day old
I'm sitting here, I'm two days old
I'm sitting here, I'm three days old
I'm sitting here, I'm four days old
One day, I'll be a year
Then I'll be two
Then three then four
But as for now, I'm sitting here
I'm five days old
And no days more
This may be quite obvious, but all I could think about is how Lydie won't be one day old. Not two days old, not three days. And definitely not a year, not two, not three, not four.
I could barely breathe.
As soon as I got the kids loaded in the car, and shifted into drive, I started to cry.
And after we got home and I got Ben his dinosaur chicken nuggets for lunch, I called my mom. And cried some more.
"Did you tell them about Lydie?" she asked.
No. No, I didn't, and I usually tell everyone about Lydia. But I didn't drop the dead baby bomb this time.
A friend of mine recently told me how much she hates the question "How many kids do you have?"
And here's the thing: no one even asks me that question. No one asks me that question because they see me with my two-year-old son and my newborn daughter and they make assumptions. They assume that these are my only two children. They would never think there's another one, a dead one in between.
I know no one at that story hour was trying to hurt me. No one realized my pain. No one had any clue about my dead daughter.
And what was I supposed to say? "This is Benjamin, he's two and a half. This is Josephine, she's a month old. I also have another daughter, about the same age as all the other babies here, but she's in an urn on our mantle"?
What was I supposed to say?
"Why didn't you leave? Why did you put yourself through that?" my mom asked next.
Because I pictured Ben's tantrum, or perhaps worse, his refusal. Because I didn't want to make a scene. Because waiting it out seemed easiest at that point.
Because I'm a glutton for punishment?
And the worst part?
This is never going to end.
Next year, two-year-olds will be a trigger to me. In four years, the kindergarteners will kill me. And in fifteen years, it will be sixteen-year-olds.
I'll be doing this dance for the rest of my life.
But not at that story hour anymore.
My guard is back up.
* Thanks Kati, for being my support person through this nightmare... and for giving me the title of this post!