Monday, February 18, 2008

Assumptions and blessings

As a journalist, one of the first lessons I learned was never to make assumptions.
Don't assume that all siblings share the same last name. Don't assume that beer bottles in a car mean the driver was drinking. Don't assume that you can even begin to comprehend someone else's pain.
It is a lesson I have tried to apply to my personal life as well.
So when a woman I had become casual friends with through my oldest son began to drift away, I assumed nothing. We were not very close. Our children are in different classes now. She had taken a part-time job.
I tried not to assume that it was personal.
I learned yesterday that it was.
Her daughter and mine are in the same class this year and have become friends. They insisted on a playdate and it finally happened yesterday. I noticed that the mom watched the twins play when she dropped her daughter off and seemed interested in them, even drawn to them. But she kept her distance.
Soon after she left, her daughter told me that her older brother was a twin, but that his twin had died before birth.
When the woman returned to retrieve her daughter, I apologized for my ignorance and for any insensitivity I might have displayed during my pregnancy and after. I offered my condolences, unsure whether I was doing or saying the right thing. But relief seemed to wash over her.
And she talked.
She talked about learning that her son had died inside her body at 20 weeks. She talked about the doctors removing the baby and the sac, careful not to touch the surviving baby. She talked about seven long weeks in the hospital on full bed rest and the 1-pound, 12-ounce baby who struggled so hard to survive.
She talked about how blessed and grateful they are that the tiny little baby did survive and that he has no problems resulting from his prematurity. She talked about medical miracles and her familiarty with the NICU.
She did not talk about the pain of her loss or the pain that I now recognize on her face as she watches my boys play.
This time, I decided, it was safe to make an assumption: she is strong in a way that I am not sure I could ever be. I meet people like her around every corner, people who have lost children. And every day, I think of them. I think of them when the frustration mounts. When the twins are crying, the older kids won't do their homework, dinner is burning, the laundry is piling up, I have no time to write and I've barely slept for days.
I am reminded that I have four healthy children, a wonderful husband and a stepdaughter who loves us all. I might have frustrations, but I do not carry that sorrow in my heart that she will have forever. I do not have to be so strong.
Life is good.
I can handle it.

8 comments:

Rachel from BBC said...

Lori, this brought tears to my eyes. This is something I can remember too when frustration seems high--thank you for reminding me!!!

jay_say said...

Hi... just wanted to comment to you. I found your page through a comment you posted on bbc.com. I also have twin boys - Matthew and Jonathon...

Happywritermom said...

Jay_say, need I say I love your boys' names? I just checked out your blog. You have beautiful children.

Rachel, I need reminders myself often, especially on snow days like today when my husband is out of town and I'm trying to entertain four kids!

Lexi said...

That is so true. I am watching some kids for a friend this weekend, and I never understood how she could be so frustrated all the time. Well she has 2 kids with medical and school problems, so I am realizing her frustration as I try to help them with thier homework and getting their daily needs met.

Jan Gundtofte-Bruun said...

Wow, that was quite a ticklish situation, I'm happy to hear you were given the chance to address it. The whole 'surviving twin' issue is deeply uncomfortable to think about.

The Myers Family said...

AMEN TO THAT! I also feel the same way...when life is out of control..i feel like i take things for granted. I also have three beautiful healthy children and i have no idea what it's like to loose a child or have a sick baby. I thank GOD each day that i'm one of the lucky ones!

arda said...

Lori - your post left me with tears in my eyes. Thank you for sharing and helping us all appreciate what we have.

Arda (from BBC)

Mommakitten said...

We were faced with the possibility of one or both boys dying. It doesn't matter the preparation you the or the books you read...I thank God everyday for my boys no matter how frustrating the day can be with twins and older siblings because they were not supposed to make it, but God has better plans for them down here than at those pearly gates.