A few months after my husband and I lost our one-month-old daughter to a fatal chromosomal condition, we were invited to join a group of friends for a Friday night cookout. The invitation was kind and we accepted, but I wasn’t prepared for my reentrance into society as a bereaved mother. I felt clumsy and afraid of others’ thoughts, potentially awkward conversations, and the sorrow that might be stirred up. But I knew I couldn’t continue avoiding people.
When we arrived, the mood was festive, but the Alabama air felt uncomfortably warm. The humidity mixed with my nerves caused my cotton dress to cling to my sticky skin. I fidgeted with the fabric and wiped the dew from my arms. My eyes nervously scanned the room. There were balloons and burgers and boisterous laughter. Though I recognized familiar faces, I felt entirely out of place.
And then I saw her.
We had met less than a year prior, both with swollen bellies and glowing round faces. She was the first to give birth. Twin baby boys. A couple of weeks later, I went into labor with my daughter. My friend came home from the hospital with two healthy babies. I was now seeing them for the first time, watching as she juggled car seats and their small wriggling bodies. A sad joy came over me, unlike anything I’d experienced before. I felt a sincere, quiet celebration for her and the double portion of her blessing, but the empty ache of my own arms left my heart throbbing. The comparison distracted me, doubling the portion of my pain.
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