You're standing in the grocery line, one child in tow, just wanting to hurry up, pay and get out. Not a bad day, not a bad mood, just in the perceptual busyness of a mom. The woman behind you smiles at your child and opens her mouth to ask "Is he your only one?".
There are plenty of variations to this question- but they all come down to "has your uterus produced anyone else?"
Who hasn't had said someone ask that? And who hasn't asked that at least once before?
But if you're one of the 1 in 4 women that have (or will) lose a child to miscarriage, stillbirth or infant death, this question might wreck your smile, your mood, your afternoon, your day, your weekend.. Because the answer to that question isn't as easy and pleasant as the person who asked wants it to be. Because you know once you answer it (if you do answer it truthfully) that person is going to stop smiling and do that weird, awkward grimace and try to change the subject. In case you don't know, that hurts like hell.
Now, for me personally, answering isn't the problem. I have no issue with saying that no, he's not my only child., that my first child, my daughter died during labor 19 months ago and that this child you see here is my rainbow baby. What makes me want to curl up in a ball and hide from the world is THE LOOK. That horrible mix of awkwardness, pity and distaste. It's the look that every. single. random. stranger. who has ever asked me that gives me.
I don't mean in the get to you know situations, like in the circle at a La Leche League meeting or playgroup. I mean those random, you are never going to see this person again (unless Fate is screwing with you) encounters. Those times where you are just making small talk, where there's not time to go into a true discussion of ANYTHING.
This isn't a small-talk question. This isn't always an easy question to answer. It's personal, sometimes painful and society needs to realized this.
1 in 4 women is a lot. It's a quarter of the adult female population. That's a lot of people being hurt by this during random encounters way too often.
Thanks to the internet, I know lotsss of angel moms. I'll never have to go out of state without having someone to meet for coffee at every stop on the way. There are 200 friends on my personal facebook list, most of which are angel moms, most of which I only know thanks to the internet. Then there are all various groups I'm in. One group, the first I joined, has over a 1,000 members. You get the picture. And many of these moms are expecting a rainbow baby or already have their rainbow earthside. Not a week goes by without me hearing about someone being asked that question, and that horrible look they got in return. The almost unintelligible mumbles that come after it. And it's usually it's more like several women complaining about it every week. Or day.
I'm not saying you're not "allowed" to ask this. That's not the point at all. We don't want this to be taboo. Babies die. Children die. But they are still our children. We still love them. We're still proud of them. But be thoughtful. Remember that "shit happens". That not everyone gets the positive pee stick and a baby to bring home and keep. If you ask and the answer isn't what you expected- don't look away and pretend you never said anything. Don't act like child loss might be contagious. Don't treat us like pariahs. We are 1 in 4, and we are all around you.
If you ask about the reproductivity of someone's uterus, don't assume the answer is going to be all positive. That's not reality for 1 in 4 women.