Father’s Day, Elijah’s 3 month birthday, 2 month anniversary of his death, due date, royal baby born. Since I last posted, these, and other milestones we’ve been dreading, have passed. I did my best to avoid all the hyperbole of the royal baby. It makes no difference to my situation – Elijah isn’t any more dead because some other baby is born – but it throws everything into sharp relief. We seem to get through these milestones more easily than we might expect. I’ve read and heard that it is the surprise triggers that really get you and that has definitely been my experience. For example, during the Tour de France highlights show one evening there was a brief segment on next year’s Grand Depart in Yorkshire. The person being interviewed mentioned that leading up to the event there will be a cultural festival “starting 100 days before the Grand Depart on 27 March”. That would have been Elijah’s first birthday.
I’ve been through a few other milestones recently. I’ve started to fear social occasions. Small talk can be tedious at the best of times, but when all that is going round my head is “my baby died” it can be tortuous. There have been times when I’ve got into the mood and enjoyed myself – it’s probably not healthy, but booze helps. I’ve been dreading seeing people I don’t know that well who might not know about Elijah. I’ve worried about what I would say if someone asked how I’ve been or similar. I bumped into an old school friend I hadn’t seen for maybe a year or more. She had a new baby. I said congratulations. She asked how I was doing. It felt awkward, but I told her about Elijah. I was glad I didn’t just answer “fine thanks” or “not too bad”. At the same time I felt bad because I could see the tears welling up in her eyes. She said how sorry she was and I came away feeling it had been a positive interaction. I’d dealt with one of my fears.
A few days later, I saw someone in a bar in town who again I hadn’t seen for a while. He asked how I was, clearly not knowing about Elijah. In that split moment, I made a decision not to say anything for some unknown reason. I then felt really weird about it. So weird that I felt I had to let him know and messaged him the next day. He was brilliant in his response – very sorry to hear about Elijah and very understanding of why I’d not said anything at the time and why I felt I had to after the event.
Another question I’ve been dreading is: “How old are your kids?” I got this one on Wednesday. I managed to fumble some sort of answer about my 6 year old and 3 year old and that we also had Elijah who was very premature and sadly died. The guy who’d asked said how sorry he was to hear about Elijah. I thanked him and told him how much I’d been dreading the question and worrying about how I’d answer it. He replied that he thought I’d handled it extremely well. Another positive interaction.
My overwhelming experience has been that people have been great. There’s been a few who don’t say anything but give me a sympathetic “I don’t quite know what to say” look. Lots of people, including many friends of friends have told me how sorry they are when I’ve seen them. We’ve had cards and messages from all kinds of people, many of whom we hadn’t been in touch with for several years, some whom we’ve never met. Knowing people care and that Elijah’s life has touched them means so much to us. Sadly, I find myself being increasingly intolerant of the few people who haven’t acknowledged Elijah’s death. It feels as if the all positive interactions are shining their light on the crapness of others. I hate the fact that it bothers me and that I’m wasting time being upset when what is really important is that we had Elijah, we miss him terribly and that we are so grateful for the support we’ve received.