That Question, it comes in a multitude of forms; ‘is she your only one?’, ‘how many children do you have?’, since I have been in Riyadh, ‘are you going to have more?’. Before Cacia, those questions were nothing, answered easy as pie, no complicated emotions involved. After Cacia, I find answering that question, hard. I almost feel like I am a politician, answering without saying anything. I have learned over the last few months, post Cacia, that most mums freeze, through fear, shock, or lack of knowing what to say or do in response when told that no, Tyrant is not my only child, but that my second died. It is, to say the least, a conversation stopper in the playground, and when trying to meet new people and forge new friendships answering the initial conversation opener with a dead end (forgive the crudeness) does not help, I know I have done it.
However, my problem is, by saying nothing about Cacia, I feel as though I am denying her existence, as though I am hiding away a secret that I don’t want anyone to know. Guilt, I feel guilty as though I am failing her. I have yet to perfect my politician answer, except to smile and nod, rather than verbally confirm one way or the other. I have found that as I then spend more time with them, that question invariably comes back around again so I can decide whether to stick with my politician answer or reveal my missing space, Cacia.
But really, I wish I could just say, first time, no She is not my only child, I have a second but she died. And that would be it, the mum would say I’m sorry to hear that, and conversation would continue as per usual. But I can count on one hand the number of times that has happened over the last 8 months of living in the Middle East. The majority of times they freeze, apologise for asking and find a polite way to depart soon after to go talk to an ‘uncomplicated’ mum. Maybe it would be different in the UK, but in Riyadh surrounded by a multi-national community on a fairly small compound I have found I need to pretend to be the ‘uncomplicated’ mum, at least until I have made a group of friends.
So my request of those that ask That Question consider what you say and do after a mum has told you about their missing space. Please make them feel like they are an ‘uncomplicated’ mum and carry on the as per usual conversation. Pay your condolences and move forward, after all, that is exactly what we have had to do.