“Is this your first one?”
It’s a question I’m often asked by doctors and strangers alike.
While filling out paperwork at my first prenatal appointment, the question stared up at me from the page, its bold capital letters almost daring me to answer. Next to it were its follow-up friends:
Live births: ____
Quickly, without letting my mind become too wrapped around my answers I ticked the “No” box and wrote “1” on the miscarriage line. It wasn’t until halfway down the page when I got to the more routine parts, asking about family history and my monthly cycle, that my breathing returned to normal.
While walking/waddling down the street, almost everyone I encounter smiles and pauses to congratulate me on the miraculous feat of growing a human life. I love when it happens. I beam proudly and gush while they fire off their curiosities, “Do you know what you’re having?” (Yes, a boy.) “Do you have a name picked out?” (Mhmm, Walker Hudson.) And finally, “Awh! Is this your first?” My smile disappears and I hesitate—just one heartbeat—before answering.
I say yes and I hate myself for it. I know it’s just a white lie to save myself and this complete stranger from awkward social graces, but I feel guilty for denying the existence of my first baby, the tiny soul putting me on this long journey to motherhood.
It’s been ten years since I lost the little life that changed mine. I was 21 and surprised to be pregnant. (I was on the pill.) But my boyfriend at the time and I decided we were doing this. We told our families. We picked out names. And then, on a day not one month later, while out shopping, I felt it: something was terribly wrong.
A trip to the bathroom confirmed my worst fears: I was bleeding. In the hospital emergency room, I was hooked up to my first and only ultrasound. The technician worked silently, moving the wand over my still-flat stomach until she stopped over the tiniest speck, frozen on the screen. Her mouth set in a thin line, the tech said the doctor would be right in and while she closed the door I closed my eyes and prayed.
“No heartbeat,” said the doctor a few agonizing moments later.
What? I thought. That can’t be right. I can HEAR it, it’s right there. Turns out, it was the sound of my own heart, pounding in my ears and shattering into a million, irreplaceable pieces.
No, this is not my first one.
It’s not the first time I saw those two lines appear on a pregnancy test. Or the first time I daydreamed about chubby little fingers curled around mine. Or even my first September due date.
It is a different kind of first.
It’s the first time a name is more than doodles on a napkin. The first time I’ve felt the rolls and kicks of my baby moving around inside me. The first time I’ve felt fully supported embarking on this next huge step of life alongside me. No, this baby isn’t the first and hopefully he won’t be the last.
It doesn’t matter—first, second, middle, last—there’s no correct order in which to become a mother. It happens to you when it happens to you. And when it does, you’re reminded, albeit painfully at times, that everything which has transpired led you exactly to where you are now.
Guest post written by Liz Franco. Liz is a brand-new mama, designer, and stylist living in sunny Sacramento, California, with her partner and their little bambino. She believes bath bombs, Pinot Noir, and enjoying fresh air exploring new places are some of life's essentials. You can keep up with her latest adventures captured into tiny squares on Instagram or read her musings over at liz-franco.com.