Coached by a 7 year old

In coaching school we did an exercise where we were supposed to coach each other like five year olds. It was fun but was also a great lesson for direct communication – not getting tied up in niceties or fancy lingo. But speaking plainly and from the gut. It reminds me that one of the best coaching influences in my life has been my daughter. She’s 7 now but still has the ability to show me those limiting habits I’ve been practicing for so long and showing me the beauty of an alternative. In this post (originally posted on another blog but still written by me) she shows me the cost I have been paying for constantly preparing for something bad to happen….

Hope versus Disappointment
(originally posted to momma2momma.com)

I am pregnant. I’m still waiting for it to be considered acceptable to tell people. There are social norms to consider here, specifically that one is supposed to wait until the pregnancy is deemed “viable” to start telling people. Having experienced two miscarriages, I get that. You know, you don’t want to tell a bunch of people who then tell a bunch of people who you later have to face and explain that the baby died. I find this a bit difficult, because really, the same people who would be in my network to celebrate my news would also be in my network to support my loss. Right? Yes – and, good news travels fast. Sometimes faster than bad. And the only thing worse than listening to a friend of a friend of a friend try to cover over the misstep of congratulating you by telling her personal story of loss, while you’re still experiencing it, is staring at the blank faces of people who you know know, but don’t really want to talk about it out loud, so they just stare. Blankly. It’s not their fault. I suspect I do it too.

So then – who is in the tiny trusted network of people I can tell? Well, obviously my husband. I texted him a picture of the stick I peed on two minutes post pee. It was our anniversary. I’m pretty sure I rock at anniversary surprises. I told my doctor and my NFP practitioner. I told a fitness instructor at my gym. And that was about it for a while. I don’t get morning sickness so that hasn’t been terribly obvious. But I have been tired. And bloated. And sore. And eventually, my daughter Isobel got curious about those things. She just turned seven. The last miscarriage was a year ago, right after her sixth birthday. I hadn’t told her about that pregnancy at all and I have felt guilty about not having done so, and not giving her the opportunity to grieve for the loss of her baby brother or sister. (I didn’t feel guilty about not telling my son, who was only two at the time. I do feel guilty about not feeling the same way in both cases; guilt is complex). So I did eventually tell her, months later, and she cried and held on to me. Honestly, I think she was the only person who cared as much as I did. So maybe that’s why, when she asked me why I was so tired, I decided to just go ahead and tell her.

She wasn’t looking at me at the time. She was staring at the television. But I saw her mouth start to curl up into a smile and then she slowly turned towards me so I could explain to her that she shouldn’t tell her friends yet because we don’t yet know if it was going to be ok. “If the baby will survive you mean?” She asked. “yes. If the baby will survive.” She asked when we’d know and I said I couldn’t give her a date but I would let her know everytime I learn something knew. “Does Daddy know?” I thought it was cute that she thought I’d tell her before him. I suddenly wondered if that would really have been so wrong…

She went silent about it for a few days. I thought maybe she had forgotten. Or just didn’t care. So I didn’t mention anything. And then the other day, in a rather nonchalant, totally random way she asked how big the baby was. “Tiny. You probably couldn’t even see it.”

“When will it be the size of…. Like a grape?”

“Well, if things go ok, maybe a month? I’m not really sure.”

“When will you know if it’s a boy or a girl. Do you have a name picked out?”

“I try not to think about names yet. I would like to know that everything’s ok first. But I was thinking maybe this time we won’t find out if it’s a boy or a girl until it’s born. What do you think?”

“I still want a baby sister. Well, another brother is ok too. I guess it doesn’t matter to me.”

And then someone walked in and she stopped talking. We got in the car to go to school and she asked me again, “how small is tiny?”

“I don’t know. Maybe like a seed.”

“Like a pumpkin seed or a tomato seed? Tomato seeds are a lot smaller.”

“You didn’t talk about it for a while. Now you have a ton of questions. What’s different? Did you tell your friends?”

“No.”

“Because if you did, I just want to know so it won’t be a surprise if your friend’s mom asks me.”

“I didn’t tell anyone. But Daddy. He said not to tell Eli because he can’t keep a secret.”

“True.”

“You know what name I like?”

“What?”

“Ahnna.”

“Is that from Frozen?”

“Yeah.”

“Then no.”

“Why not?”

“If the baby survives I’m not naming it after a cartoon.”

We talked about names for a while longer. I drove her to school and we were early so we had a long time to sit and chat. She was clearly getting very excited. Isobel has a strong nurturing instinct. She is meant to be a big sister. But she also struggles with expectations. When I got pregnant with Eli, she wanted it to be twins so badly – one boy and one girl – just like her friend was having. I told her there was just one and she cried about that. Later, when I realized that she had her heart set on a little sister and I was feeling confident she was getting a brother, I spent quite a bit of time in advance of the ultrasound tech’s announcement to prep her for that disappointment. She doesn’t feel disappointment lightly. She feels it with every cell in her body. She loses herself in it – just washes away in the current. It’s hard to watch – and frankly, it is sometimes annoying. And she knows she is like that.

But that morning, she asked more questions and I felt her enthusiasm growing. I didn’t even realize I was doing it – because I was doing it as much for me as for her – but for most every “what if” question she asked, I prefaced with some form of “if the baby survives” until eventually she just said this:

“I really think that instead of saying ‘if the baby survives’ all the time, you should just talk like it will.”

Silence.

Hello wisdom bomb.

Look, I do a lot of things wrong with my kids – I do a lot of things wrong with her. But that moment I realized just how awesome she is – listening to her measuring out a dose of my own good medicine. She reminded me, so simply and perfectly, that no matter the depth of the disappointment, for the moments where hope still lives, hope is ALWAYS better.

So now every morning she asks me how big the baby is. Sunday, she decided she would like to stay the only daughter so today she asked me how big “he is.”

“It’s a boy is it?” I asked. She smiled. “Maybe a blueberry.” I answered her question. She giggled.

“When will it be raspberry-sized?” She asked

“I’m not sure. A couple of weeks.”

“One day it will be the size of a pear.” She said. And followed that up with… “Once, I had a blueberry and I put it inside of a raspberry and I ate it. It was good.”

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