Since it took me so much longer to show with this pregnancy, I’d forgotten about the questions that a growing belly can bring. Everything from the nosy (“Are you going to breast feed?”) to the simple (“Do you know what you’re having?”). But for me, the basic conversational questions are always the hardest to answer. It’s always some variation of “Is this your first pregnancy/Is this your first child/Do you have any other children?” I never used to know how to answer this question when pregnant with Annie. It used to make me very angry, even though I knew it was asked innocently and usually out of politeness instead of an actual desire to know the answer.

Obviously, if the person asking is someone I’m going to have a continuing relationship with, they will usually get the story. But most of the time, it’s the random cashier or person in the waiting room doing the asking. With them, I try to keep the answers simple. I learned that lesson the hard way. I was sitting next to an older woman in blood lab a few weeks ago, and I was off my game. She asked me if this was my first pregnancy and I replied, “It’s my second.” “Oh, well, don’t worry,” She replied, “You’ll love your second just as much as you love your first.” She then went on for fifteen minutes about this. “It’s scary to go from one child to two, but there’s enough love! You’ll see!” It was the longest fifteen minutes ever.

The key for me is to answer the question without encouraging follow-ups. If someone asks, “Is this your first pregnancy?” And I only say, “No, it’s my fourth,” there are lots of potential questions there. So I will say instead, “This is my fourth, but I’ve had some losses.” This answer doesn’t leave me feeling guilty, and it usually ends that line of questioning.

I don’t usually bring up Maddie’s death to strangers. It makes the person who asked the question feel terrible, and it kind of ruins my day. But I won’t act like she didn’t exist, either. If someone asks if this is my first child, I will say, “First boy! He has two older sisters.” Occasionally the person will inquires about the ages of said sisters, and I’ll say something like, “My oldest’s fifth birthday was this past November, and my younger daughter just turned three.” It’s carefully worded to be the truth but not the whole story.

But, if the person isn’t getting the hint or is especially pushy with their questions, I will lay it all out there.

Does this mean I think you shouldn’t strike up conversations with strangers? Absolutely not. But because of what I’ve been through, I am now the worst at small talk. I’m terrified that I’ll ask someone a seemingly simple question that’s accidentally their Hardest Question. I already excel at putting my foot in my mouth, so I err on the side of silence. It doesn’t make me look like the best conversationalist, but I’d rather someone think I’m quiet than accidentally ruin their day.