I started working at Walmart shortly after Cora was born. I just couldn't handle my old job and all the well-meaning regular customers who didn't know asking me how my baby was. And it would be a pay raise with better hours.
The only problem was that I was living in a small town that was home to a 4-year religious university, which meant a LOT of pregnant women or women with newborns all packed into a small space. So it felt like 2 out of every 3 women was pregnant or had a small baby. They were everywhere.
It hurt so much watching them sometimes, women who were hugely pregnant complaining about being kicked in odd places, and just wishing it would stop. My thought was always "shut up and appreciate that your baby is kicking you. I hope that your baby doesn't stop. I've lived that nightmare, and I hope you never do. Appreciate that your baby is alive and moving."
It was worse, though with the women of small babies. It was like they were stabbing me in the heart every time they complained about crying, or being up all night. I vividly remember overhearing once girl say "I don't even know why I ever wanted to be a mom, I'm miserable." I wanted to scream.
Now that I have 2 living children, I think I probably judged most of those mothers harshly. It's is really hard to deal with a baby who won't stop screaming (Erin did that to me, though I never ever thought what that girl said). But I can't help wonder, what if that woman I was--so broken and missing her baby so much, envying that I even have children at all--were watching me at the store. Would she be able to see it in my face, that I know...that I've been there? That thought has definitely impacted how I interact with my kids at stores. Even when Erin, being the 2-year-old, has her tantrums, I try not to say anything that could sound like I don't love and appreciate the fact that she is here to have tantrums in the first place.
Sometimes I wish that there was a special secret mark that only baby loss parents could see. So that we could know. It's so lonely sometimes. But if I could have just seen, back then, when my arms were still empty, I think it would have been easier. I think it would have given me hope.