That Conversation Again


I never go into Chicago during the week, but found it necessary on Friday.  I needed to visit some hotels as part of planning a work event.  It was bitterly cold, and I knew the city, true to form, would bring an unforgiving wind.  I planned the trip to avoid as much commuter traffic as possible, scheduling my first meeting for 10:30.

I was met in the lobby by two representatives from the hotel: a sales manager, and another person that I assume was in training.  Both women.  They showed me the guest rooms and meeting space and I nodded along, tight-lipped as I usually am during these types of meetings, not giving a hint of approval or disapproval.  Of course, walking among so many rooms invariably led to small talk and mention that I had a baby at home.  That’s where it all started.

“Oh!  How many children do you have?”  I have three at home.  I was very careful to say at home, but of course, it didn’t stop there.

“Boys or girls?”  My two older children are boys, and my baby is a girl.

“Ahhh!  Finally got the girl!”  Wince.  I said nothing.

“I have two boys, ages 7 and 3 and people keep asking me when I’m going to go for the girl.  You’re so lucky!”  More silence from me.

“How old are your boys?”  They are 8 and 5.  “Wow that’s a big age gap!”

At that point, I was begging her in my head to stop talking.  Instead, I forced a smile and said yes, we are “starting over” with a baby, and tried to make a joke about how we had “forgotten” some aspects of parenting a newborn.  Luckily these visits for me are more visual as I examine the various rooms and meeting space, so she prattled on while I tuned out what she was saying.

At my second hotel visit of the day, with a male sales manager, when the subject of the baby entered the conversation, he gave me a hearty “Congratulations!” and left it at that.  For which I was relieved.

I was so mad at myself later, again.  I could hear the words in my head.  I have five children.  We have three at home, and we lost two.  “Oh my goodness, I’m so sorry!”  No it’s fine.  I just never want to say that I only have three when I have five.

And perhaps that response might make her think twice about that type of “small talk” in the future.  But I didn’t say it.  I wish so much that I had.

But a friend wisely told me not to waste any guilt on her.