Friday, November 26, 2010

How many children do you have?

I know so many of us struggle with this question. It isn't an easy one to answer when your child(ren) resides in Heaven and not on this earth. Do you include your child(ren) that's gone or do you keep it to yourself? Everyone has their own answers and reasons for this answering this question. There is no right or wrong way to answer it.

I got to thinking about this question last week and this week when I was asked on several occasions at work. The first time it was someone I work with and see on a regular basis. Since I was back from maternity leave they asked me about that and then if it was my second girl. Then it hits you. You're set back for a moment because you're not quite sure how you should or want to answer it. Your mind works at a faster pace as it tries to process what to say. Does anybody else ever feel like this? Well, after a brief pause I ended up saying, "Nope, the third." And that was that. No more questions. That isn't always the case though. Some people are more nosy.

The other time was by a patient and my bff and coworker was with me. The patient asked us if we had any children and I just let her answer while I said nothing at all. I just really didn't feel like getting into it at the moment. Luckily, the patient was satisfied with just her answering.

Usually the question of how many children you have is followed by how old they are, which is another difficult question to answer if your child(ren) is dead. I find it much easier to answer both questions to strangers than friends or acquaintances. Strangers don't know any better and will believe that all your children are alive unless you tell them otherwise. People who know you at least a little bit can figure out that something doesn't add up, especially if your other children are with you (if you have other children) or they knew you were pregnant. Needless to say, things can get a little awkward. Of course, I've come to the point where I don't really care if it is awkward for the other person but that doesn't mean I don't still feel the awkwardness in the situation.

Sometimes I won't even tell people my daughter is dead. I just tell them how old she would be now and make them think I have 3 girls at home. Then they say stuff like, "Oh, I bet they keep you on your toes!" or "They'll grow up to be best friends" or something else that really isn't true but I wish were.

Even though I struggle with what to say almost every time, I've always included Carleigh. Maybe it's because I know I'll feel guilty if I don't. Maybe it's because if I talk about her I can connect with someone who has also lost. Maybe it's because I just want people to know she existed. Maybe it's because it just feels wrong for me not to.

I wish it were a natural thing for them to just be included and that (most) people didn't get all weird about it.

And you can't really blame people for asking. The question is a natural conversation starter. People talk about the weather and they ask about your kids. I mean, if you look back how many times have you asked that question to someone? I know I've asked it and perhaps I've even asked it to someone who has lost a child and they struggled with how to answer. You just never know. I guess now I'm just much more aware of how a seemingly simple question can be not so simple to answer.


Melissa said...

I think I have answered this question different everytime. For me it is most difficult when I am it's inappropriate for me to talk about my kids or something!

I agree with you...I would feel way to guilty if I didn't mention Amelia.

Mary said...

Such a true post! I end up answering different every time. But most of the time, I just let people assume all my children are alive. This has had a little extra sting to it now that we are pregnant wtih boy #3. Everyone says things like, "Your one girl must be the princess of the house," or "she must run the house!" And then I think to myself..."I wish." But instead, just smile and nod and move on...

Jill said...

I could have totally written this! I get asked all the time. Now that I am expecting again people are always asking, is this your first? I usually say no and leave it at that until the next question comes about how many or ages. Then it sometimes gets awkward, but I feel better when I include ALL my children. I did have a young couple ask me the other day if I have other children. I answered two step-kids and then they started talking about something else so I did not mention Emma and Chase which was okay because they were young and I feel like I would have taken away their innocence.

I have come to realize that I need to do what makes me feel comfortable and mentioning my twins is what makes me feel good so that is what I do. Many times I say this is my third and it is just left there unless they ask more questions.

One time I was asked by a lady and when I told her about Emma and Chase, she said "that is not what I meant. Do you have any children at home?" I was kind of taken away by that at first. It just shocked me how she put it I guess.

MommyIvy said...

I never knew what my baby was. He/she was gone too soon. I just usually answer with the two that i have at home. I guess because we never game him/her a name or knew anything about him/her, since I only knew I was pregnant for 3 days before I lost it.

belle said...

a big giant ME TOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!

this is SUCH! a struggle for me. i want to scream at the top of my lungs, "i hate that question!"

i have 9 children. i do. they lived in my womb and every one of them was born from it. other than the one on the way, none of them decided to camp permanently in my womb. BUT WHEN YOU SAY YOU HAVE 9 CHILDREN?!?!?! WHOA-HO-HO! people take a step back and say some pretty (expectedly!) off the wall things. granted, most of them are still true of my life as i do have 4 living children that are 18 months apart in age. but still..... and i simply cannot negate the love in my heart and the existence of these children in my life.

sometimes, i don't care if it makes others uncomfortable. sometimes, when a person in my private life is present, i sense the rolling of the eyes and the "i can't believe the drama" inner dialogue..... sometimes.... sometimes..... i want a t-shirt that says, "please don't ask me how many children i have. half of them are dead and i don't want to talk with you about it unless you are going to understand."

ughhhhh! why can't it be easy???????

Anonymous said...

It's hardest when I'm asked in front of the children. My 6 year old will answer: "We have 6 in our family, 3 boys and 1 girl [and mom and dad] but 1 boy died before he was born." He usually gets some kind of sympathetic reply. And these have been in business type situations (ie, doctor's office) not social situations (like meeting people at the park) where it's easy to move on to the business at hand. I am at the stage where I feel bad for the person asking. . . and for us, who live with this daily.

Another time at church, I was talking with a lady I'd known for years (and knew our story) and meeting a new lady. New lady asked "the question" and I replied "3" at the same time the lady I'd known for years said "4." Then I said "I miscarried." New lady said, "Oh that's great!" SHE HAD NOT EVEN LISTENED TO WHAT I SAID!!! ugh. Still can't look her in the eye.

Karin said...

I wonder if I'll ever get used to this question. Adding miscarriage to the mix seems to make people REALLY uncomfortable. Some don't necessarily think of those pregnancies equaling babies, as I do. We have different definitions.

My answer depends on the person and my mood. If it's someone I know and will likely see again, I'll share more of my story. And I do love sharing my story. More often than not, they have a related experience. But if it's more of a stranger, I simply say this child I'm carrying now is my first. It never comes out naturally though.

Mrs Banjo said...

my lil sister was still borne and i struggle with the question of how many siblings doyou have i always say 3 and when people ask how old they are i say 19 17adn would b 14, she passed away, most people will usualy leave it at that but some will ask what happend i hate that part. :/

Anonymous said...

Oh I so get this. Every single time someone asks, it's like I've been hit with a ton of bricks, because I simply don't know how to answer. And I rarely answer the same way twice - I say whatever I feel like saying during that time. I usually just leave it at a simple "no" when people ask if this is my first, and if they say that I must be busy, I just sort of smile. Most of the time I don't explain further unless I don't have a choice. It's a hard reality we now have, to have to answer this question. I don't think it'll ever be an easy one.

stitchndeb said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Debby@Just Breathe said...

I am glad that you always include Carleigh, she is your daughter and you have 3. So many woman are afraid to put the person asking in an uncomfortable situation. People need to know! ((HUGS))

Andrea said...

Oh that dreaded question that I always want to run from. And its happening more and more now that people know we are pregnant again.

They ask, "is this your first"? I die on the inside and say "yes", its just easier in the moment. Then, I walk away and feel as if I've betrayed Christian's beautiful life. I struggle with this, yet in my heart I know that I honor him :) He is my first, always my first...and I will forever be his Mommy. I suppose this is really all that matters.

As you say, everyone handles these questions differently. There is just no wrong or right. However, it hurts all the same.

Much Love to you Holly and know that we honor ALL of your children.


Kelly @ Sufficient Grace Ministries said...

Thank you for this post, Holly. I think I may put a reference link to it on the Walking With You page. (When I get around to it!)This is one of the hardest questions we get as mothers with children in heaven, isn't it?

It pains my heart to say that I have failed to answer this question the way I would really like to, more times than not...thinking of the feelings of the other person and the awkwardness. I wish that I had not slighted my children all those times...and I do feel guilty each time I neglect to mention their names. Sometimes I will say I have three in heaven. You can see the other person's face fall...their eyes turn away and downward, their face can see that they wish they never asked. And, sometimes I have said that we just have two boys and leave it at that...when I do that it tears at my mother-heart and inside I feel like I have left my children if they do not matter...when in reality, they matter so much.

It depends on my mood and the person asking...even now, so many years later. But, I am including them more. This question, never gets easier.

Thank you again for this...much love to you.

croleyc69 said...

For me it depends who I'm talking to and the mood. I feel bad inside when I just said I have one boy. I know the first one I lost was a boy. Ridge knows that's my son and I feel bad cause I do have a son in Heaven. I guess it all comes down to I know I have 6 children and 2 of them aren't with me and I love them so much. It's just hard to have to explain all that to someone that might not really deep down care.

I do feel bad when I don't mention them.


Betty said...

We've talked about this before and I still struggle with it. It's so hard and you are right about your mind instantly going into spin mode. There have been many times when I dont include Vanessa....and I feel extremely guilty for each and every one of them. It's just so hard to have that conversation each and every time. *sigh*

Right now I struggle because NONE of our family approve of us keeping her memory alive. I left her off of presents and Christmas cards...and it breaks my heart. I shouldnt care what the others think, but I'm so tired of the lectures they give us about "letting go." About doing the "healthy" thing. Landon doesnt care either way, but it kills me everytime I leave her off.

Perfect timing for me to read this. I'm redoing my To/From tags. I wont leave her out of what should have been her first Christmas.

AKD said...

I absolutely hate this question. It kills me every time.

Jennifer Ross said...

You hit that one right on the nose! I would have to say that every part of that post is how I have had to deal with all of the same situations. It can be hard and very awkward, but you get through it some how.

Jennifer said...

This is such a tough one! I try to always include Eli in my answer. Your right though, most people do not know how to handle that answer. You know what, if they are going to ask, I am going to give them a true answer whether they are comfortable or not. I have encountered a few people who have even responded with their own stories of loss. These conversations usually end up with tears shared between mothers. One sweet lady even told me she had lost a twin over twenty years ago and she thinks about him daily but rarely gets the chance to talk about him. Who knows, we might just bless someone with our stories by sharing. xoxo

Mackenzie's Mommy said...

I'm so glad you wrote about this because I got this question a million times in the hospital this week. I almost always tell people about Mackenzie. I'm pretty sure the only time I've said this was my first was to the lady at the nail salon because I wasn't sure she understood what I was saying anyways, lol. I know it makes for an awkward conversation but I feel so guilty if I deny her. Early on, if I was stuck on that situation I would answer truthfully but my heart would race out of control and I'd start shaking and I'd blush because I was so uncomfortable. These days I may still turn red in the face but it's not AS bad. At least in the hospital the nurses/doctors/etc. were a little more understanding of hearing "stillbirth" because they're in the medical field.

LetterstoClaire said...

This is such a great thing to write about because it effects all of us- no matter when or how we lost our children. I am a "talker" so my answers to any questions are never simple. If someone asks me if I have children, I say "Yup, a little girl. She sadly passed away after being born premature" or something to that affect. I don't say it in a depressing way or serious way, just the same friendly way I'd answer it Claire was still alive. Prematurity, unlike infant loss, is something that most people can wrap their minds around and there don't have to be follow up questions. If I just say she past away or died, people get uncomfortable and I know they always will. I do intend to include her in the future when I have other children because she will be just as loved as all of them. I'm happy to see that moms are also able to explain what happened to their kids, so that they too recognize the sibling, even if they did not know them.

Christie said...

Since I lost mine early on, I don't really include them when someone asks me. But the first time that I filled out paper work that asked number of pregnancies and number of living children was very difficult. I had to resolve myself to the fact that those two numbers would never be the same no matter how much I wish they would.

Rachel said...

This is so true. I usually answer like you. But when they ask ages I say my two living sons are 8 & 4. I always include Ryan. I even have my Mom cubed shirt from Couture Moms and so does my hubby.

elena said...

I really liked what you had to say in this post. That can definitely be a difficult question that a grieving parent may be faced with.

CynthiaS said...

I just realized that I am not a follower of this blog! I love this post because it has been such a struggle for me and how to answer. I have finally become comfortable including Olivia, whatever door that may open!

Anonymous said...

Its such a natural conversation starter although I really wish people wouldn't ask. Most people haven't experienced the pain of loss so they wouldn't know any better, but I really do struggle with this one all the time.

I will confess there have been a couple times I have said that Joshua was my first just to get out of an otherwise uncomfortable conversation. I have really grown to hate having this conversation and not because I don't want to talk about Jonathan or the first baby we lost, but because I want to avoid making the other person uncomfortable.


Cecilia said...

I've had this post flagged in my reader because it is something that has been on my mind a lot lately. Truthfully my answer is not always the same. It depends on the type of conversation and how well I know the person. I actually have a post saved in draft about a conversation with one of Hannah's NICU nurses that cut me to the core. Conversations like that one (where, at least in my sensitive heart, someone devalues him) make me very protective of Ethan and his memory and I don't always share. I realize that might sound contradictory, but I've thought about it a lot and its how I feel.

Thanks for talking about the hard things, I really appreciate your thoughful posts!

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