Wednesday, April 25, 2012

How many children do you have?

We have all been asked that question before. Some of us get it on a regular basis. If I'm out with only one of mine, I get asked if they're my only child. If I'm out with both I get asked how Sam likes being a big brother to Iris.

So how do you answer?

I say answer in whatever way you feel comfortable.

I personally don't use the term "angel baby." I know that some people answer that they have a baby in Heaven and two living. Or however it may be.

Others will exclude the child that they lost altogether. (Pete does this sometimes.)

Me? I volunteer it. "I have two living children and one that passed away when he was two months old."

I used to say that I had one living child but people assumed that my non-living child was a miscarriage. This made me uncomfortable. Although I admit that having a miscarriage is sad, I've had one myself, I can't compare the loss of that pregnancy to the loss of the child whose personality I got to know. I'm not saying that one loss is worse than another, mind you, just different. Apples and oranges.

Some people have gone so far as to argue with me about Toby and his time on this earth. This was taken from an actual conversation with a nurse during Iris' pregnancy:


Nurse: How many living children?
Me: One.
Nurse: So your abortion...
Me: What?! He wasn't an abortion!
Nurse: Oh, that's just the technical term.
Me: But-
Nurse: So how far along were you when you had your spontaneous abortion?
Me: He WASN'T an abortion!
Nurse: It's a MEDICAL term. It's doesn't mean what you think. I just need to know how far in your pregnancy you were.
Me: I KNOW what it means. It means a miscarriage. And what I am trying to tell YOU is that he was NOT a miscarriage.
Nurse: I"m sorry. So he was a stillbirth. How much premature was he?
Me: He was NOT a stillbirth! He was born. He lived. He lived for two months. And then he died. He was not a pregnancy loss.

So you get the idea.

Anyway, I differentiate when I answer the question. I say that I have two living children and one that passed away.

Sam is much more direct in this. He'll voluntarily say, "Toby died."

It does, on occasion, make people feel uncomfortable. It sometimes makes me feel sad. It also makes me feel good, though. I LIKE mentioning Toby. By not including him I feel like I am ignoring him. By counting him (but not mentioning that he is deceased) I feel like I am not honoring his passing.

Still, you should do what you feel comfortable with. Use the terminology you like and say as much or as little as you want. 

4 comments:

Maxie's Mommy said...

I dread this interaction with my whole soul.

KYenglish said...

i try to use

"I've HAD three children"

most people don't even recognize the change in tense and I find it avoids the awkward look and search for a platitude that's probably going to be on my "don't like" list while doing enough to make me feel like I'm not "forgetting" Toby.

This question is one of the worst parts because ti happens so often

Rebecca said...

I've actually had someone with me try to be "helpful" and explain to other people (in front of me) that Toby died from SIDS on some of those occasions where I didn't feel like talking about it.

Conversation:

Stranger: How many children do you have?
Me: I've had 3.
Stranger: That's nice.
Friend: Well, one of them died from SIDS and isn't with us any longer.

Oh, Lordy.

It is an awkward and uncomfortable moment. But, as the husband above can attest, I get into SIDS conversations with random strangers these days. For us, the worst part was not long after he died whenever we would go out in town and run into people that didn't know and they would ask how he was. Having to tell them that he died...horrible. We brought a waitress and a grocery store clerk to tears in the same week. That's us-spreading cheer everywhere we go.

Katie (LukeGrantsMom) said...

This last week I was interviewing a new receptionist and she noticed (not too hard to do) that I am pregnant. She asked me if this was my first. I said, "no it is my third". She then asked, "how old are your other two". I said, "My daughter is 4 and my son died about 1 1/2 years ago". I got an I am sorry and I told her thank you. I teared up, but did not actually cry. I like to talk about Luke and even though it is hard to say the words that he is gone it is such a shadow of what it is actually like to live with him being gone - like you it is so much better for me to talk about him than not counting him. Most the time I do not get the back up questions.