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After Child Loss, How Many Kids Do You Have?

by | Sarah's Corner

“How many children do you have?” 

Blah.  The burning question on the minds of (almost) all I meet. 

It is our cultural norm to ask each other this seemingly benign question.  For those of us in the club of child loss, it is far from benign and takes incredible strategy to answer. 

Sometimes I pretend.  Sometimes I say “three”, to be immediately followed with the question of what ages they are, and I answer “2, almost 8 and 12”. 

Most of the time the conversation shifts away from what sounds so normal and sometimes “they” keep digging…that’s the risk in the pretend answer…more digging…what school, what sports, etc. 

Sometimes I say 2 kids at home and we have lost one…this inevitably shifts the conversation to a sadder version.  The sadness comes from 1. Their response of compassion and sympathy or 2. Their immediate desire to turn away from what I have just shared with them.  Neither is easy. 

Neither is fair.  

So, how does one ever simply answer “I have 2 children, they are 2 and 12”?  How can I pretend that Marley isn’t part of the tribe?  What am I supposed to say or do? 

This turmoil is real and riddled with guilt and fantasy.  I just want her back, please.  I miss her.  

A few weeks ago, my husband really impressed me.  We were asked by our Uber driver how many kids we had at home. 

He didn’t stutter.  “We have 3, they are 2,7 and 12”. 

He loosely filled in the blanks for the Uber driver around “how fun it is to have these ages”.  He didn’t flinch. 

Nobody flinched. 

There is just no easy answer. 

I asked my husband how it felt to answer this way and why he chose to answer as he did. He told me

“It’s not the easy answer but it’s the real answer”. 

I asked him what he thought the easy answer was and we both decided there is no easy answer.  We both agree that a simple “2” is the WORST and most untrue.  A constant source of strategy, discomfort, sadness, and truth. 

So, how many children do I have?  I have 3.

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