How Many?

I had a dream early this morning. The boys and I had gone swimming at the community pool and we went into the locker room to get changed. When we walked in, there were two other women and a handful of kids, all sitting at a table. Across from them was a clothes rack filled with fancy dresses. There were signs hanging up all around with the March of Dimes logo. One of the women started talking to me and was explaining a fundraiser they were doing for March of Dimes. The dresses were samples from a children’s consignment shop in a neighboring town. All you had to do was go to the shop, buy a fancy dress for a young girl and part of the proceeds went to March of Dimes. She stopped herself, mid-explanation and said, “But you don’t have to worry about it because you don’t have a girl.” I corrected her and said, “I do have a girl. She passed away at birth.” I went on to start talking about the March of Dimes and how we had just participated in our first March for Babies. She interrupted me with a loud gasp and turned the other way, not speaking to me again. I gathered my things and the boys and I walked out of the locker room. It was at this point that the sounds of Rodger getting ready for work woke me up.

This was a very real dream. No aliens, flying pigs or anything else weird. This was a real life scenario, one that plays over and over in my head.

As I have explored the online baby loss community through blogs, Facebook groups and alike, one of the most popular questions asked is, “How do you respond when someone asks, How many children do you have?” It is a topic that comes up frequently and the answers vary from A to Z every time. I wrote about an experience that I had with a similar situation, here. A blog I follow, Butterfly Dreams, posted about this same topic just recently, Low Blows.

The question of, “How many children do you have?” has been asked very few times of me since Kyleigh’s death. I avoid exposing myself to situations where I would be asked the question because I just don’t know what to say. Shortly after the first of the year, I was invited to a play date. I was under the impression that there were only going to be 3-4 women and their 1.2 children there. By the time we left, there were probably 8-10 women and a ton of kids. I only knew one other mom. Anybody who knows me well knows this is a situation that I would typically avoid and one that makes me most uncomfortable. At one point, most of the moms were in the kitchen and as I walked through I overheard the conversation of “how many kids do you have?”, “are you going to have any more?” … and that was just the beginning. I picked up the pace and walked right on through. I was not about to get stuck in that tornado! It’s not always possible to avoid these types of conversations, but if they involve people I don’t know, you can bet I’m going to do my best.

The scenario of being asked “How many children do you have?” plays over and over in my head.

“I have two boys.”
“These are my boys and they have a sister in heaven.”
“Two boys with me and three babies in heaven.”
“I have three children, two boys and a girl.”
“I have two boys with me and a daughter who is hanging out with Jesus.”

Do you notice the discrepancy in all of my answers? I can be partially truthful and answer with, “two boys.” That is true. But then I deal with the guilt of not including Kyleigh. I can say, “two boys and a girl in heaven.” That is true. But then I leave out our two miscarriages, which is a whole other blog post in itself. I can include all five of my children, but then people get really uncomfortable. I like my last answer, as it is truthful and also provides a little comic relief to an uncomfortable situation.

This same friend that invited me to the play date has also experienced the death of a baby through stillbirth. I have heard her answer the question of, “How many children do you have?” a few times. One time was in response to a child’s grandpa at preschool, the other time was at the play date. Both times, she answered honestly and gracefully. She has a way of including all of her children without making people feel uncomfortable or even in a way that demands a response back from the person asking. I have figured out that it’s not the words that she speaks, but the way that she says it, with confidence. She is not worried about what the other person is going to think or say. She doesn’t get caught up in how she says her answer or wonders if she is answering appropriately. She just says it.

What do you feel is an appropriate answer? Do you or would you get uncomfortable with a person’s answer that includes their deceased child? If you are a bereaved parent, how do you respond?

Even though the question of, “How many children do you have?” has not come up a lot with me, I know it will. My oldest son is getting ready to start Kindergarten. I will be meeting new teachers and new parents. For me, including Kyleigh is the only option. She is a part of our family. I have to let go of what other people think and answer in a way that brings me peace.

“Your boys are just adorable! Do you have any other children?”

“Yes! I have a daughter, Kyleigh, who is waiting for me in heaven.”

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3 thoughts on “How Many?

  1. Pingback: Liebster Award | blessings

  2. I’ve experienced this happening twice to me (as a response to my question of “How many kids do you have?” ). And I hope that I responded okay – but it’s hard to know. I’m not very good at reading people and my instinct is to ask about the child in Heaven but I don’t know if that is appropriate or if she doesn’t want to talk about it or if I’m being too nosy so I’m afraid that I come off uneasy. What would be a good response?

    • Thanks for asking this Julie. For me, I would rather somebody ask about Kyleigh, then ignore her. In the days following her death, people would come visit us, but never mention her name. That is more hurtful to me then someone saying something, even if it’s not the right thing. As for what a good response is, I think it depends on the person you are talking to and the situation. Don’t be afraid to ask questions or say the child’s name. If a bereaved parent mentions their child, they want to talk about them.

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