Child Loss Grief Kids Motherhood

How Many Children Do You Have? Why This Is A Difficult Question To Answer.

How Many Children Do You Have? Why This Is A Difficult Question To Answer. www.herviewfromhome.com
Written by Lisa Vanskike

It has been three years and still I am not used to it. I take a deep breath and inwardly cringe. I pause and assess the person in front of me to decide how I’m going to respond to the seemingly simple question they asked about the number of my children. 

He’s my third baby,” I say.

“Oh, how old are your other two?” says the pleasant cashier, or the sweet elderly lady next to me at a restaurant, or the friendly nurse, or the fellow mom I just met who unknowingly asked one of the hardest questions for me to face. 

And there it is, that moment where I have to decide in a split second what to say about my first daughter’s death. 

Should I have even mentioned that I’ve had three children or should I have just said two? Would that make me feel worse for not including my lost daughter?

She would be three, should I go with that answer? Should I just say three years and two years? Should I say we have a two year old at home and our first daughter passed away three years ago? 

How much do I want to tell this person? How much can I handle talking about my loss at this moment? How much do I think this innocent person in front of me actually wants to know? Do I want to make her sad? These questions all race through my mind in an instant.

It’s a tough one. I know it’s a question many loss families face day after day. After three years of dealing with this innocent and kind question from strangers, I’ve come to the decision there is no right or wrong way for me to answer. I’ve used all of the above combinations to answer, sometimes mentioning my firstborns would be age, sometimes not. Sometimes it’s just too painful and that’s okay. I’ve learned to give myself grace and not feel guilty if I don’t bring her up. She still knows I love her with my entire being.

Lately though on my journey with grief I’ve decided there is power in mentioning her. Power in being honest, power in being brave enough to open my heart up to strangers, and most of all, power in helping others who might be hurting themselves. So I want to include her. 

I take a breath and say on the exhale, “We have a two-year-old and also a little one in Heaven who would be three.” 

The kind stranger usually gets a surprised look that quickly turns to sympathy with a little bit of awkwardness mixed in. “I’m so sorry” is the most common response. “Thank You,” I say, feeling some relief. 

Most people change the subject quickly to easier and happier topics, things like how adorable my new son is, how good the coffee is, how their own children are doing and that’s fine.

Every now and then though she will reply ” I’m so sorry” and I will see something in her face, some slight change that says she has something she wants to add’ “I’ve lost a baby too.”

There it was, her moment in the which she had to decide whether or not to mention her pain and loss to me, some stranger. 

I am always so glad when they do because then comes another moment. A moment that brings two hurting souls together. Two mothers that know the depth of pain loosing a sweet baby creates. 

Two hurting hearts connecting. 

Those are the moments that mean something, that make a loss mother feel less alone, that make the hard decision to bring up my daughter’s death worth it, the chance to connect and spread love to another hurting heart even if it’s just a passing conversation with a stranger. 

That Moment When your heart heals just a little more…

About the author

Lisa Vanskike

Lisa is a graduate of Kansas State University. Wife and mother of two children on earth and one in heaven, she is an infant loss survivor and writes about her ongoing journey with motherhood and grief. She currently lives in Minden, Ne.

  • shirley

    Thanks for sharing Lisa. I’m currently struggling with the same question. I’ve resorted to avoiding conversations because I just can’t take being asked this question and am not willing to give an honest answer to absolute strangers lest the well-meaning but hurtful remarks start coming in. Thanks for sharing, thanks for understanding.

    • Lisa VanSkike

      Thanks for reading! That question can really knock the wind out of you if you aren’t ready for it. Avoiding conversation is so understandable, take all the time you need! Big hugs and love!

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