Grief Journal: How Many Kids Do You Have?

I don’t know how to answer the question, “How many kids do you have?”

The hard question used to be, “How many times have you been pregnant?” Of course, this was usually asked in a medical setting and was something I was prepared for. I could give the answer—10 times, I’ve been pregnant 10 times—and quickly provide the answer for the follow up question, which is “How many times have you given birth?”, with “twice.”

Infertility is a long, hard road for many. Before my oldest was born, I was told I had a less than 7% chance of having a baby. Although born 10 weeks early, he thrived against all the odds. What a miracle!

Imagine my surprise when three years later—at the advanced age of 43—I was pregnant again, with a baby that seemed determined to stick. And so I had two miracles—two healthy, smart, wonderful boys. My husband and I used to say that they must be here for a reason, because the odds were so against them being here at all.

Then our tiny daughter joined our family after my sister died in a car accident, and here I was—the woman who was told she would likely never have children—a mother of three amazing children.

So I never minded being asked, “How many kids do you have?” I’ve answered it, gladly, as over the years the tally grew: “One boy.” “Two boys.” “Two boys and a girl.”

Now, I dread that question.

This week I was at a business dinner with some new clients. Inevitably, the question came up. “How many kids do you have?” I managed to quite steadily answer, “Two. A boy and a girl. Ages 14 and 6, eighth and first grade.” Then as fast as I could, I turned the conversation to someone else. 

I didn’t cry. I don’t think they even got a hint that there was anything wrong. 

But inside, I was crying. Inside, I was screaming, I have three kids! Just one of them I can’t talk about anymore. I can’t make you laugh by sharing his funny quips and stories. I can’t brag on how incredibly talented and smart he is. I can’t tell you how loving and cuddly he still is. Because he isn’t any of those things any more. He isn’t here, and it’s not okay to tell you that at a business dinner, or in casual conversation. And I don’t want your pity or awkwardness or condolences.

I just want him back. I want to have three kids. 

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