It happens innocently enough, but with jarring regularity. Someone somewhere asks how many children you have. Straightforward question, with an anything but straightforward answer fraught with anxiety and fears of betrayal. If you’ve lost a child at any age, including through miscarriage or stillbirth, how do you answer?
If you answer with the number of living children you have or say you have no children, are you betraying the child, or memory of the child, you lost? Are you somehow negating her existence or the place she hold in your heart if you omit her from your count?
On the other hand, including the lost child when you say how many children you have can lead to some awkward conversations that may not be appropriate in the setting. You can include the child in the number you give and make no mention that he is no longer living, but that often backfires when the conversation turns to the ages of your children or what they are up to. You can bring up the loss when you give your number, but that can be a real conversation stopper. Do you care?
Does Age or Time Matter
Does it matter if you lost the child through first trimester miscarriage? Stillbirth? Age two? Age twenty-two?
Does it matter how long ago the loss occurred?
Does it matter if you have other children?
Whew… this is a lot to think about when trying to answer a simple question that comes up at least several times a week.
How to Answer the Question
What’s the honest answer to how many children you have when you have lost a child? It seems to me that context and place matter. Do you want to open up and deepen the conversation, or keep it superficial? Depending on the context, it seems to me that all the following are honest answers.
- I have two living kids.
- I have three; two with me, one in heaven.
- Two kids and one miscarriage.
Other Creating a Family resources you will enjoy:
- Miscarriage: 6 Things To NEVER Say & 2 Things To ALWAYS Say
- Did You Do Something to Cause Your Miscarriage?
- What’s a Miscarriage Really Like?
- The Forgotten Dads of Infertility and Miscarriage
How do you answer the question? How do you make the decision on which answer to give?First published in 2014; Updated in 2016 Image credit: Aaron van Dorn