I wonder how many people pause, like I do, every time someone asks me how many children I have?
It should be a simple question, with an easy answer.
But that isn’t the case when you have lost a child or have struggled with secondary infertility, then such questions can be painful to hear and even worse to decide how to reply.
Last night I visited a local optometrist’s office for the first time and towards the end of the appointment I was making small talk with the friendly office staff. At some point in our conversation they asked me that bittersweet question.
“How many kids do you have?”
I paused, but not for very long, and answered “two.”
Who knows what they were thinking, when I didn’t reply right away.
Then one of them followed up with, “how old are they?”
I said, “eight and two.”
The other person responded with something about that being a fun age difference.
I smiled and said “yes, it is.”
I resisted the urge to say, “their age difference was not planned. We wanted our children to be closer in age.”
“Actually I have three children, but one died soon after she was born and I don’t want to freak you out by telling you this since we just met and I will likely only see you once or twice a year for eye exams.”
But then, as I typically do when I choose not to mention my middle child who left this world much too soon, I feel guilty for not telling these people about her.
Every now and then, when I am feeling brave and strong, I will say “three — two here and one in Heaven,” when someone asks.
But not this time.
I am more likely to talk about Molly, infertility and/or our early losses when I feel a connection with the person I just met and have reason to believe our relationship will be more than just a superficial one.
In this instance I did feel very comfortable with these two people, especially because they had been so nice to me since I arrived in their office over an hour earlier. They also had spent the previous fifteen minutes or so helping me to pick out frames for the new glasses prescription I was given.
So they didn’t strike me as the type that would have been wierded out by my sharing openly about my baby girl who died soon after she was born or if I had told them that we wanted more children and for them to be closer in age, but we dealt with secondary infertility and loss for over five years and things didn’t turn out they way we planned.
However, I also get that it’s okay that in this instance (and others) I chose not to talk about Molly. It doesn’t mean I don’t love and miss her any more or less.
I also realize that it is not my responsibility to try to educate people about infertility and loss every chance I get. Though I try to be an advocate, I don’t have to speak about my journey trying to build and expand my family all the time.
Four years later I am still learning how to incorporate the short life and death of our daughter and Sean and Abby’s sister into our lives, as well as our experience with secondary infertility and loss.
I know that as I continue to do this it is okay, normal and even healthy when I feel the need to pause.
What makes you pause?