I admit, I’ve asked this question way too much! Sometimes I still do. It seems like such an innocent question, but people don’t realize how badly it can hurt.
My husband and I were high school sweethearts (swoon, I know!). I knew he was The One right away. We dated all through college and got married right afterwards. I wanted to be a young mom. My mom was 31 when she had me and I when I was younger, I thought she was old. I realize now that I was wrong! I’m nearly that age now and don’t feel one ounce of “old” in me.
After a couple years of being married, I was ready to have kids….my husband wasn’t. I spent a good 2 years waiting not-so-patiently until he was ready. I was so incredibly excited when we set a date to start trying for a baby. A month went by, then 6 months, then a year. Just as I was about to visit the doctor to see if something was wrong, I found out I was pregnant!!!! Tears of joy fell down my face when I told my husband! Nine months went by and we had our beautiful baby! The ending was not what we expected however, and we went home empty handed.
Way too many emotions went through my mind during that time. From little things to big things. I would say I developed a slight social anxiety. Afraid people would ask me what happened. Afraid people wouldn’t ask me what happened. Afraid strangers would somehow know my child died and look at me in pity. Afraid strangers would ask me how many kids I have and how would I answer that kind of question I always thought was so simple.
The first time someone asked me if I had the baby was at a wedding 2 months after Joshua died. I ran into a girl in the bathroom who I saw a few months prior at the bachelorette party.
“Did you have the baby!?”
I answered, “yes”.
“Did you have a boy or a girl?”
“Cute, what’d you name him?”
“Aww, where is he tonight? Is he here?”
That’s when the tears came and I told her that he had passed away during labor. But for a those 30 second prior, it felt like he was still alive. Someone was asking me about the baby who didn’t know the outcome and I could pretend for just a moment that he was still here.
Then the second time it happened we were out of town for another wedding about a month later. The dreaded question happened three times in one day. The first time, I had come back to the hotel room as it was being cleaned and the cleaning lady and I were making small talk.
“Do you have any kids?” she asked.
“One, do you?”
To my surprise, that was the extent of it. She went on talking about her own kids and I didn’t have to explain one thing! It felt so great to be able to honor Joshua by remembering him and including him our “count”. I was lucky that day that she didn’t ask any follow up questions where I’d feel the need to explain that my baby died.
About an hour later I was on a walk with a friend’s girlfriend that I had just met that morning. The boys all went golfing and the girls had an activity later in the day, but we had some time to waste, so she and I went for a walk on the beach. After some small talk, she was asking how long my husband and I had been married.
“Wow, that’s a long time. Are you guys going to have kids?”
“Well, we actually just had a baby in October, but…”
“Oh that’s so exciting!”
“Well, he actually passed away at birth…..it was totally unexpected…..” and so starts the story.
It was good to open up to her. She just listened. I explained exactly what I wanted in as much or as little detail as I wanted. Later that night I got the same question from another girl I had just met and I felt prepared from my earlier encounters that day.
That night, I sat on the bed and cried. Such an innocent question was hurtful. I had never thought of it that way. When I’ve asked that question in the past I never thought maybe they are struggling to have a baby, maybe her husband’s not ready to have a baby and it’s a source of tension, maybe they had a miscarriage, maybe their child died.
I’m happy to count Joshua in our line up of kids (and future kids). Right now, that’s the right decision for me. Maybe one day it will change, maybe it won’t. I feel I honor him by remembering him not just in my heart but with others.