Question for Grandma: “Is this your first Grandbaby?”

We just got back from an amazing trip to Alaska with my parents.  Alaska is beautiful!  God really knew what he was doing when we created this world!

My mom can’t stop talking about how excited she is for our baby to arrive.  It started on the trip to the airport.  She was saying how excited she was and I snapped at her, “Yeah, but you were excited last time too and it didn’t work out, did it?”  I can’t help but be annoyed by her excitement.  I don’t know why.  I’m so cautiously excited for this baby.  I’m overjoyed and really scared.  I love being pregnant, I love picturing life with a baby, but for me, those initial dreams came crashing down when Joshua was born and pronounced dead.  I want to be naively excited like so many moms are, but my reality is that I was excited, I had so many hopes and dreams, and they all came crumbling down.

On the last day of our trip, we went on a bus tour of Denali National Park.  When we got on the bus, the lady sitting in front of my mom was making small talk with her.  I wasn’t paying attention until I heard her say, “Oh, I see your daughter is pregnant, is this your first grandbaby?”

“Yes,” my mom responded.

YES?  Excuse me?  I could have punched her.  Not really, but I felt like I wanted to.

The lady went on, “oh, your life will totally change after having a grandbaby!  You think you’ll have fun now, but once they are here, you’ll have so much more fun than you anticipated.”  Clearly not intentional, but thanks for making me feel worse lady!

The conversation ended, I looked across the aisle at my mom and mouthed, “This is NOT your first.”

She mouthed back, “I know”.

I started bawling.  I was thankful that we were in the back of the bus and no one could see my tears.  I probably cried for the next half hour or hour….and if I’m totally honest, tears came randomly on and off throughout the day.

After about 5 minutes, my mom noticed I was crying, she walk over to me to say she was sorry.  I told her I didn’t want to talk to her and to go away.  She tried talking to me through my husband to which he responded, “I’m not getting into this.”  He hadn’t heard the conversation between my mom and the lady.  He just knew how upset I was at the time.  He sat there and put his arm around me and rubbed my leg while I sobbed.  All while not having any idea what happened.  He knew I was crying for Joshua though (it wasn’t the first time that week, more on that in later posts).

Since it didn’t work to talk to me through my husband, she started talking to me again, “this is the first time I’ve answered it that way.  I didn’t want her to ask more questions.”  To which I responded, “I don’t fucking care.  She doesn’t know if you have more kids (I’m an only child) or if I have more kids that we left at home.”  Excuse my French.

All throughout the day she was trying to say she was sorry, but I didn’t want to hear it.  It just made me relive how hurtful it was to hear those words come out of her mouth.  For her to disclude Joshua from her lineup of grandkids right in front of my face.

Later in the day, my mom and I were alone walking to our hotel rooms.  She said, “Christina, can I just say something?”  I turned back to her and she had tears in her eyes.  “I’m so sorry, that’s the first time I’ve answered it that way.  I didn’t want her to ask more questions.”

At that point, I wasn’t angry like I was earlier in the day.  Still very hurt, but not angry.  I said, “Mom, I heard you the first three times, that doesn’t make it feel any better.  If you would have said ‘yes’, she probably would have dropped it.  When people ask me if I have kids, I say ‘yes’.  Usually people end the conversation there.  If they ask how old he is, then I just say he passed away at birth, but most times, the conversation doesn’t get that far.”

“You’re right, I shouldn’t have answered it that way, I’m sorry.”  Our conversation ended there and we didn’t speak of it again.

But even a few days later, I keep thinking about how terrible that made me feel.  My own mom, one of my best friends, Joshua’s grandma was forgetting about him.  Was afraid someone would “ask questions” so instead she just left him out entirely.

Reading other blogs has made me realize there is no right way to answer this question.  Some people are more comfortable just including the living children when asked how many kids they have.  Some people choose to answer based on who’s asking.  I suppose that’s what my mom was doing.  She didn’t know this lady.  She didn’t want the lady to ask more questions so she answered in a way that would make her not ask questions.  I understand.  I do.  I’ve struggled with how I’m going to answer these questions going forward.

Right now, Joshua and this unborn child are my only kids (and my two dogs whom I love like my own).  I don’t feel comfortable leaving out Joshua when people ask me if I have kids.  Maybe that answer will change as the years go by, but I hope that’s not the case.  I’m a proud mom to Joshua.  I don’t care if I have 3 more kids and people ask me how many kids I have.  I can proudly say 4.  And if they look puzzled because they only see 3, I’m okay with that.  I have no issue talking about Joshua and the impact he’s made in my life.  My “situation” won’t be swept under a rug to only speak his name to those who knew him.

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9 thoughts on “Question for Grandma: “Is this your first Grandbaby?”

  1. I’m proud of you for letting your mom know how you feel. People will never understand how we feel unless we tell them. I was asked for the first time the other day if I had any kids, and I immediately responded with “Yes” “How old is he” “He died during birth/labor” Immediately the “I’m sorry” comes along, but in that moment…I get to talk about my son and know that he’s being remembered. I get how you feel. I wait for the day though that someone in my family does what you mother did because its the easy way out. There is nothing easy about this life we have to go through. I was flipping through channels earlier on the tube and the ‘Jesus’ channel came on. They were singing about the day we get to heaven and see Jesus meeting us. All I could think about is that there will be a little man in his arms or sitting by his feet with him to meet his momma. What a day that will be! Big Hugs to You!

    • Thanks! You’re right, people will never understand. I usually dread the next question after I say how many kids I have. I say the same as you do, “He passed away at birth”. People usually stop after that but I try to quickly diffuse the conversation if it gets to more questions like, “what happened, how’d he die?” Thanks for the part about the Jesus Channel! I know Heaven will be amazing, but it’ll be extra amazing for us to see our children again!

  2. I think it is so good you told your Mom how you feel. I have the hardest time with that question when it involves complete strangers. So far I have always said “Yes, I have a daughter” and usually I just try to get out of any further discussion, but sometimes I hate getting into the personal details with strangers. I guess what I am saying is I can understand why your Mom did that, but I would similarly be really upset. Just another one of the reasons why this is such a tough spot to be in….

    • I understand why my mom said it that way and it’s her choice how she wants to answer it. It needs to be an easy answer for her as well. Maybe she’s not ready to explain what happened or maybe she just wanted to avoid it all together. But yes, I have that kind of relationship with my mom where we are open about those things! I’m so thankful for that!

  3. That’s the hardest question “how many children do you have?”. I feel the need to honour Stella’s memory anytime I can, so I always answer honestly “I have 3”. If people probe further, then I tell them truthfully, that my middle child died. I have become more comfortable with the discomfort this creates as time has passed. Well done for standing up for Joshua and his position in your family. As parents we need to advocate for our children (living or otherwise), and this is what you did.

  4. I heard my dad gives someone that same answer and was angry about it too, but wasn’t brave enough to tell him. Those questions are hard, but I agree, I don’t like answering in a way that doesn’t acknowledge Luke.

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