Today I volunteered with a few of our youth and gave out Christmas gifts and bags of food to folks who wouldn’t have been able to have those things otherwise. It was a good time and I enjoyed working with the woman who I was helping. And we started asking questions. And she knew I was married. And then the question came:
“So, do you have any kids?”
From a lot of the reading I’ve been doing – there are different ways that people approach this question after they’ve lost children to pregnancy loss. Some don’t want to get into the whole story, and they say “No.” Others want to honor the extremely short lives their children lived and will say “Yes.” Others might say something like, “Father of two, none living.”
The question caught me off-guard a bit, and I wasn’t entirely sure how to respond. But before I knew it, the first thing that came out of my mouth was, “No…not really.” But it was clear by the look on her face and by my discomfort with saying that, that there was more to the story. She continued with, “Oh…soon?” I think she thought I was hinting that we were pregnant.
I could have just said no and left it at that. This isn’t a woman I’ll run into a lot around town and it could have been fine. But after I said no, something felt fundamentally wrong about that. I had to share the story. I am a father. I held two twin baby boys in my arms who were named, baptized and yet died after living extremely short lives.
So, yes. I do have kids. They just aren’t with us anymore. They died. And it sucks. And it’s horrible. And it happens. And it happens to people all the time. And no one really talks about it. And perhaps by sharing a bit of my story with you, it will help create awareness of pregnancy and infant loss, and may begin just the tiniest shift in cultural perception of this issue.
Or at least that’s what I’d like to think. In reality, I just bummed her out.
That’s been the phrase Sarah and I have been using since October 25. Sarah came home one day from class and told me that she totally bummed out this girl in class who asked about her pregnancy. I came home one day and Sarah had seen a tweet of mine and said, “Nice job! Way to bum them out…”
Now, I may not want to bum people out at every opportunity. There may be some situations when I just don’t feel like talking about it and I may say no. I don’t know. I can’t foresee every situation in which this question will arise. But for me. For today. For my conversation with this woman, I needed to tell her yes. Yes, I do have kids. But they died.
I think this is an extremely personal decision – and so I don’t think there is a right way for any couple to navigate these kinds of questions. Some may always need to say no; that might work for them. I think the important thing is to do what works for you. Do what you feel most comfortable with and what works best for your situation.
I’m sure this is just the beginning of these types of issues to deal with and figure out. For those of you who have lost children – how do you respond to these types of questions? Is it the same each time? Or is it totally dependent on the situation?