Monday, September 6, 2010

How many children do you have?

This question can take many forms.  If you are pregnant after a loss, "Is this your first?"  If you had children before your loss, "Are you going to have more children?"  It's an innocent question, and a very natural one.  I don't think the one asking it ever imagines the sting it can cause.  How I answer depends on where my heart is that day.

"I have one daughter."  The one who lives in my home and delights me everyday with her giggles, smiles, and hugs.  The answer I give when I don't want to go into a lot of details.

"I have four children."  The one I get to raise and her three younger siblings in heaven.   One girl-for-sure, and two who were lost too soon to know, although we gave one a girl's name and one a name that could go either way.  The ones who I cry for on the anniversaries of their losses and on their due dates.  This is the unspoken answer of my heart, even when I give answer number 1.

"I have one on earth and three in heaven."  This is the answer I give when my heart feels strong enough to handle the questions and compassionate looks that are sure to follow.  When I do, I am often surprised at what the other person shares of their own heartaches and losses.  There are so many of us who are members of the same "club" and when we find each other, it is a moment that is both sorrowful and sweet.

I was recently reminded that there is no "right" or "wrong" way to respond to this.  The answer we give to this question is for our sakes, not our dear children.  Their feelings are not hurt by how we respond, as they are happy and content worshiping before God's throne.  And how you answer does not diminish their importance or value -- in your heart or in God's eyes.

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