How many children do you have?

September 26, 2010 at 11:06 pm | Posted in mother, parents | 23 Comments

This is such a simple, polite question. Before 2005, the answer to this question was so easy. “No, I don’t have any children.”

After Jake was born and died, the question became so complicated and difficult. A new neighbor moved in shortly after Jake passed away. She was pregnant and friendly. She asked very innocently, “Do you have any children?”  I quickly replied “no.”  As I walked away my answer felt all wrong.   I did have a child.  Why had I not answered yes?

I then proceeded to stay up all night until I felt like it was a decent hour to knock on her door.   The sun finally came up and I marched over to her house.   I explained that last night I told her that I did not have any children and that was not true.  I had a son.  His name was Jake.  He had lived.   He was our child.

When I was pregnant with the twins people would ask, “are these your first?”.   I would answer, “no.”  And, then I would hope they would change the subject or walk away.   However, usually they would continue and ask, “how old is your other child?’.   I had practiced my answer to this question so many times that I could get through it without crying (usually).   My answer, “Our first son was 14 weeks premature.  He lived for 2 weeks.   We never got to take him home.   These will be our 2nd and 3rd children.”

Over time my answer became so automatic that I would just rattle it off.   Until 2010.   For example,  at the playground the twins were playing.   These days I try not to speak to other mothers and caretakers at the playground.  The common conversation topic is about children – which makes perfect sense.

My twins love babies.  They saw a baby girl playing with her grandmother.   They ran over to her.  I ran after them.  The grandmother watched how excited the twins were to see the baby.  She simply and politely asked, “how many children do you have?’  Luckily, the twins made such a fuss over her granddaughter that I could pretend that I did not hear the question.

The grandmother persists.   She joked with the twins “you should ask your mother for a baby.”  My twins replied, “we already have a baby – his name is Sawyer.”  In fact, the twins have even gone so far as to decide that Sawyer will be a spider for Halloween.  I cannot respond to the grandmother.   So, I once again pretended that I did not hear what was being said.

One day I will have another answer to this question.  Today is not that day.


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  1. I love you also. I don’t know how anyone can answer those questions without pain. Patty

  2. I have difficulty answering the question either–for you or for myself. Sometimes I say I have 4 living grandchildren and two angels who died. It is very difficult to say and often a conversation stopper to those who ask. Other people continue and ask “what happened?” If I don’t cry I tell them that Jake was premature and lived 2 weeks and Sawyer was a perfect baby who lived 6 weeks and just died. I will love them always and forever.

  3. I do not doubt that by answering that question honestly that you will forever touch the lives of people who may cross your path just once. I also don’t doubt that they will be better for it. I know I am.

  4. Stay strong and answer true. It’s the best thing for you and let it impact any others as they let it. I think the twins are wonderful.

  5. I love the concept of Sawyer being dressed in costume as a little baby spider…and I love that the twins are making sure he’s a still part of their upcoming festivities. Children are honest to themselves in their own ways. As for your answer–answer only when you are ready.

  6. You have four children my love. Two that walk among us and two that fly with God. Just as I have a husband. He just walks with God now.

  7. Dear Lanie – Your courage and determination are so wonderful to watch as you write about these very painful encounters that come your way all the time. You are so right to give yourself the space and time to work through what makes you sad. It will always be losses and it will always be sad but I wish that there will be a time – not too long from now – when the sharpness of the losses and the depth of your sadness will diminish.
    A warm hug for all of you.

  8. Oh my, how much I still hate that question. I say 2 (out loud), and in my head, I know it is 5.

  9. Oh, Lanie. My heart really aches for you when I read these entries. Please know that we’re keeping you and your whole family–including Jake and Sawyer–in our hearts. Love, Karen

  10. Sometimes I feel like everyone falls into asking the same questions, like programed robots. It is done so much that people ask without really meaning to, it just comes out. The minute you are engaged, it is, “when is the wedding”. The minute you are married, “when are you going to have kids”. When you have a child, “When are you going to have another one?” Really, is it always anybody’s business and do you realy care or do you want to tell me your opinion of what I should do? If I am honest, and it is answer you don’t usually hear, then it makes the person asking feel a little weird. Well don’t ask a question with an expectation of an answer. We are not all robots and, we think how we think because we are individuals. We have individual experiences in life, not group similar experiences. So, Lanie….don’t worry about us. When we ask the question, we will hear about your 4 children. Two by your side and two watching you from a beautiful and loving place.

  11. it’s all so heartbreaking. I LOVE LOVE LOVE the spider idea! they are a trip!

    thank you for being a person who will go through this openly and directly. It benefits us all.

  12. I completely feel your pain on this one…My kids tell everyone they have a baby sister in the clouds with God. You never forget how many children you have.xoxoxo

    • My daughter always says “I have a baby brother, but he lives in heaven with Jesus & the angels. He doesn’t live with us anymore”


  13. I struggle with this question all the time. I often find that my mood dictates the answer. If I am having a good day I answer “2. A daughter & a son.” Always afterwards, I pray they don’t ask their ages b/c that’s when it goes down hill. “My daughter is 6 & my son WOULD BE 3.” Please let them NOT ask what happened…I don’t want them to say they are “so sorry” I just want my little boy back.


  14. You just commented on my blog – and now I do on yours. I figured by the title of your blog – you understood. This is the first of what I expect to be many posts that I relate to. Thank you for sharing your pain to help others.

  15. I just found your blog through the spohrs are multiplying blog, and this post resonated with me. I gave birth to twin boys in 2009, one into my arms and one into God’s hands. It’s a very hard question to answer, all I can say is when I’m asked I can only answer with the connection to my surviving son “He is a twin, he was a micro preemie, his twin brother passed away.” As soon as I say MY son died, the tears well up when I respond to a stranger’s question. I agree, I hate when people say “at least you have Alex, at least one survived.” It makes me want to shout, I wanted both my boys. There is no consolation prize when it comes to the death of a child and the survival of another. Thank you for sharing, I don’t feel so alone when I feel the loss of my son.

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  17. I’m finding this question hard, too. Ten months on from my son’s stillbirth, I still don’t know how to answer. I have a daughter but it doesn’t feel right to say ‘I just have the one’ because it’s not true. I don’t want to tell everyone about my son. I just wish he was still here. It’s so complicated.

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  22. I have struggled so much with this. We have one son and our daughter died just minutes after her birth 6 weeks ago. We were catching up with an old friend a few weeks ago and he asked if we wanted more kids. My husband said no and I too laid awake in bed thinking I should have said yes. It is so hard to explain to people without feeling like I’m making people uncomfortable. I just started my own blog as I attempt to sort through this and hopefully come up with my automatic response for all those playground encounters. Thank you for posting your story and helping those like me who are struggling with a recent loss.

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