How many children do you have?

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 the night that our 4th child, Sawyer, did not wake up.  He was six weeks old.  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 persisted.   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 couldn’t 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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