It is a questions we moms get asked on a regular basis. It's a question we pregnant moms get asked on a daily basis.
It should be an easy answer, right? Think of your children, count them up, and report the number. Simple, right?
Well, wait just a minute.
It turns out that this is a loaded question. Some people can use the above formula to come up with a correct answer - if their family is mostly identical to the Cleavers.
But others feel the need to qualify the number. This extra detail comes in many forms, but often sounds like this:
"I have four children; two from a previous marriage, and two step children."
"I have three; one with my ex-husband, and two with my current husband."
"We have two; one biological, and one we adopted from [fill in the blank]."
"I have two of my own, and I'm also raising my deadbeat brother's three kids while he's in prison."
"I have two adult children, and now I'm raising my daughter's four children while she gets back on her feet."
The possibilities and variations are endless.
In my case, the conversation usually goes something like this:
- Stranger: How many children do you have?
- Me: Four
- Stranger: Wow! How old are they?
- Me: Nine and four...
- Stranger: [looks at me like I'm an idiot who can't count to four]
- Me: ...plus one that we lost last year, and another one due to arrive this Christmas.
- Stranger: [still looking at me, but now like I'm some sort of freak] Oh, I'm sorry. How old was the one you lost?
- Me: We lost her the day before the end of the first trimester.
- Stranger: Oh. [At this point, the person will either repeat the sympathy & share some sweet sentiment, or look at me as though I've just grown noodles out of my hair follicles.]
For me it is simple. I have four children: Tyson, Riley, Shalom, & SugarPlum.
The fact that I will not get to hold or hug or kiss Shalom on this side of Heaven does not make her any less my daughter than my older two. I carried her for 11 weeks, six days. I saw her heartbeat. I felt her move. She is every bit as much a blessing to me as my other children.
And the fact that I have yet to see, hold, cuddle, kiss (and, okay... pick a boy name for) SugarPlum does not make him/her any less my child than my older three.
I always feel that to neglect to mention my younger two children, especially the one who went to Heaven, is to deny them. To somehow ignore them or cheat them out of the Earthly family that loves them very much. Although others might not understand this, I cannot betray my little ones just to make a stranger or acquaintance feel more comfortable.
I know that not everyone is a person of faith. I know that not everyone believes that life begins at conception. (I don't understand that, but I know some people do.) But, is it really so hard to imagine that I love my babies from the very first second that I learn of them?
So, if I happen to meet you on the street, and you ask me how many children I have, please know that my answer will be four. And when you ask me their names, genders, or ages, please do not look at me as if I am some deluded cultist who drank the Koolaid. I promise I'm (almost) just as normal as everyone else on the street... I'm just waiting to hold one of my children until I join her in our Forever Home.