September 17, 2011

Difficult questions- Life & Loss

I caught myself by surprise the other day. I was presented with a question that I used to struggle to answer. Over the last year, it's become a little bit easier, until the other day.

It was something I didn't even think about, and once it was out of my mouth I thought, "Why on earth did I say that?" It was no big deal, we went on about our day, but I still am wondering about my reasoning as to why that was my answer in the moment. I've never answered that way. 

I was subbing at a school here in town & was on the playground with my 3rd grade class for the day. A girl walked up to me who wasn't interested in playing. I've found that most little girls that age like to stand around with each other and talk, practice cheerleading, and make up dances. (Did I ever do that? I cannot remember for the life of me, but judging by my tomboy past, I don't think I did.)
She asked, "Do you have a son or a daughter?"
"Yes." I replied. I've answered that way to students before, and they usually just take that answer, and run off to what they had previously been doing. But she continued,
"How old is he?"

"7.5 months old."

It just came out. I don't know why I answered like that. I just kind of froze. I guess maybe, I just always picture him being the 7.5 month old who left me to go play in heaven. But I've never answered that question like that. It felt weird.

You see, right after Isaac died, that was a question we instantly had trouble with. Jon had a new job with a new church, we were moving to a new town, meeting new people who were always ready with the question, "Do you have children?"

In the first few months after he passed, we automatically answered "Yes." But it made us feel like we had to explain where he was, which made the askers very uncomfortable, or feeling guilty that they even asked. It didn't usually make us feel uncomfortable, but it made us feel bad when we made other people feel that way. The last thing I wanted was to make people feel weird, I was trying to make friends in this new place after all!

So, Jon & I talked, and we decided to come up with a plan. If the people asking were people who were going to be in our lives regularly, we would tell them the truth. Afterall, it would only be more uncomfortable later down the road to deal with dancing around the question.
And if they were acquaintances in passing, we would say, "Not right now." That's the only way we felt we could tell the truth without feeling bad. And it was the truth, he isn't with us at the moment, but we do have a son.

That's one of the hardest parts about making that decision. We didn't want to say no & pretend he never existed. He very much did exist, and he changed our lives. He touched a lot of lives in fact, not just ours. We didn't want to discount such a meaningful part of us. But, we also got tired of being the "Debbie Downers" of our conversations. So far, it's seemed to work for us.

It's something you might not think about after first losing a child, until it happens for the first time. But I think it's important to figure out a plan in order to ease the pain and worry when meeting new people. After all, it's not law, you can change it up whenever you feel like it.
I guess that's kind of what I did the other day.

A dear, and wise friend gave me a piece of advice when I was in the midst of dark times on this journey. I try to pass it on to as many parents who have also lost children, as it was a game changer for me. 

In summary, it is this: you make your own rules during this time. Don't be worried about what others will think or expect. Make your own rules. This is one time in your life when it is necessary to be a little selfish, in order to give yourself time to heal such a gaping wound.
This idea has freed me so much. I can't express enough how much her advice has meant to me.

So in this situation, I tell myself this: who cares why I answered like that. There is probably no deep meaning behind it, it's what was on my heart and tongue at the time. I won't apologize for it, or feel weird for saying it.

It is a tough question, and one I will have to deal with the rest of my life.
Even if we have children in the future, will I feel the desire to add Isaac to my number of kids count? I don't know, I'll cross that bridge when I get there.

In the mean time, I will embrace the fact that God gave me the opportunity to be the mother to a beautiful child who had some special difficulties, and was made perfect at the gates of heaven. Although, he was always perfect to me.

For those of you who are on this same journey, how do you answer such a difficult question?


  1. Hi, I stumbled upon your blog because of a cute shirt that was pinned. Then I started snooping around. We had a little girl who was stillborn. She was our first child. Now, we have two very healthy and happy little boys (ages 4 and 3. Cricket would have been 5 this year). In the beginning, I struggled with this question so much: How many children do you have? I used to become very defensive when people would say that I have two, because I know in my heart that I have three. Now, I realize that people frequently just ask for the sake of conversation and don't really care about the answer. So I answer like you do. If it is someone who I feel that I am going to see frequently or become good friends with, I will answer three, two boys and an angel girl. And if it is a "no body" asking the question then I just say two. It is not that I love her any less, it is just that I do not want to relive the story every single time I meet someone.

  2. Hi, I'm in in the category of the above poster--saw a cute shirt, couldn't help poking around and saw your story.
    I just wanted to give you a hug and let you know we, (my husband and I) are/have been in a very similar situation. We have two living children and one on the way, my oldest son's twin passed away in the first trimester of pregnancy and my second son was born too early in the second trimester and didn't live more than a few moments in my hands.
    We've faced the same dilema as you.....our children are still our children....they changed our lives......they are not "dead", they are alive in Christ and waiting for us to join what do we say? I'm 24 and I get asked the question a lot, "How many kids do you have?" or (upon seeing my belly) "Is this your first?" My automatic response is, "No, haha, my FIFTH!". But wait, this causes problems in social circles. I don't mind talking about all my babies, but I hate to place the burden on others.
    If it's the cashier at walmart, I usually refer only to my living children. If it's someone who is going to be in my life, I tell the whole truth. There are times though, when I've gotten the opportunity to share our loss and then explain how happy I am that Christ died on the cross so I could see my little angels again.
    As I do this, it surprises me just how many women have lost babies. It's something that we don't seem to know how to respond to in our culture, but yet it seems most women are suffering or know someone who is.
    Sometimes I see my two little ones running and playing and I somehow feel like I've forgotten something very important, (you know, like that feeling you get when you leave your purse at a restaurant...) and I wonder briefly, "where are my other children?? Did I leave them somewhere?". It's a feeling that will never go away it seems, but it has made me just a little less attached to earth. Just a little more heavenly focused. I'm in no hurry to leave my little family on earth, but thinking about Heaven and my little darlings puts a big smile on my face.
    God bless you as you and your husband continue on this journey. Perhaps our little ones are already familiar w/ eachother? If I never get to see you on earth, I look forward to seeing you in Heaven and introducing our beautiful families to eachother.

  3. Ms. Andrea.... I read this and cried... I cry a lot, but whenever I picture pictures of you with Isaac... I always cry. I just want you to know I still pray for you. I'm so proud of you... and I'm so blessed to call you a mentor, a friend, and a sister in Christ.

  4. I am a Peds ICU nurse, precepting a a new RN to our unit. My orientee and I needed information on ARC. So I googled "ARC Syndrome" and stumble on to your blog. My first-born, Anastasia Joy, died at 11 1/2 months. Yes, a mere 2 weeks away from her first birthday. Two more children and a lifetime later, I still remember her. The pain is no longer stabbing or gut wrenching. Nonetheless it is a deep and lingering ache that returns when I take care of another child such as she, or see an adult with her condition. I cannot help but wonder what she would be like had she survived. Granted, we had two more healthy children -- yet I can only liken loosing a child to loosing a piece of your heart. Ana will always be there. She is the very reason that I work in a Pediatric ICU.

    A scene from The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers always brings tears to my eyes, Gandalf and Theoden stand outside a stone door, the entrance to his son's tomb. Flowers festoon the rock face. Theoden says, "No parent should have to bury their child."

  5. Andrea - I came across your blog at the hospital this weekend. I didn't see the shirt but I was researching ARC syndrome. My daughter is now 8 months old and we have been battling all sorts of problems with her since she was 3 weeks of age. She doesn't have the arthogryposis, but she does have renal issues and liver issues, as well as hip dysplasia, deafness and anemia. We recently sent off lab work to do a new type of genetic testing called Whole exome sequencing (which can take up to 4 months to get a result) because all other genetic tests were normal. We have not received the results yet but I got a call on saturday from one of genetic doctors who told me she thought Chloe (my daughter) fit under the symptoms of ARC syndrome. I would love to talk to you about it if you are okay with this. Please let me know, my husband and I are battling every day, every hospital visit to save her and this news comes as a huge shock to us. I would love to be able to speak with you!

  6. I would love to talk to you more! Email me at: so I have a way to contact you.
    ANDREA :)

  7. I fit in the same catagory as the other two. I saw a cute t shirt! I lost my oldest child 3 yrs ago. He had Cystic Fibrosis. He had a double lung transplant and 16 months later died from rejection. He was 17. I always get asked " how many kids do you have". I always answer 3. Nick was very much alive and very much mine!
    When asked I answer something like this" I have 3 boys but my oldest passed away".
    For me its validation of his life! Validation that he is mine! Living or not! It doesn't matter if I never see those people again or they remain part of my life. The way I answer is the way my heart tells me to answer. I don't feel its a burden telling some random person his story. He had a life, he had a story, he had a purpose!


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