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?