05 March, 2010


My new nemesis.

well, there are two.

how many kids do you have?
(this one's easier, if the asker doesn't follow up)

the follow up:
how old are they?

Suggestions welcome.



ps- vegas is cold.
BUT, I'm happy to be seeing much loved friends.
tonight, dinner with these two.

YOU MUST take a moment to visit their AMAZING BLOG.
Particularly the wonderful post from Justin's trip to Haiti.

one word.



Emily Ruth said...

Yeah. These two ?'s pretty much always suck.
However, it might make you feel better to know it does get easier...

stacy said...

that would be so hard! hard for you and hard for the asker. my girlfriend lost her baby boy and tries to avoid Q.#2 but sadly at times it has ended with the asker in tears...sympathy, embarassment, just so hard. i'm sure you think of something great!

so funny that you know the lyons. they were in my ward in CA. before i moved here to AZ 3 1/2 years ago. such great people!

Bridget said...

After nearly 1.5 years, I've not mastered this question.

It's easier to answer if I only have a few with me. Then they don't expect to see everyone and count.

But my favorite question is when a stranger will ask if the 4 kids I'm with are all mine. Without fail, one of my boys will blurt out, "yeah, but not Evan. He died."

One of the hardest things for me, even now, is knowing how many seats I have open in the car or how many plates to set for a meal. Counting is so hard.

Anonymous said...

If you don't feel like delving into your personal life, you could always answer number 2 generally by saying something like "10 and under" (or use your oldest son's age as the first number). "they're all under __ (insert age here)". It's generic enough that you don't have to open up unless you want to.

PhotoChick said...

Dear N~

It seems to me that question #2 is quite impossible to answer...

That question makes the numbering of the hairs upon our heads seem ridiculously simple. It would even make counting snowflakes easy. Measuring God's love? A piece of cake.

Oh, how is it even possible to answer that question! For in Heaven, the numbers that we have here on earth mean almost nothing.

How much money we have... how many possessions we own... how many years we've been blessed with...

It's like giving 'infinity' an actual number; and it would be like putting a price on Heaven.

I have no idea what I would say... The thought of having to give such a personal piece of my life would be so hard!

I can only hope that I would be able to say (after giving the others' ages...) "and in Heaven."

All my Love -- and you're ALWAYS in my prayers,


aroha said...

This isn't a question any of us who have never lost a child can possibly fathom having to answer. But a friend of mine used to answer q 1 with "2 angels here with us and 1 looking down on us" ... No matter how many times you answer these q's I imagine it would always be very difficult.

aroha said...

Sorry "and 1 watching over us" I think it was.

Charley said...

For when you're not really up for too much of a discussion... : "well, that depends on how we're counting, but today I have (number of kids in tow) with me/I'm child free, how about you?"

Jenj said...

My mother-in-law says "3 living sons" and that's usually where the conversation ends...if she chooses to end it there. I have seen her once go into detail once about the son she lost...just that one time. Also, she lost him close to 40 years ago and she still tears up about it like when we are looking at old photos etc. It'll always be hard but I like to remember that part in Steel Magnolias "Shelby will always be young. She will always be beautiful. And it makes me feel better knowing she's up there on my side and I will see her again someday." Much love & prayers to you & your family.

shelly said...

Wow - these were all such sweet and wonderful suggestions! What amazing readers you have, Natalie.

Ange~ said...

My friend who lost her baby says "Two down here and one in heaven". That's about all people ask then.

Misty said...

I have lost two children. one to prematurity and one was still born.... that was 5 and 6 years ago and i still struggle but it does get easier. I usually answer 4, two here and two in heaven..... i think i will try some of these suggestions..... thanks for sharing your struggle.

JulieAnn said...

I like Crystal Chick's response.

But, more than 13 years after losing my brother, I still have problems with answering "How many siblings do you have?" It's so hard!

Brittany said...

This answer for me depends on the day. After almost 18 months it is still a tough question. I usually say I have 3 girls (I have 3 girls and one son) but sometimes if it is a stranger I dislike summing up my sons life in 1 sentence. "I have a son who died when he was one." Just seems to trite. What I want to say is that I have one son in heaven who was here for a year who influenced and changed my life in ways I could never have imagined. He had the most beautiful eyes and I had to cut his hair 3 times before he was 6 months old.... but alas sometimes it isn't so.

Truly even knowing how it feels to answer such an awkward question, no matter the answer it is always awkward. It just depends if I will ever see the person again. If it is a stranger I never will see again I don't think they deserve to know. But if it is someone I will be seeing A LOT... well it is awkward, but the conversation will come eventually.

I am so SORRY you have to do this. It totally sucks. You just don't think it will get easier.... and it doesn't, but it changes, and eventually it doesn't hurt fall-on-the-floor-in-the-bedroom-closet.

Alex Monroe said...

The family I babysit for lost a child two years ago. Ever since then, she says "three at home, one in heaven." People usually understand at that point and say nothing more.

Kelly said...

A close friend of mine lost two children, at different stages of her life. Her second child was born with down syndrome and died of pneumonia at a young age...her daughter was a twin born after his death, and she died of cancer. She has two living children, her oldest son and her daughter. Whenever asked, she always says "We have 4 children, 2 boys and 2 girls. Two of them live with Jesus, but someday we'll all be together again." I've always admired her for answering this way.

Unknown said...

Love you.

My situation is a little different in never having met our baby. My husband drilled me about this FOR MONTHS after we lost our baby. It was just TOO hard for me to say it, and still, some days it is still hard. He would like me to answer four...sometimes I do, sometimes I don't. I have a necklace with four names on it...I can tell people look at me weird when they see my three kids and then there is this extra name.

I dunno Nat. It is hard. Sometimes when my kids talk about our baby which they so remember (almost daily) I get angry...and sad...but then I also smile some days and remember with perfect clarity that I get to have that beautiful baby again. I bawl as I write this there is no perfect answer. I guess maybe: "Three sons, and one I carry in my heart." That is all we can do until our beautiful Savior comes again. A day I look forward to oh so very much. For you especially.

Having Camilla has healed so many wounds, but there is a definite spot missing in our family (like Bridget said...)

Anyway, ramblingness can't wait to wrap my arms around you! Huggs.

(also I have never seen the Lyon's blog...OH MY GOODNESS! LOVE...those Haiti pics...I want to hop on a plane and help right now!)

Amanda said...

This is a tough one and some days it's easier than others. I have 3 and 1 on the way. So I will have 4, including son who passed away.

When people ask it really depends on the situation and where I am. If it's someone I know I'll never see again I just say how many I have. IF they ask how old they are I just say the age of how old my son would be, today. There are just times where I know I don't have time for details or don't have the energy to explain.

If it's someone who I just met and I know they will find out eventually I will explain briefly that I have 3 kids but my oldest passed away unexpectedly over 5 years ago. Then I just feel out the conversation and if it feels right I'll share lots of details or not. Usually I end up sharing a lot because we had and still have so many amazing experiences because of our son, and it's very hard to sum it up in a short story.

A lot of the time I will say I have two that make in insane, and one that keeps me sane. It depends on the mood I'm in.

Even though my son is physically not with me he will always be my son and I will always count him as a number.

It'll come to you and you'll figure out how, when, where, and what to say in all situations.

Good luck, I hope you and your family are doing well!

Bridget said...

Hi Natalie,

I'm checking back in for more ideas :o).

It also occurred to me that another hard question is the same one but in the doctor's office. Every form you fill out for any doctor has you number your children and list their ages. To that I put whatever age Evan would be and sometimes the forms go in depth and ask about pregnancies, births, deaths.

I really don't think doctors realize how sensitive these questions can be. I know I didn't think anything about them before Evan died.

stevie kay said...

That is such a difficult situation! My heart goes out to you and how hard it must be to try and answer those questions!

The writer above, talking about doctor's forms, reminds me of my good friend, who gave her first child up for adoption but now has three with her husband. She said it was very awkward to try and explain to the nurses at the hospital how the baby she was there to have was her "first" when it was her second delivery.

I guess any time your experience is outside the standard answer, it's always difficult to explain to well meaning, but misunderstanding people.

Anonymous said...

I remember the first time someone asked me these questions after I placed calli for adoption I froze, it seemed like an eternity before I answered which in turn made me wonder what the person thought that I had to think twice about how many kids I had. I still have a hard time when I say one because I feel like I'm not acknowledging my 2nd pregnancy. Now I answer depending on the depth of conversation I want to get into and if I know it's not going to be like casting my pearls before swine.



Brandi said...

.....Yeah I hate`that question.

heather... said...

It's such a hard question. I'm only 11 months into it. But when people ask, I usually say I have two daughters. If they ask how old they are, I say, "the oldest's second birthday was in November, and the youngest was born in January." Of course, if people ask more about my oldest daughter I usually tell them she passed away last year. I was once asked how many children I had and I didn't want to get into it so I didn't acknowledge my oldest daughter. I felt awful for weeks and I will never, ever do that again.

It's such a hard and terrible road. I'm so sorry you are on it with me.

Kris said...

Hard question...no "right" (or easy) answer. I typically say my daughter is 3 years old and my son would be almost 6. I say the "would be" part fairly softly (and quickly)..often I start with him so I can end it on my daughter, then they often won't catch it. Sometimes I just say my DD...the other question I hate is:"is she your only?" Um, yes and no...I typically say "yes"...unless I'm emotionally ready for the discussion that ensues.

I'm so sorry...the whole things just sucks (for lack of a better word).

Kristen said...

Depends on the context. If I'm giving advice or bragging about being an amazing mom, I say 5. =o) (With humor in my heart, realizing that it's my little secret.) But if I sense that there will be short follow up, I stick with the four. Unless I think there will be extended follow-up where I can explain, then I go into it. But over time I have felt less need to spill the beans and more of a realization that it can make people uncomfortable. And all of this flashes through my mind, as I'm trying to decide what to say - so if someone asks and I give them a blank look, you know why.

The true question here is what do you WANT to say? Just as there is no RIGHT answer, there is also no wrong answer.

It is a little funny though, in the checkout line, when an unsuspecting cashier asks US, and my husband says one number and I say the other. We do some kind of coverup and then laugh in the car about what the lady must have thought about this couple that can't keep track of how many kids they have.

Laughter is good. It doesn't erase pain but I know our lost loved ones would want us to take heart.

Say what feels right, what feels good, and don't think twice about what they will think of you. On the other hand, Gavin knows you love him even when he's not on the tally sheet.

Kristen said...

PS- It was our first baby that we lost and that first year of "Do you have any kids?" was a killer. I didn't feel like I qualified as a mother even though I was. Ooh that was bad.

Goosey said...

My cousin was privileged to raise a little girl for awhile just last year, and had to send her back far too soon.

She answers, "Three girls, 4, 2, and one already graduated to angel status."

Jamie said...

I do not like this question either! I answer it differently depending on who it is and how emotionally stable I feel at the moment. Mostly I say how old my little guy would be and if I don't say anything more people don't usually push any further. Just one more thing you don't think about until it happens to you.

Jeff Carter said...

The thought that came to my mind was no where as well put as Crystal Chick's suggestions. Wonderful!

goofy feet said...

wish i had a good answer. it's a tough one. i just pick and choose which people i'll say "3" to and which ones i'll tell about the 4th. what makes it harder is when they ask "boys or girls" i have 3 boys and lost a girl. i feel like i'm leaving her out if i don't mention her. but, usually i just make the decision based how i think the asker will respond once given the info. i don't like to put others in an uncomfortable situation. but sometimes i do it anyway :)

The Brandt Family said...

so shocking how such a simple question all of a sudden is so difficult. the poor old man that handed me a cart at sam's was the first to ask me a few (whoa) months ago. he was quite confused that this little mother couldn't decide if the boy sitting in the cart was the only one. after a minute of holding back tears and my brain frantically trying to figure out what to say i finally splurted out yes as i ran to the back of the store practically in tears. it breaks my heart to say only one. i have two. one crazy boy and one amazingly beautiful little girl. since, i have had some friends give me some good suggestions and the one i liked best was the "one here and one that lives in heaven". even though i have the answer i feel i like, i still find myself avoiding these types of questions. it is hard to know what to say, who to say it to, or even when to even say anything at all....thanks for sharing. good luck to you as you and your little family continue to try to figure out a new normal...what is that anyway??

Ashlee said...

Hi Natalie,

You don't know me, and I've never commented on your blog before, but I thought that this would be a good opportunity for me to change that.

My only siblings are five older brothers. My oldest brother, Rob, was diagnosed with cancer when he was 15. He went through chemo for 3 years, but sadly passed away (talk about a sucky situation).

I was 8 when he died, and I took it extremely hard. He and I were very close. I am now 23 but it doesn't seem like it has been that long at all since he passed.

People ask me these same questions and I HATE it. I was so torn for such a long time as to what I should tell people when they asked me how many siblings I had. I would still say that I had 5, and of course the second (and uncomfortable) question would follow, "How old is your oldest brother?" I hated (and still do) when I had to face that one. Usually I would just give them the truth. "He actually passed away when he was 18." I tried to make it short and to the point. But then of course they want to know what happened and all the other details. It can be SO hard sometimes.

I once told someone that I only had four brothers because I just wasn't up to facing the second question, but I totally felt like I had betrayed my brother. Just because he was dead didn't mean he wasn't my brother anymore. I wanted to go hide in a dark corner after I said it. That was the first and last time I ever told someone I had four brothers. I figured it was worth facing the awkwardness of the second question so I wouldn't have to feel that sense of betrayal ever again.

Anyway, I wish I had some great advice for you, but the truth is I don't. All I can tell you is that time has helped me face the facts. My brother may not be with me, but he's still my brother. I continue to tell people I have five older brothers and then face the awkwardness of the second question. But for me, it's worth it.

I understand that it's not that way for everyone, but it really is the only way for me to feel any peace over the situation.


P.S. I just graduated from BYU-I with my degree in photography. I love your work. Your blog post on the 10 Deadly Post Processing Sins was hilarious! I shared it with all of my friends on Facebook. Thanks for the laughs!

Jennifer Bowman said...

Natalie -
I found your blog through Natalie Hills and stayed up late last night & part of today while kids were napping reading up on your sweet son. I am so sorry for your loss. I want to thank you for sharing your story. I am going to my dr this week to get my pertussis shot. I am taking my kids in next week to make sure they are all up to date. Thank you for making me aware.
I truly am so so sorry for your loss. It is unimaginable. You are so brave, so strong. I admire you so very much. My prayers & thoughts are with you and your family.
- Jen Bowman

The Cricket on the Hearth said...

"I have three children... two here with me, and one who lives in heaven."

Mama Laura said...

How many is the hardest for me. Sometimes I say one. Sometimes I say two. Sometimes I elaborate. Sometimes I don't. I don't think there's a right answer. I just respond in the safest way for me. If I'm having a good day and know I won't burst into tears by being completely honest, then I do that. Because I think people could benefit from hearing his story. Or about how beautiful he was, and how much he's missed. But if it's a hard day, I just say one, and leave it at that.