Is this your first child?
It’s a question that blindsided me recently when a stranger struck up a conversation. But it’s what happened next that really caught me off guard. As I touched my belly, I thought about how to respond. “No, this is baby number 4,” I said as I watched her shocked reaction unfold. “WOAH! That’s a lot of kids to wrangle,” she replied.
The lady continued to talk about how she could never imagine having so many children, when I finally decided to interrupt. I explained that we have triplets, with one 5-year-old survivor, and that’s when the conversation made me uncomfortable.
“Oh. That’s really brave of you to talk about your children who aren’t alive. I never talk about my miscarriage,” the lady told me.
At that moment, my heart physically ached. This woman was genuinely surprised that I would mention my children who died. I’m used to getting the awkward reaction when people ask me how many children I have. Sometimes I mention all three of my triplets, knowing that a familiar look of sadness, even pity, will wash over the stranger’s face. And sometimes, I just nod and smile, not wanting to share my tragic losses with someone I will never see again.
But this time was different. This conversation made me sad. Society has come a long way since I first lost my children nearly six years ago, but this woman showed me that we still have a long way to go. This woman showed me that it’s still common, or even expected, to sweep our losses under the rug, to “get over it” and move on with life.
But here’s the thing—You never get over the loss of a child. Even as I feel this baby wiggle within me, she will never replace the two children I lost. There are signs of our triplets throughout our home; pictures of Abby and Parker next to pictures of our miracle survivor, Peyton. They will always be part of our lives.
Over the years, we’ve wrestled with how to live life with children on both earth and in heaven. It’s a difficult task grieving over the children you’ll never see grow up, while showing strength and joy for the child who survived.
I teared up as I started to respond to this woman. I shared my condolences for her losses and mentioned that it doesn’t matter how long your child lived. Whether it’s a miscarriage, a stillbirth or a loss of a child, your child existed.
I don’t think of myself as brave for speaking about all of my children. I’m doing what any proud parent would do—I speak the names of my children and make sure their legacy lives on, no matter how long they were here on earth.