‘How many children do you have?’ A pretty standard question in a lot of small talk conversations. Someone new at work, someone you meet at a playgroup, a new friend. An easy question really, until now.
‘How many children do you have Rachel?’ 1, 2, 3, 35. The answer doesn’t really matter to most people. Your answer has no impact on their life particularly. It is just small talk until you ask a Mum like me. A Mum that has lost.
When I was pregnant one of the most lovely things about it was when someone asked about the baby and I got to tell them that there was two little girls setting up home in there. People would make jokes about how I’d have my hands full with 3, they would tell me how lovely it would be to have identical girls; how I would have 2 little best friends for life. Now I have the opposite effect on people when I tell them what has happened. They don’t know what to say to me; I’m not sure whether I would have known either. They are careful not to get the names muddled up. They say the wrong thing sometimes, that’s ok. I understand. Or they look at me with pure pity, with a little part of them thanking god it wasn’t them. They probably go home and cuddle their kids a little tighter that night.
So my quandary is this. When a stranger asks me how many children I have, do I just say 2. A beautiful boy and a gorgeous girl. The perfect mix some one would say, how lucky I am to have one of each. I am of course very lucky. That conversation is easy, it requires no awkwardness, no sadness. They walk away from our conversation content with what they have heard. I however, walk away from it feeling guilty. I lied. I have 3 children; a beautiful boy and gorgeous twin girls. So the other option. The other option is I say that I have 3 but one couldn’t stay with us, one was born sleeping. I do her justice, I say her name and I deal with someone being a bit shocked, a bit upset and lets be honest, very very awkward. Obviously I am not talking about people who know me or even know of me. They all know my families story to some degree; I say my baby girls name all the time then. I keep her memory alive but those strangers, does it really matter what I say?
The answer is I don’t know. I guess I will just see what comes out of my mouth at the time. It will probably be dependent on what mood I’m in or how private I am feeling. I never would have imagined such a simple question would become such a loaded question to me.
I have yet to experience this question so I shall start myself off on the right foot and share with you, the person reading this whether you are my best friend or a stranger. How many children do I have? I have 3.