Posts tagged “how many children do you have”.











Anna was 9 pounds 0.6 ounces when she was born. 18.5 inches long. She was in the 90th percentile for weight, 25th for height. She has one sister, one brother, six grandparents, four godparents, seven uncles, five aunts and four cousins. She got 1 ml of propranolol every six hours. She spent 80 beautiful days with us. She was 11.5 weeks old when we lost her. Today, she would have been 171 days old … almost six months. She has two parents who will never, ever forget her.

There are a lot of numbers that I know about Anna. But ultimately, the number that I can’t get away from is three.

“How many children do you have?”

Several people who had also lost children told me this would be a difficult question to answer throughout my life. So I thought about it in advance. How would I answer? I told myself I would always answer “three: two on earth, one in heaven.” I coached Henry to always answer that he has two sisters, one on earth, one in heaven. And for Nora, one brother on earth, one sister in heaven. I even practice with Henry: “Henry, do you have a big sister?” “Yes. Nora!” “Do you have a little sister?” “Yes. Anna!”

But like most things related to loss of this magnitude, it is not always that easy. Here’s the part I didn’t anticipate: If someone is asking me how many children I have, he or she probably doesn’t know me that well. Probably, we have just met. Likely, I’m at work. So … do I go from small talk right into the depth of my most agonizing pain?

It is like going straight from the handshake, not letting go and pulling that person off the bridge with me. It doesn’t seem fair. But not talking about Anna – lying and saying two – that is not fair to Anna. And it feels so wrong.

Let me give you an example of how this goes. I was at a work function a few weeks ago. The event was the culmination of a relationship I had been working on before I went out on maternity leave. The guests of honor were Mickey Mantle’s two surviving sons, David and Danny. I worked most closely with their lawyer but had been on calls with the Mantles a few times.

I walked over and introduced myself to David. I said, “It was so nice to return from my leave and see that this event worked out so well.” David, “Maternity leave?” Me, “Yes.” David, “Well that’s just wonderful. A boy or a girl?” Me, “A girl.” “You must not be getting much sleep these days.” Me, “Well, uh, it’s kind of a sad story. We lost her.” And you can imagine how it went from there.

So … how to answer the question. How to honor Anna, be true to myself, but not jump off the bridge with complete strangers. I guess figuring it out has to do with the last part. Not jumping off the bridge. There is an immediate, biological and permanent, permanent  bond that forms between mother and baby — that formed between Anna and me. Death does not erase it. I don’t expect that I will ever be “over” losing my precious girl. But I am trying to absorb her life and her loss into who I am. Trying find strength from it. Some days I can, some I can’t. But I am trying. I am trying not to let her memories, her life pull me into a morass of pain but to lift me up. So …

“Three. Two on earth. One in heaven.”

And I’ll try to shake your hand … and just walk across the bridge.