What expectant mother has not heard that question from a stranger in the supermarket or other public venue? I did when I was pregnant with my son, and it always made me pause in a way that might have seemed odd to the casual bystander. Doesn't she know how many children she has?
The easy (and true) answer - No, I also have a daughter. She is excited to be a big sister!
The more complicated (but also true) answer - No, this is my fifth. And then, quickly, before someone could make a comment about large families, I would say, I have one three-year-old daughter and three children in Heaven who we lost during pregnancy.
Cue the looks of sympathy and confusion, as the questioner tries to figure out how to respond to this personal piece of information. The awkwardness often caused me to second-guess my decision this time to open up my heart again to a total stranger.
But I knew that the next time, I would probably say the same thing again, just as I do now, when I am asked, How many children do you have?
Five, I usually answer. Two on earth and three in Heaven.
Why do I open up my heart? Why risk it? Why put a damper on someone else's day and make them feel awkward over my loss? I haven't always been in a place emotionally when I could, and even today there are times when I don't choose this route. But when I do it is for five main reasons.
It opens the door to talk about pregnancy loss. Pregnancy loss is one of those "taboo" topics in our culture, which is part of what makes it so hard to walk through one. Because no one talks about it, you think you are the only one, which makes you feel very isolated. I can help break that barrier down in my own little way by being open about the fact that I have carried and loved three children who never took a breath on this Earth.
It opens the door to talk about my children. And what mom doesn't want to do that? But when they live in Heaven, there are not as many opportunities, so when I can, I love to share their lives and their names. To let someone else know that they lived.
Such riches in one moment, in one deceptively simple question. So when I pause at that question about the number of children I have, it's not just to think about how to answer. It's also to say under my breath, I am so glad you asked.