For the first time ever, someone who doesn’t know my story of infertility and miscarriage innocently asked me the question I’ve been dreading:
“How many children do you have?”
To keep the moment from being awkward in a room full of people, I promptly responded with: “one”, but my heart started racing because I felt like I was lying. Not only was I lying… I was lying in church.
Ever since our miscarriage last summer, my mind has been plagued with potential responses to that question. Do we tell people we have one here and one we never got to meet?
When people ask our plans to grow our family, do we tell them that we’re trying for baby #2… or #3?
If we say we just have one child, are we making it seem like the one we lost didn’t matter?
I don’t know why this bothers me so much, but I never thought I’d be in the position to have to think this through. I’ve always been very public with my story, so talking to people has become very easy. But I had no idea how to properly respond to that question when someone who didn’t know my story asked it.
How many children do you have?
…on this side of heaven.
And one we’re missing deeply.
For the sake of being less awkward, I might lie and say just one. Although I guess it isn’t quite a lie because it’s just one here… one I can hug, kiss, talk to, read to, play with, and take to Disney World.
The other one is just not here right now, never will be, and the dream of what he (or she) would have looked like, talked like, played like, laughed like… is gone. Because even if we get the blessing of another child, it won’t be the same or replace the one we lost. It’ll just be new. Different. Someone else added to the Wallace roster.
While I’ve experienced infertility in some capacity for a decade, being a mother after miscarriage is something new to me. I may never have the “right” answer to the question because it turns out that it’s going to be different for everyone… but what I do know is that I’m going to give myself the grace to answer it however I feel comfortable in that moment.
Whether I say one… or two… there won’t be a wrong answer for me. And I’m going to choose to extend grace to others who also don’t acknowledge the loss in their “head count” as well.
And unfortunately, I don’t stand alone. For my 8-year-old daughter, the question “do you have any siblings?” is completely debilitating. The same feeling I had in that room full of people is the feeling she gets when the topic is brought up at school or church.
She wants to tell everyone that her sibling was a part of her life for a brief moment and that he (or she) mattered to her… but as she tells me: “Momma, I just didn’t feel like crying or going into it, so I lied and said ‘no’.”
Instead, she covers up her grief, waits until she gets home, and lets all the tears flow because home is her safe place.
Me, too, baby girl. Me, too.
And that’s okay.
Photo by Ben White on Unsplash
Jessi and her husband Glenn have spent their 11-year marriage navigating infertility. Between her PCOS and his male-factor infertility, they have struggled immensely to grow their family since the beginning. They share one daughter conceived from fertility treatment (born 2010) and had one surprise miracle pregnancy after five+ years of TTC that ended in a devastating miscarriage (2017). Jessi writes about conquering infertility, embracing motherhood, recovering from a miscarriage, and her faith on her blog Life Abundant, on Facebook, and on Instagram.