by Christine Sherrill
I know we might not have known each other long. Maybe you’re a friendly cashier, or someone buying the same grapes as me at the grocery store.
Perhaps we’re taking turns on a machine at the gym, or we just met at a professional development opportunity.
We make friendly banter, which I’m probably not enthused by anyway, and then it starts.
The questioning turns personal.
So, do you have kids?
How many kids do you have?
When are you going to have kids?
Are you guys going to have kids, or…?
Whatever way you ask it, it hits the same way. At that moment, half a million different questions running through my brain.
Is this person worth my time?
Is this person worth my emotional expense?
Am I denying my child’s existence if I don’t tell this stranger about them?
Will I have a breakdown in the grocery store?
What if they decide to tell me about their husband’s second cousin’s miscarriage?
What if they hit me with an often-used phrase I’m tired of hearing like ‘everything happens for a reason’?
How do I phrase this? Do I say “loss”? Do I say “died”?
At that moment, that fleeting moment, I think about all the self-preservation I have to do daily simply so I can function like a regular adult. I think about how much time and energy I spend doing mental gymnastics so that I can look and act like you.
Everyone carries their traumas, but some people have the luxury of not yet experiencing death. Some people have the luxury of not experiencing child loss or infertility.
Those tend to be the ones that ask these questions.
If you ask me this question, I will answer you honestly.
I am not interested in your discomfort. I don’t mean to say this angrily, but if you ask a personal question, please be prepared for a personal answer.
Asking me how many children I have or when I plan to have children is a much more loaded question than those making small talk might think.
You are asking about something incredibly intimate, and something that, for me, comes with considerable weight.
Yes, I have a daughter. Her name is Luna.
I know you don’t want to hear the word “died” when you ask about how many children I have.
I know it’s uncomfortable because you don’t want to imagine that possibility for yourself.
It’s unpleasant that we live in a world where babies die, but that is reality.
I have a daughter. Her name is Luna. She died.
Often, this response is the ultimate litmus test for a new relationship. I know that if you’re someone who becomes uneasy, offers me platitudes, and then never wants to speak to me again, you’re not the person I wanted in my life anyway.
My life is messy. My life comes with the death of my child, and that is a non-negotiable part of our relationship together.
You might think it’s rude or off-putting to mention my dead baby in our casual conversation.
But the truth is, it’s no different than you talking about your children, their sports activities, their grades, and all of your mom-friends.
My child doesn’t have any stories like that, and won’t grow older to make those memories. Instead, my mention of her in our casual, likely brief, conversation, is my way of honoring her.
I am still allowed to parent her, albeit in a very different way than you parent your children.
I will not deny her existence for the sake of your comfort. When you can hear my words without offering advice, and without turning away, I know that we can move forward and exist together in a world where we respect and honor each other.
I have a daughter. Her name is Luna.