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Is Bella Your Only Child?

I wondered when I would be asked this question.

And I’ve always wondered how I would answer.

It’s easy to say it on here. “I have 3 children. One here, two in heaven.”

But to a stranger? A person you don’t know? Out loud? How do you say that without making everyone in the room uncomfortable or feel like they need to walk on eggshells with you?

I remember feeling that way before I lost the twins. Someone would mention something about a loss and I’d freeze up. Not sure what to say, if they wanted to talk about it, not wanting to say the wrong thing. I’d take their cues and go from there but never really prod.

I was coming home from Blissdom this year, 10 weeks pregnant with the twins (having just found out a week before) and sat next to two amazing women who, although they may have never known this, changed my life and the way I’ve been able to process all this. Kim from Prairie Mama (who made the gorgeous robot dress for Bella) who lost her daughter Emma at 8 months and Sherry Carr-Smith of Paper Scissors KeyboardΒ who lost her husband Mike at the age of 33.

I sat down next to Kim first and we were talking about how excited we were to get home and see our kids. She had her son with her, who was absolutely adorable, and told me that she had 5 children. Instantly I wanted to know their ages and she told me, pausing to say, “My oldest would have been 9.”

I felt my heart drop out, and that urge of trying to say the right thing while wondering what to say. But I didn’t have to, Kim simply talked about her in such a beautiful and open way that I knew how much to ask and was comfortable with it. I have never forgotten her story because of this.

Sherry sat down between us and part way through the flight mentioned her first husband. After a while of her and Kim chatting, I asked her if she was ok telling me how he died. She was crying as she told me, and my heart was breaking for her, but her story – every detail. So amazing. She just exuded strength and hope and grief all at the same time.

I sat there for that flight for a couple of hours in awe of these two incredible women. I had never been around people before that were so honest and open about their loss, and it made me wonder if I could do the same should my turn ever come?

2 months later it did.

I have thought about Kim and Sherry every day since losing the boys. And how their ability to tell me, a complete stranger who had never even fathomed what they had lived through, their personal journeys.

So today, I sat in a chair getting my hair done and the stylist was chatting away and said, “So your little girl, she’s your only child?”

I paused and the fear of making someone uncomfortable welled up. “Yes,” I said.

And then it hit me. A voice in my head screaming so loud, “NO, NO! You have two sons!” I couldn’t pass up this first chance, because I knew it would set the rest of my life and my ability to share their story out loud.

“Actually,” I said, “I was pregnant with twins but they were born at 20 weeks. They were identical boys. So three children.”

There. I did it.

And much to my surprise, she asked about it and told me how very sorry she was. I got to talk about them a little. It felt good. I didn’t cry, it hurt but it hurt in a good way. I got to talk about them. Just like I do about Bella. They are still here, still a part of my life.

I have 3 children. One here, two in heaven. And I’m not going to be afraid to say that anymore.


Comments

  1. I have tears spilling out reading this. Beautifully written. It grabbed my heart. I am so sorry you lost your precious boys.

  2. I always hesitate to say that I actually have 4 children as well. We lost our second daughter at 13 weeks gestation to Trisomy 18 in 2008. It really depends on the day how I answer the “are these your only 3 kids?” question. Some days it’s a quick “yes” and I move on, other days I share that actually, we had another daughter too.

    I think I’ll stop saying yes and answer more honestly every time from now on.
    Thanks for the courage to do so.

  3. I can’t imagine how tough that is. I have a battle with myself over telling people if the girls are mine or explaining to them that they’re actually my sisters but I am raising them as my own. That is tough for me, so I cannot even imagine being in YOUR shoes. You continue to inspire so many people, Diana. I think of you often. Big hugs. Julian and Preston are so very proud of their mama, I am SURE of it.

  4. I’m so sorry, friend. But you did beautifully.

    My grandmother had a full-term still born & then my uncle committed suicide. She always said she birthed eight children, raised seven, & now has six.

    In a strange way, I’ve felt that way about my parents adopting my cousins. I never really considered my cousins my “brother & sister” but it was easier to say that & the therapist said it was best for them. It always felt wrong & a few years ago I gave myself permission to describe it however I wanted to. But it took 13 years to get there & it’s not even close to your story…so, that being said, it may take time to simply figure out how you want to say it, when you want to say it, etc. & that’s okay.

    <3

  5. Good for you. <3

  6. I’m glad you wrote about this. It’s such a sensitive topic and like you said many people just don’t know how to respond. Should they ask a follow up question? Change the topic? I’ve had a miscarriage and I still handle these situations with my trademark awkwardness. It’s important to acknowledge the presence these people, no matter how young, had in our lives.

    <3

  7. melissa says:

    I think you answered perfectly. How does anyone know the correct way to answer a question like that after your heart’s been through so much?! Praying for you, Sam, and Bella always!

  8. I think this will give anyone who’s experienced such a profound loss the courage to be true to themselves. Maybe, like Amy says above, the response will be different based on the person/situation, but at least it’ll be steeped in truth.

  9. It makes my husband uncomfortable but I always say that I have six children. If asked I will break it down two stepsons two angels and two girls here with me. I know people who only speak of their living children, and that is their choice and fine. For me though my little girl who lived two days and my little boy who lived for 45 minutes are as loved and as much in need of counting as any of my other children. I Love this post, because a lot of woman are so unsure what to do when asked.

  10. I can’t imagine how difficult it must be for you and I am amazed by how well you seem to handle things. I’ve found that talking about my daughter’s illness (which I know doesn’t compare to your loss) helps me more than ignoring it. I’d rather tell someone than for them to just look and wonder. It’s such a difficult balance and again, you handle it with such grace.

  11. I still have a hard time with this question. I find it depends on the situation and how much I want to invest emotionally. I still refer to myself as having twin boys when people ask about my kiddos, but I often then turn singular when talking about them. One conversation might have both : “My boys were born 3 years ago” and “We’re planning Colby’s 3rd birthday party.” I know it must leave questions, but I don’t always feel like I need to elaborate.

  12. HUGS! What an amazing step in your journey. You have always been able to share your experiences with others, and I think doing that really helps you come to terms with something on a deeper level, it helps you put it into words, which helps you deal with it instead of keeping it buried. I’m proud of you, and I love you! You don’t know how sharing yourself with someone might help them one day. Pay it forward!

  13. I always wonder how to talk about my niece who died at 3 months old. My sister and I have children that are a year apart and then were pregnant with our 2nd children at the same time. We live near each other and our daughters were born 2 months apart so they played together a lot. When Olivia died it left me with all these pictures and stories about the babies together and while everyone in our life knows, the topic comes up with strangers about how many grandkids my parents have or if my sister will ever want another or if one child is enough…it’s not my story to tell and I always get uncomfortable telling them that she has 2 and one is in Heaven and she doesn’t think she want to have any more (she is divorced now from the father)…I’ve never even asked her what she says when people ask her if Alice is her only child. I bet she’d be gracious and comfortable with it though.

  14. Good for you! I lost my momma young, and it took me some time to realize it is waay, way better to talk about it, *especially* with people you know. With strangers? It’s definitely a game-time decision, but if they ask, go for it! I’ve had some great discussions by taking a big gulp and explaining that no, my dad did not get remarried after a divorce – and other similar questions.

  15. I used to teach a little girl at church who had several brothers and no sisters (I thought) and when we were talking about our families one day she said she had a sister. I asked her about her sister and she told me she was in her mama’s belly but was now in Heaven. I love that their family spoke openly about the child her mother (their family!) lost and she was counted among the children. I like to think I’d do the same, Heaven forbid I ever should need to. I admire your courage and love of your children and your desire to make sure they’re not forgotten.

  16. Diana~
    I’m so glad that our conversation helps, but I hate that you needed any guidance. Remember that you talk about your boys in whatever way feels right to you in that instant.

    Also, I’m relieved that my conversation with you that day didn’t completely freak you out, because I’m really good at oversharing.

    You helped me that day too.

    I heart you!

    Sherry

  17. Thank you for sharing your story. Sherry and I have known each other online for quite a while now, though I’ve not had the pleasure to meet her in person yet. She was among the first to reach out to me when our 22-year-old son died unexpectedly last fall. (See a story one of my students wrote about us at http://kylenixon.posterous.com/?page=2 .) We have recently moved from Florida to Arkansas, and very few people here know about our family tragedy. When people ask me how many children we have, I always have to pause and assess the situation. My standard answer now is “we have three living with us here in Arkansas.” If they ask a follow-up question, I sometimes go into more details. It’s hard, still.

  18. Oh my sweet friend. I know how hard it is. I love you and I am so grateful we had that flight where I could talk to you. I know that God put us in each other’s paths so I could tell you my story. So when it happened to you, you wouldn’t be so alone.
    Know I am always here. Anytime you need me, I am just an email away.

  19. Jennifer says:

    Sending you lots of love and support. Thanks so much for sharing your story. You are a brave hero.

  20. I am proud of you. I still don’t know how to answer that question and it’s been two years since my loss.

    Kim was a healing presence for me at BlogHer10. I was there less than three weeks after losing our first baby at 11 weeks, the one we’d tried for for over two years. I sat in a session about blogging through grief with her, Cecily Kellogg and Loralee C. on stage. She shared her story with me and validated my own. It was a huge step for me in my journey.

    Thank God for the internet, for Kim, and for the chance to sit in a room with these friends. Hoping to meet you later this week =)

  21. That was the hardest thing for me..saying yes I had a son but he was stillborn at 38 weeks. I wish I could tell you it got easier, but it hasnt. It was so hard the first time one of my patients asked me if i had children. Usually they are stunned a little and then its an awkward silence for a few. Stay strong! Hugs!

  22. This is a really difficult question for me. Good for you for handling it with such grace. It really depends on the situation for me. I usually do mention my 7 month old who passed away, but I almost never mention our early miscarriage, since even my children don’t know about that loss. I guess for me, it depends on who is asking.

  23. New to this site. My heart goes out to those of you with these losses. Adam is our only living child.. (Our eighth pregnancy.) Multiple up in heaven. Reading your postings shows how differently the responses can be to one seemingly simiilar event. I am 50 years old and have years behind me in the loss of my babies. (15 miscarriages). When people ask any question referencing us having only one child the reply is simple, “My husband came from a large family and loved it and we wanted a large one. But God only let us carry one to full term.” At times we have lived among groups of people that do not believe in birth control. This answer said it all. There were twins and singles. The most difficult event was on a Mother’s Day at church and was a couple years prior to the birth of Adam. The main auditorium was just not an option, that was where they were recognizing moms.. They were giving a rose to all the mothers. There was an extra one and a kind, young deacon brought it to me and said, “There was an extra one. Even though you are not a mom, I thought you would enjoy it.” After the service was over, I left it on the counter and went home. He and his wife are good friends to this day. The pain does go away, but it does change you. God has been very good to us. There are no regrets to llok back on. Email me if anyone wants to just express themselves or has a question. janiasmith2000@hotmail.com

  24. you are AMAZING and I am so inspired by you.

  25. Part of the journey. Thank you so much for your transparency and vulnerability. This blog is going to become a strong support for women who walk this journey after you. I am so sorry for your loss. Yet, I deeply admire your honesty and the beauty with which you share your experiences.

  26. I like that you decided to answer this way because someday (perhaps even already) you are that remarkable unforgettable woman to someone else. Helping someone else be brave and talk about her children how she truly wants to.

  27. Bravo to you, I understand completely Having lost my boy 8 years ago but I have found it good to talk about it…being upfront as it makes people at ease….I have 3 girls and an angel boy in Heaven

  28. My heart goes out to you and these struggles that you are going through. Your writing is beautiful and so powerful.

  29. It is so much easier on paper/computer, isn’t it? But what a relief to be able to openly talk about them and the pain. I don’t care how uncomfortable I ever feel – if a momma is hurting I hope she can feel freedom to speak about her loved ones, passed or alive. If I don’t know what to say (which is almost always) I just be honest and say “I am so sorry this happened. I don’t know what to say but I am here if you need to talk!”

    Sometimes I mention my miscarriages, sometimes I don’t. I kind of feel the person out. They were early miscarriages and while I do not discredit my own losses I do think that knowing the genders and being further along just makes it seem so much more real and heartbreaking (early miscarriages are hard in their own respect and for one reason being that it is almost surreal when it happens and may sometimes feel like it never happened, a mother may feel she dreamed the whole thing because it was so quick, sudden and early having never known the gender or seen them and others may discredit them as being hers and “counting” when asked how many children she has had). Your boys definitely count and I’m so glad you were able to talk about them!!!

    Huge e-HUGS for you!

  30. Alma Killingsworth says:

    Beautiful :) I always include my boy when people ask I sometimes find myself explaining to strangers my boys are not twins but surviving triplets and our Manuel is in heaven looking after my other 2 that are here with me. It also gives me the chance to talk about my baby boy and his short but loving stay with us

  31. Good for you, Diana! Being true to yourself and doing/saying what makes you comfortable takes tremendous courage. :)