Whenever I meet someone new, I harbor a tiny feeling of dread for the moment I get asked that question, especially when that someone is a parent. What do parents like to talk about the most? Their kids. Somewhere in that initial conversation, you're bound to get some variation of the question, "How many kids do you have?" Doesn't really sound like such a horrible question does it? An innocent conversation maker. How do I always answer?
Just one. Except I don't have just one. I have seven children. Seven. There's just only one on earth with me. I hate answering that question. I always feel a little bit of guilt, a small feeling of betraying my other children, because they all deserve to be recognized, to be known, acknowledged. I love them all, I miss them all, they are all part of my life, of what makes me, me. Part of me longs to answer, "Seven," or, "One on earth." I want people to know I have all these wonderful, amazing children, but except for the very, very rare time, I can't bring myself to do it. It opens me up to questions I don't always want to answer, things I don't necessarily want to share with relative strangers. It would make people feel sorry for me, or just sorry they asked the question in the first place, because "Whoa. That's far deeper water than I was intending to get into," and then the conversation becomes all awkward and stilted. I don't want to be the one to bring a dampener to a casual conversation.
I think that if I could just say it casually, a simple statement of fact, that maybe it wouldn't be so bad, but then I'm afraid that I'll appear callous, making little of miscarriage and related losses, the permanent mark left on my soul. Or be reinforcing the idea that miscarriage is not a big deal, sad, but you get over it, you know? But it is a big deal. It's huge. It's heartbreaking and life changing. And you don't really get over it, you just learn (or try to anyways) to accept it as part of your life. The losses become part of who you are.
I also have trouble answering this question as honestly as I want to, because I don't want to be known as the women who had six miscarriages. I don't want this to be my identity. I have had six miscarriages, but more than that, I am Mother to seven children. Seven children who I love dearly, six who I miss daily. One amazing boy that I get to cuddle, hug, and put to bed every night, and six that I love from a distance. I call them by name, I tell them how much I love them and I miss them. I tell them how glad I am that they are happy and that they have each other. I remind them to look out for one another, even though they really don't need to do that there (the mother in me can't help it). I ask Jesus to give them the hugs I so long to give to them myself. I can see them, how beautiful and strong they are. I see how kind they are and how full of love and joy, and I'm so incredibly proud to be their Mama.
Despite my guilt at not acknowledging them, at not sharing with the world that I have six more wonderful children, I know they hold nothing against me. They love me without hesitance, despite my hesitance to bring them up in casual conversation. They have no needs from me, they simply love me as I am, as I love them. They know how proud I am of them, and with this post I will find a way to begin telling everyone else how proud I am of them too.
- Vanessa, Mama to JJ, Dunadan, Anastasios, Sayuri, Tacey, Aliento, and Nima