Jonah's Pictures

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Tackling THAT Question

That Question is the one that every bereaved parent dreads: How many children do you have? This question often requires a split-second decision. Do you answer honestly and create a potentially awkward moment or do you provide an easy answer and move on?

I was feeling anxious about The Question because I had my twice-yearly dental appointment this morning. My last appointment was in December and I had declined x-rays because I was pregnant with Jonah. I wondered if they had noted the pregnancy in my file and I was anticipating/dreading the inquiry about how the baby was doing.

The appointment started with the hygienist asking me if I’ve had any medical changes in the past six months. What do I say? But then she added, “Allergies, medications and so on.” Nope, no changes there.

The dentist came in later, checked my teeth, and gave me a clean bill of dental health. The hygienist and I proceeded to the polishing and I thought I was home-free. But, as she was removing the bib, The Question came: How many children do you have? I considered my options and gave her the easy answer: just one. She then asked if I stayed home with Evan and we talked about the benefits of staying home. I was feeling guilty about not acknowledging Jonah so I buckled and said, “Well, our situation is complicated.” I went on to share with her, through tears, that we had lost a child this spring and it has made my relationship with Evan feel even more precious. As I told Jonah’s story, she put a hand on my shoulder and communicated without saying a word that she understood. She then shared that she had lost a child when she was almost five months pregnant and it was devastating, but she got pregnant soon after. She pointed at the photo of her son and said, “If I hadn’t suffered that loss, I wouldn’t have him.” So, what started out as an average appointment became an experience in which two bereaved parents connected for a few minutes and shared memories of their children. This conversation with her made my day.

I’m realizing that by providing the easy answer I might avoid making someone feel uncomfortable, but I’m also missing an opportunity to acknowledge Jonah and I may miss out on connecting with another human. The easy answer just doesn’t seem worth it.



  1. Kelly I am so proud of you. I'm not sure but had you answered the very 1st question with the easy answer, you could have gotten used to that answer, and that easy answer may have been what you would have said to anyone who asked. I think that we as mothers of these's angels can just feel who to tell the real answer + possible explination to. I am so proud of you.

  2. It is the worst when you do have to have the hard answer, but, like your experience, you may miss out on a great experience connecting with someone else who has lost. Most people brush me off, too, but the rare moment that I can connect with someone who "really" understands makes it worthwhile to share.

    Kim Carolan
    President, Carolan Creative Enterprises, LLC

  3. Thank you for this, Kelly.