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.