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When People Ask, 'Is She Your First Child?'

“Is she your first?”

“Is she your only child?”

When you have a baby, these are the types of questions you hear often. But how do you answer them when your first child has passed away? Is this a stranger looking for a quick answer in passing, or someone who truly wants to know? No matter how you answer, you might feel guilty. Answer truthfully and you could burden the stranger with your sorrow and make them feel bad for asking; answer untruthfully and you might feel dishonest and as if you were letting your first child down.

These are the sorts of situations you might find yourself in when you have a second child after the loss of your first. And it might never get easier, but it changes. You learn how to answer strangers’ questions, or at least to have mercy on yourself and your possibly ever-changing answers. No matter how you answer, your heart will probably hurt knowing that while you have more than one child, they will never be on this Earth together.

Both of my children had/have significant medical needs. I adopted my daughter six months after my son passed away, when he was 6 years old. In the beginning, my daughter had a lot of new patient appointments and tests at our Children’s Hospital. For the first six months, it felt like every time we went to the hospital someone asked about my son. You see, my son passed away out of state in another hospital during a medical trial. While his main doctors at our Children’s Hospital knew, no one else did.

Mother and son smiling at camera

How do you break the news to someone who cared for your child and comes up to you excitedly asking, “How is your son doing?” I’ve had a few dozen tries, and I’m still figuring that one out! Those first visits were like Groundhog’s Day, the same scenario and questions over and over again.

My daughter has now been home almost a year, and the questions from those who knew my son have slowed. But as we get further away from my son’s passing, part of me longs for those questions. When you have lost a child, you sometimes worry that people will forget them. You have to figure out how to keep their memory alive, while also encouraging your younger children to have their own identities and live their lives. Over time, you learn to balance the joy and sadness.

“Is she your only child?”

“Is she your first?”

No, I am mama to two wonderful, funny, brave and compassionate children! My children never met, and are not biologically related, but I see my son in my daughter’s spirit. I know he would be proud of both of us, no matter how many times I may get the answers wrong.

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