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Why Answering These Normal Parenting Questions Is So Difficult for Me

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“Do you have any children?”

“How many children do you have?”

“Is she your only?”

“Is she your oldest?”

These all seem like simple and normal questions. However, when you’ve lost a child, these questions can be uncomfortable and gut-wrenching.

I remember the first time I was ever asked this question. It was a month after my son Robby had passed away, and I was out getting my bangs trimmed. I’d never been asked this question before, but yet here it was, and it blindsided me, and I felt like I’d been hit in the chest when the lady doing my hair so very innocently asked me
“Do you have any children?”

I just sat there for a few moments before answering through streams of tears that yes, “I had one child, but he had died.” She told me she was sorry, and then quickly finished my bang trim, and I left.

After my daughter Ellie was born it made the question a little bit more difficult to answer because there were so many variations of the questions that could be asked. However, whenever it came up I managed to stumble through my response saying I have a daughter and I had a son but that he was gone.

Then one day, it happened. I was in a rush trying to buy some socks for Ellie at the mall. I was stressed out about something, I can’t remember what now, and the sales lady was trying to chit chat with me. Next thing I knew, she asked me if Ellie was my only child, and before I could stop and think, the word “yes” slipped right out of my mouth. I felt like such a terrible mother and person at that moment, and for days afterwards I beat myself up. I felt as if I’d let my son down or had pretended as if he didn’t exist. It took me a long time to realize that it was OK. I was not denying his existence; I was just trying to get through that exact moment.

I now have standard answers for these questions, and I’m not ashamed to admit I did spend a lot of time practicing these out loud.

These questions almost four years later are still uncomfortable, and they still take me off guard. However, they’re not just uncomfortable for me; they’re uncomfortable for the person who asks the question as well. I get all different kinds of responses from obvious discomfort to looks of pity. I don’t mean to make others around me uncomfortable or sad, but this is my life. The fact is, I have two children, one in heaven and one here in my arms.

Amanda's daughter holding a picture of her brother

Originally published: January 19, 2016
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