Saturday, October 15, 2011

Do You Have Children?

This has become my least favorite question. And not because I mind answering it, because I don't. Problem is, I don't know HOW to answer it.

This question is a simple one, I mean it is a pretty commonly asked question. You get into a casual conversation with someone, they ask if you are married. I say yes. Then naturally the next question is, do you have any kids? And I freeze. I feel sorry for those people who ask me this question. Mostly because I know it is going to make them feel awkward and uncomfortable. I often think in my head "don't do it, don't me ask me if I have kids" And then they ask. I don't mind talking about Emily. I like talking about Emily. She is, after all, my daughter right? So I could sit there all day and talk a strangers ear off about Emily, but we all know they don't want to hear about it. I could simply say "no" to make it easier and most simple for me and the person asking. But I hate doing that. It makes me feel like I am saying she doesn't exist. I could say "yes", but normally that is followed with more questions about the child.

Ironically, I have been asked this question more times since April than I have in the last 3 years since I have been married. And on every occasion I have answered differently. First time I was with my husband, the individual asked if we had kids and Justin said no. Which is fine, I would have been comfortable leaving it at that. But then more questions followed about the subject, so finally I said, "we actually have a daughter, but she passed away at birth." Then lots of apology followed. I wasn't in any way offended, I was simply trying to clarify. I felt more embarrassed and sorry for the individual than anything. The next few times was when I was at work. I used to, and still kind of do, work at the YMCA at the front desk. I have been there for four years so I am pretty familiar to the regulars who come in in the afternoons. Most of them noticed that one day, after I had been gone a couple weeks, that I wasn't pregnant anymore and not many of them said anything. One day, shortly after Emily was born, a gentleman came in, not a regular, and we got to chatting. It is pretty common at my job for people to stop and talk to me for long periods of time. I guess it gives them excuse to put of their workout for as long as possible. Anyway, he eventually asked if I had any children. I said very confidently, "I have a daughter". This time no more questions followed and he went on his merry way. So sometimes I don't clarify and just let strangers think that I am going home to my daughter at the end of the day. Doesn't make any difference really. I probably won't ever see these people again.

Another time at work I was reading a book, which I do frequently. Several members tease me regularly for being such a book worm. Oh well. Anyway, I was reading and a regular came by and asked me what my book was about. I told him it was about a woman who couldn't have children. So she found a young adult female and paid her for one of her eggs, and found another younger lady to be the surrogate (I didn't finish the book, it was weird). He kinda looked at me funny and said, "How old are you?" and I told him 22. And he asked, "You aren't trying to have kids are you?" and before I could answer he said "because you are too young to be thinking about having kids" and then he left. If only he knew... Situations like these really make me realize that we have no idea what it going on in someone's life and should never make assumptions about someone... I really hope I don't do that to people.

Another time was at church. A very sweet elderly gentleman, who I don't see very often, saw me sitting by Justin. Later he came over and was surprised to learn that I had been married for 3 years. He asked if I had any children. I said, "well...I have a daughter" and he could tell I was hesitant. My sister, who was sitting next to me had to clarify that she was "in heaven". The poor man felt really bad. Like I said, I mostly dislike this question because I know it is going to make the other person feel bad or make them feel awkward when I finally getting around to answering.

Another time was at my house. I had had a girls night where several girls came over. Some of them I knew really well, others not so much. Some of them knew about Emily, some of them didn't. Towards the end of the evening a girl asked me very innocently "so do you have kids?" she had been confused because I had made mention of Emily a few times and she didn't think I had children. I opened my mouth to say something and nothing came out. I just sat there and stared at her. She probably thought I had lost my mind, I mean how hard of a question is that? It's a simple yes or no question right? I finally said, " don't know how to answer your question" Which then lead to me telling her the story. Which I didn't mind doing, but I hope it didn't make her feel bad or uncomfortable. Poor girl didn't know what she was getting herself into :)

Anyway, I know everyone asks this question out of simple curiosity or just to make conversation, which is completely fine. But even after six months, I am still trying to come up with a way to simply, yet accurately, answer that question without making people want to stick their foot in their mouth... Thanks for reading. I appreciate the response I have gotten so far :)


  1. Hey Jessica! We haven't officially met but I'm married to Scott Westwood and I remember Karin telling me your story when I came out to MO last May and it just broke my heart. Thanks for being so open. I have not had a stillborn child and can't imagine that heartache but I do know how it feels to want a child so bad and the awkwardness that it causes in life situations, with everyone around having children. I have felt a lot of the same feelings you have and it's so hard. Thanks for sharing your story, it's nice to know that I'm not alone in those feelings.

  2. Jessica, my heart still goes out to you. I had the questions a lot over the years. I usually told people I have 3 living boys and 2 that are not living. That usually is enough info to satisfy them, and they aren't embarassed about the question.