Tuesday, June 30, 2009

subtraction

backward 3Those who've lost children usually count differently than other people. I have no children, one child, two, three, four, five children, they say, leaving space for the one who isn't there.

But, for me, even now, one of the few things that can still make me have to remember to breathe is when people, trying to be kind, refer to Cole as my fourth child. I have two children, no more, no less.

The twins are . . . lost, gone, vanished, stolen, disappeared, absolutely elsewhere. But they are not my children. And they never were.

29 comments:

Kristin said...

Everybody has their own way of keeping track of it and all that matters is if the accounting works for you. {{{Hugs}}}

G$ said...

Sometimes I think, being part of this community I *should* feel bad when I answer, No to the question, do you have any kids. But I don't.

Magpie said...

I hear you.

sweetsalty kate said...

That's fair. I'd feel weird about that too. I tend to say 'two' outwardly and feel 'three' inwardly but that's okay. That's just the slight twinge of math that doesn't add up.

Aurelia said...

I respect your choice, because you truly do feel that way. I do kind of worry though that others say that just because they feel like they "should" like god forbid the public feel uncomfortable. Bleh, let other people deal with it.

The only time I say "three kids" now is when I'm in front of someone who is a total ass and I don't have time to deal with them, like in a grocery store lineup.

Otherwise, I do what my husband's family has done forever; in their case, they say "8 kids, 7 living". In my case, I either say "3 living kids", or "6 kids, 3 living."

I never used to, I was totally in the closet, but I guess I'm getting old and cranky, eh?

erica said...

For me so much of this comes down to the word "have," which always strikes me as so very present-tense and definite whenever I hear this question. I had one, but I don't have any. But I had one. I don't know what I have, now.

Maybe there's some imaginary number that would make answering this question easier.

Bluebird said...

I'm with erica. I usually say none because I don't currently "have" any under my roof. I *have* empty arms. But yet, in some circles, I do still want my experience acknowledged even though it doesn't easily fit into the answer to the question.

Virginia said...

Yeah, I think I get it. When people ask me how many kids I have, I tell them, "An 8-year-old and a 3-year-old." That way, I feel like I"m not lying so much - I haven't given you a number, I've told you what resides in my house.

Betty M said...

This is definitely a place what you want should be what goes.

Tash said...

The more time that passes, the more it sinks in that Maddy could/should have *never* been here, and that rather forces my reason back into the "one" camp.

However, I don't want to forget her; nor do I want stupid people in my life forgetting how long I was pregnant with her, my shitty stay in the NICU, or how devastated we were when she died. And that sense of resentment (or whatever) drives me back up to "two."

I dunno. Guess it all depends on my mood. Sad thing, that.

caitsmom said...

For me, I need to say, "I have one child." Perhaps I would say something different if I had a living child, but I don't. I wonder at if I'll say I don't have a mother when she dies? Why should my daughter's relationship with me, though short, be severed because she died? My answers to these questions contribute to my need to say, "I have one child, though she died."

Thanks for the post. Peace.

missedconceptions said...

I had early miscarriages, which are not exactly the same as your situation. It was not until I had Baby S, though, that I realized how much, for me, they were not babies. They were pregnancies, and I lost them, but I did not lose children.

It's like "new math" for those who have encountered loss.

angie said...

How I see it is that I do have two children. One is just dead. I can't do my math any differently right now.

My Reality said...

I don't think there is a right or wrong answer with this kind of math.

DD said...

It's a coincidence you posted this since the other day I was reading an entertainment article about celebs w/o children. One of them was Oprah who said she's never had children and never will and I cried "bullshit!" in my head. She had a son who died shortly after birth. I thought how could she say that??

And then you posted this and I understood why she did.

Anonymous said...

I say, I have two at home. I don't add that I have two more in the baby angel section of the cemetery unless somehow pressed, which happens most often when people ask directly about the large space between our two living children. But I do consider them my children. With parental fierceness. Always and forever.

Roadblocks and Roller Coasters said...

You know, I had never really thought of it in those terms before. I always say I have one child, and outside of my personal thoughts that I keep to myself, I never really acknowledge my twins to other people. I suppose because I feel like if they were anyone's they were mine, even if for a brief moment. But they are not mine anymore.

flutter said...

Birth mothers do the same. I always fall mute when someone asks me if I have a child.

I don't know whether to say yes or no.

Anonymous said...

i didn't know that about the oprah.

i named him. i memorialized him. now i know he never was. just the shell of flesh that would have held him.

i'm tired, Niobe. i'm kicking ass at the thing i'm doing but i'm very tired. stopping by for a read is soothing. thank you.

-Shamela

dj said...

Lots, lots of love to you!

dj said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Melissia said...

I think that Oprah gave birth at age 14 to a stillborn baby that was fathered by an uncle, so a deeper reason to deny may be in play as well. Not only did she lose her child she lost her childhood when she was raped by a family member. I am sure that she wants to deny the entire part of her life and every thing connected with it.
Your comments stuck a cord with me, I feel that my daughter has just vanished. Even when pregnant with her, I knew that she wasn't staying, and in those weeks before she died when her growth was just slower and slower I knew that she was disappearing before my eyes.
But I seemed to be the only one who knew she wasn't staying.

Christa said...

I think your take on how to count and the various ways its dealt with by your commentors, just puts a spotlight on what a minefield mourning is. People with identical experiences will deal with it differently. I have to say sometimes I think "Dead Baby Mamas" can be terribly hard on people (at least on the internet--I have no idea how they deal IRL) who can't figure out what to say or how to deal. Clearly in many situations, you're damned either way.

Alexicographer said...

Interesting post, interesting comments.

It's a different sort of issue, but when I'm asked how many children I have, in addition to the one son I have conceived, carried, and borne (I will say I do not count the embryos that didn't make it, i.e., all the rest of them), I always mention my stepchildren too. Though they are now grown and out of the house, it's important to me that people know that I was involved in raising them and that I still count them as my (adult) children.

Catherine W said...

So interesting. I vacillate. It depends on how I am feeling.

Two. I gave birth to two children. I held two living breathing children, once upon a time.

One. But I'm not entirely sure which one is mine.
One of those two children survives. I 'have' her in the conventional sense of the word. But she will grow up, run faster than I can, she isn't really mine. I wouldn't want her to be. She belongs to the world or perhaps she simply belongs to herself.
Maybe her sister is actually the child that is mine. I vacillate.

None. The children that I gave birth belong to the doctors, to the machines. I wasn't really any sort of a mother. One is lost to me. Perhaps she was always meant to be lost. Perhaps she was lost whilst I was still pregnant with her.
The other is here by a stroke of chance. A child of good fortune. Or just a child of fortune perhaps. I vacillate.

niobe said...

Christa: I think you're absolutely right, that different people have diametrically opposed responses to the same event. But, speaking just for myself, I don't blame anyone for saying the "wrong" thing. I know that they're trying to be sympathetic and that counts for a lot.

And, leaving my idiosyncratic feelings aside, I think that most dead baby mamas would probably appreciate having their lost child acknowledged.

red pen mama said...

Like a lot of people here, I say something true and polite, in my case, "I have two little girls at home." This leaves room for my son, who is not in my home and never was. But I honestly feel he is my son, still.

Eventually, sometimes, Gabriel comes up, is mentioned, is explained. Usually in pregnancy or birth story-sharing. So, there's that.

ciao,
rpm

docgrumbles said...

everyone has their own system. I feel it is best to listen and try to get a feel for how the mother counts before saying anything. But, as others have pointed out, it is nice that people at least attempt to achknowledge the twins. I know my first trimester miscarriages hardly compare to infant death, but I still struggle when medical staff ask me how many pregnancies I have had had... um, are they asking how many children I have or how many times a fertilized egg has implanted? I have learned it can mean both. With regular members of the public, I just say JAG is our first and only, and she certainly feels that way. Again, that is more obvious with early losses, though.

Kami said...

Late to the party, but I appreciate it when people remember our son and don't know what to say when people ask, "Is this your first?"

Still, I think I feel more like you than most seemed to. He is gone and never really got to be our son. Maybe for me it was because he was not healthy so he was, in a way, an early miscarriage that went on too long or an embryo that shouldn't have stuck.

Then again, I can tell you that we lost 37 embryos during IVF (not counting the DE cycle). They either died in a dish or in me.