Sunday, August 2, 2009

A Question, No Answer

"Do you have any children?"

I hate this question and even more so, my inablility to answer it.
Maybe I had been naive to it, or just hadn't noticed the weight that these words could hold. Maybe they had elicited different feelings in the past, bringing images of the happy future that I assumed would be. Maybe it is simply because I could never have imagined a situation where in trying to say the right thing, everything would feel so wrong. Whatever the reason, this question, in all of its cruel irony, seems to surround me now.

I know that my reaction is unnatural, that those who ask me expect smiles, maybe some light bragging, or the passing of a few pictures. I know that when I go to answer, their faces change, and they look around awkwardly for something appropriate to say, or an escape from the conversation. How did I end up here, unable to answer this simple question? This was never supposed to happen.

I hate this unforgiving limbo of having carried a child, birthed a child, loved a child, nursed a child, held a child, and yet, having to feel like an outsider in the realm of motherhood. Is it okay to say that I have a child, if my only child is no longer alive?

I wish there was an easier way to talk about Peyton, to talk about my daughter, to talk about the child that so few actually met and no one else will ever meet. Why don't people ask if I have had any children, that would be easier to explain. "Yes I have had one. No she is not here anymore."

Why can't I answer without stuttering? Why can't I answer without wondering if I am doing Peyton justice, or honoring her appropriately? Why can't I answer in a way that feels right?

Do I have any children? If only it were that cut and dry. If only life had been that easy.


  1. fooey, my comment won't work...will my mush brain allow me to remember my words...
    This is the most painful question, yet to most should be the easiest to answer. I believe it is always okay for you to say you have had one child, and she is now in heaven. I struggled with this question for years, now four years later I just say, I have three children but one of those dances in heaven now.

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  3. Nobody has asked me that, but I guess I try to avoid places where they might ask. I'm sure it's bound to come up many, many times throughout my life, and I wish there were just a happy answer rather than such a complicated one.

    By the way, I keep looking at the pictures of your sweet Peyton, she is just so beautiful. I love the way she is looking up at you in your banner photo, the look on her face is just so sweet. I'm so, so sorry she's not in your arms.

  4. i answer by stating that i have one child, but he doesn't walk this earth.

    your peyton is beautiful. i envy the time that you were able to spend with her. your blog is a wonderful tribute!


  5. It really depends on who I'm around before I decide what my answer will be...sometimes I just ignore it because the answer I would give is so harsh and unfair that some people just don't and won't get it. Other times, I answer that I have no living children. Sadly, people, especially the new, naive, parents that have never experienced any level of losing a child don't want to hear the brutal answer that would be slapped in their face.

    Yes, I'm a mother of 5 angel babies that went to heaven before I got to hold them. There are many days that even for me, that reality is too harsh to put into words without completely breaking down into a sobbing, hysterical mess.

    Your Peyton is absolutely precious and yes, you will ALWAYS have her, even though right now she is not here with you. I'm so terribly sorry you lost her and that her short life was spent fighting a horrible disease.

  6. I experience a similar feeling when someone asks me about my family, if I have siblings...

    I think a lot of that has to do with the to-do list that society has made out for us. If we have no siblings, we're "only children" which, by itself, bears a connotation that we've had a lonely life. If we have too many siblings, our parents are judged as "folks who'd kept busy". If we're unmarried by the age of 29, there must be something wrong with us. And if we don't have children by the age of thirty-five, well, our worlds have officially ended.

    The truth of the matter is that I don't really have much of a family. I am related to people I share no emotional bond with whatsoever (with the exception of my father who hasn't been the easiest guy to get along with over the course of twenty-eight years).

    Because of my reality, my holidays are supposed to suck arse, right?

    But they don't. I've stopped following the to-do lists of others. In the grand scheme of things, they have been intricately designed to make me feel like a failure if I don't accomplish a certain goal by a certain time. And it's just too much stress to fit into an ideal. So I do the best I can, period.

    Don't expect anything out of yourself just because someone else says so. Be happy with who you are. You are a beautiful person both inside and out. You have an amazing talent at writing and a way of turning tragedy into beauty. You connect folks with ease. And you know what else? You don't owe anyone anything!

    Like an explanation. The next time someone asks if you have children, embrace your personal power and tell the truth:

    You do. One daughter who happens to be on the other side and who is so proud of her mother.

    I have a brother... who happens to be on the other side and who is so proud of his sister.

  7. I forgot to mention that by telling the truth, we kinda slowly begin to kick expectations out the door by making folks think twice about asking such a question.

    I dunno. Maybe I'm just among the few people who doesn't ask others if they're college-educated, married, parents, dog and property owners, bedtime farters, etc.,.

  8. I dread being asked this because I know my answer will make people uncomfortable. I cherish the people who embrace that I have a daughter who is no longer with me.