Being a parent of a large family has its comical moments. One of them is seeing the look of shock on people's faces when they ask how many children we have. Usually their next comment is "God Bless you"...which can have many different meanings. "God Bless You" can mean, "Wow, you are crazy people!" "God Bless You" can mean, "Thank God it's you and not me!" "God Bless You" can mean "You need some serious help!" And, sometimes, "God Bless You" is said just the way that it's meant.
Regardless of the tone of voice of the people saying it, I always reply, "Yes, He has." (And that's exactly the way I mean it!
"How many kids do you have?" is actually a loaded question for me. I have had 9 children. I have only had the privilege of raising 8 of them.
To say that I have 8 children always makes my heart twist a little. I feel like I am somehow belittling our daughter, Therese's, short life. I feel like I am somehow denying her very real place in our family. She will always be our fourth child. She will always be our first daughter.
To tell people I have 9 children often opens Pandora's box because I often end up having to explain that we had a child that died. Sometimes people get really uncomfortable. Sometimes I feel like I'm opening a window to my heart that I don't really want to share with just anyone.
When Therese first died I always included her when people asked how many children we had. It was my attempt to hold onto her presence and make her short time as a visible part of our family more real. It was so painful for me to share that...it was like being stabbed with a small knife in the heart every time. That was when our grief was still very much on the surface. Emotionally, I was like a cracked vase that had been taped back together. I'm sure that every time I explained what had happened my face portrayed my intense pain even though I had managed to mostly numb my emotions on the inside.(I remember meeting the mom of a childhood friend in the grocery store when Sarah was a few months old. When she made a comment about Sarah, I told her about Therese. She hadn't realized we had lost a baby the year.before, and she was visibly trying not to cry. I remember feeling surprised at her emotion, and then surprised at how frozen my own emotions were. I can still remember the compassion and sadness on her face...how Sarah looked in the grocery cart..where we were standing in the produce aisle...)
Eventually, it was just too painful and difficult to explain. So I stopped. It was like losing her all over again on a slightly less intense level. It was one of the ways that our ties to her earthly existence were cut....the same way we felt when we put away her baby clothes...and the day we took apart the crib 3 months after she died. It was always a letting go...just a little at a time because that's all we could handle.
When people ask me how many children I have, I may outwardly answer 8.....but, in my heart, I always answer 9.