Sunday / February 12 / 2012
Innocent enough, this is a loaded question
My son used to jokingly respond, “Not that I know of.” when people inquired, “Do you have any kids?” Perhaps you have to know him to understand the humor. Funny.
I find myself struck with this question, or more specifically, “So, how many kids do you have?”
Innocent enough, it’s an excepted conversation starter in our culture, often used as an entree to share about one’s own children. In today’s mixed family atmosphere, the question becomes more amorphous than it once was.
Our friends from Virginia Beach would answer, “16.” You heard me… SIXTEEN! They each had eight children from previous relationships. I remember them filing into church on Sunday morning, all 16 children in tow, once asking Skip, “Why do people look at us so strangely when we come to church?” Skip gently explaining… “Um, you have 16 kids!“, going on to note it’s simply out of the ordinary. People like to stare at ‘out of the ordinary.’
What about the woman who has had a miscarriage? How does she answer the question?
My high school friend could answer, “Two daughters”, but only if she was in the mood to explain her second daughter Catherine Elizabeth is in heaven with Jesus because she was born and died with Trisomy 18, a condition caused by a chromosomal defect, occurring in about 1 out of every 3000 live births. Different than Trisomy 13 (or Down Syndrome), 50% of babies who are carried to term with Trisomy 18 will be stillborn, and less than 10 percent survive to their first birthdays. Although Catherine became part of that statistic, the impact she had on so many lives, is incalculable.
When my forever friend first told me of the daughter she was carrying, she knew the baby would not survive long. She and her husband spent time they never imagined, grappling with, “What now?”, knowing they would carry the baby to term regardless of how much time they would have with her.
I have never seen human beings act so selflessly.
“What is her name?”, I asked.
“Catherine Elizabeth,” she responded.
Wanting to engage with the depths of this young life, I pushed further, “Is it Catherine with a “C” or a “K”?” — not only because of my curiosity, but because I wanted to communicate I cared to that level.
Catherine Elizabeth with a “C” was born on the 21st birthday of one of Skip’s-n-my daughters. I remember getting the text from my friend late that night, telling me Catherine came into this world and quickly left it. Tears surged from my soul and I called my Mom to share the despondency and unanswered questions. That was nearly two years ago.
What about me? How do I answer the question? How many children do I have?
Skip and I became iPhone converts this weekend. Not converting TO the iPhone cult, but rather away from it (egads!) We are now proud new owners of the Droid Razr, which is fitting because we started our cell phone careers with Razr flip-phones many moons ago.
As we waited (hours!) for our data to transfer from iPhone to Droid (mostly mine), we chatted with Best Buy employees and new friends George, Cody, Ryan, Jameson, and FNG. These young men made an impact on me as I listened to them talk about life, love, work, and the military. In their mid-20s, more than half our new friends shared they are divorced, some amicably, some still in fitsicuffs. My heart suffered with theirs.
We talked about children with these young men, who could easily have been our own. Some of them had wee ones and it was fun to watch the sparkle dance about their eyes when they spoke of them.
When we referenced our own children, we mentioned all three, “They are 27, 25, and almost 23.”
Though we spent most of our time talking about Grant and Brittany. Sharing knowing glances with one another of the pain of loss, we once again came to grips with the ache of being estranged from our third child. Truth and reality do not make for easy-to-embrace.
Whether or not you face hardships with the number of children you have, please take the time to be mindful that some of us do.