“How many children do you have?” Such a basic and straight-forward question. Do I deflect and reply with a lie? Or answer honestly and wait for the awkward silence to pass while the stranger stumbles to attempt an awkward apology? Before having Emilia, I would have never had to take a second thought on how to answer or approach that question. But to be honest, it is a question I have come to dread and one that is asked more often than I realized.
To clear up any potential disillusions, it’s not that I dread this question as it makes me remember Emilia and all the sadness surrounding her death. I want to remember her and I am always thinking about her whether she is or isn’t brought up in casual conversation. It’s not that I consider Emilia any less of a daughter than Adelaide, as that is far from the truth. My struggle to find the right answer stems from fearing how the other person will respond. The last thing I want from anyone is empathy or an apology as I am not sorry that Emilia was placed in my life. I just wish to recognize Emilia as my child and as a member of my family, as she always will be.
This probably sounds absolutely ridiculous, but I will actually practice and prepare an answer when I know I might possibly be put into a situation where this question will surface. I know exactly how I want to respond and I have rehearsed my response a thousand times… “I have two beautiful redheaded daughters. Adelaide is almost four and Emilia would be three months old.” But every time I am asked, it is interesting to see how I respond.
I have found that even just the slightest alteration to this question can leave me in a panic searching for words… “Is she (Adelaide) your only child?” At times I have lied to spare the awkwardness – after all – they are only strangers and it’s not like they would know any different. This response almost always makes me feel horrible and I instantly regret my answer. I don’t think it is fair to Emilia to not include her and my reasoning behind my lie is only to spare me from a few awkward moments. But occasionally I do answer truthfully (I have two daughters) and it’s the questions afterward that leave me, again, searching for my words. People begin to delve into deeper questions regarding Emilia, as to who and what she looks like or where she is at that moment, as she isn’t presently in my arms.
I am finally realizing that the best response to this well-intentioned question is the honest truth.“I have two beautiful redheaded daughters. Adelaide is almost four and Emilia would be three months old, but she died at birth.” I think I am finally to a point where I am ready to embrace the uncomfortable silences and all the awkward responses. Emilia is worth it. I am constantly saying that I refuse to let Emilia be forgotten and to deny her existence when answering that one simple question is to do just that.