Thursday, 31 October 2013

How many children do you have? Is this your first baby?

Such ordinary questions. But after baby loss, such a heart breaking questions as well.

Now that we have our precious rainbow baby, whenever I'm out with my daughter and we meet someone new, or even someone in our day to day interactions at the store or at any old mundane place, I can almost predict the way the conversation will go...

At first they coo over our new baby. Almost everyone in this country loves babies, so I have almost  always come to expect that most people I interact with will engage in conversation about our baby. Babies seem to be the perfect excuse to start a conversation with me - a foreigner in this land and most people want to have a peek inside the stroller, almost like it's a compulsion to some people to know what this foreign baby looks like. 

The first thing people say when they lay eyes on our baby is "Big eyes!". Then if my husband is with me, they often remark on whether baby looks like myself or my husband. A few moments of silence follow while they are smile and making googly eyes at my baby and then they ask, "Is this your first child?"

I am somewhat less uncomfortable with the question now than the first time I was asked it. I was just starting to show in my pregnancy and someone posed the question, "Is this your first baby? How many children do you have?" 

Most people would consider this a fairly harmless question. But for someone who has experienced baby loss, it is a fully loaded question. Every single time I'm asked this question, I consider the answer I will give very carefully. It is very important to me to acknowledge all my children. 

But at the same time, if it's someone I will never meet again, such as a store assistant, I don't really want to explain my whole life story to them either. If that is the case, especially sometimes with the language difference, I just say "She's our first born child". By which I mean that she is our first baby to have completed a pregnancy (and then some being slightly overdue).

It also makes me think that the next time I'm pregnant...despite having had a rough pregnancy, I must be crazy to consider going through it again, but there it is...the screen will say G3P1. In every pregnancy ultrasound picture, you will notice that there is a "GxPx" statement somewhere at the top, near the patient's name and the hospital's name. 

G stands for Gravidity, which originates from the latin word Gravida, meaning pregnancy. In this case G stands for the number of known pregnancies a woman has had. While P stands for Para or Parity, which in a nutshell means the number of times a woman has given birth to a baby aged 24 weeks and over, regardless of if her baby was born alive or not. 

In my second pregnancy with my daughter, it was amazing how many of the scanning doctors were not paying attention because they would say, "This is your second child?" And I would say, "If all goes well, she will be our first born". Then it would sink in and they would say, "I'm sorry I can't see that you had a miscarriage", but just by looking at the G and P numbers, they should have known.  

G3P1. Just four characters, but what a story those four characters tell.

Coming back to the question of how many children we have, it made me feel so much less alone to know that my husband struggled with this question too. We were out having lunch while my mother spent some time with her grandchild and I mentioned how difficult this question was for me. He surprised me by saying that he struggles with it when someone asks him that question too. I love this man for so many reasons, but most of all I am so grateful that our Pip, wherever she is, knows that she is included in our family. She matters to us and she counts. 

So now when someone asks me how many children I have, I usually say, "Two. I have one in heaven and one on earth". 

Sometimes my response takes a while to click. Often people will ask for clarification, but mostly people will say, "Oh I'm sorry" and move on. I don't mean to make anyone uncomfortable. After all, this is my loss, this is my grief and these are my children. 

For the person I'm in conversation with, they will probably forget me the moment I am out of sight and I have stepped out of their store or restaurant. But for me, every time I count Pip as my child, even to a stranger, I honour her. I honour her life, however brief it was. I honour her spirit, which I hope is free and in a happy place. Last but not least, I want my daughter who is here on earth to know that each and every member of our family is precious and loved.

How many children do you have?