“Do you have any kids?”, “How many kids do you have?”, “How old are your kids?”

All people who have lost children struggle with the normal conversation-making questions about families and family structures. Our stories just don’t fit into that conversation.

Overhearing others going through this discussion in a smooth, unencumbered manner has been heart-wrenching for me. I know that I’ll never have that easiness, that normality.

It turns out that coming up with a response to those questions, one that feels peaceful and authentic, is a big part of the challenge of being your child’s survivor.

After several months of trial and error, I stumbled on the response that feels best to me. I just nod sadly and say,

“He died.”

That’s as honest as I can get, in a way that simply honors both Sacha and me. I don’t feel like I need to try to explain something so inexplicable, or make something so awful seem less awful than it really is. I don’t need to tell a story about angels or raindrops in the ocean: if they have a concept that fits in with their religion, they can call that up on their own. I don’t feel like I should worry excessively about making others feel awkward – I feel awkward all the time, and I’ve survived! It should be easy enough for them to say “oh, I’m sorry to hear that,” and if it isn’t, they should work on that. I don’t even feel like I need to sort through which people should hear this, and which people shouldn’t – I didn’t invent the truth, after all, I’m just living through it (sometimes a longer conversation follows, sometimes not, and that’s fine with me – I try to let that be more organic and situational, rather than driven by my own mental gymnastics).

I’m not in an emotional place to think about going through another pregnancy and childbirth. I don’t know if that’s something I’ll ever consider. But, I have often thought about a question I received constantly during pregnancy: “Is this your first?” I was asked that everywhere from the grocery store to the NICU. If I ever were to have another child (I can’t imagine making another from scratch, but maybe that will change, or maybe I’d go a different route), I picture myself simply responding “My oldest died.”