Sunday, 7 September 2008

So Thomas is your only child?

I haven't met many people in our new area yet but everyone I have met has asked that question. 'So Thomas is your only child?' Of course, it's a harmless question. I don't blame the people who ask. But then I've got to explain it - again and again and again. Of course, I could just say, 'Yes, he's my only child.' I've often done that over the last three years. But I've decided that I'm not going to do it any more. My husband and I have had very difficult conversations about this. He thinks I shouldn't tell people - or not immediately. He says that people find if very off putting to be told that kind of information when they've only just met someone. I, frankly, don't care. These are the circumstances of my life. That's what it is. People either get it or they don't. The truth is that if you've had a baby that has died then there are plenty of people out there who want to silence you. For me, it's distressing to realise that one of those people is my husband. But, of course, you can decide not to be silenced. And that's what I've decided now. I refuse to participate any further in the Great Lie that says that life is always lovely, and everyone is always happy, and every story has a happy ending. This might imply that I feel desperately miserable and bitter right now. I don't actually. I just want to see things as they are and I want to be surrounded by people who are trying to do the same.


Honey said...

completly. agree. with. you.
because if we all did share more and be more open I think death would be easier to at least discuss, it would not be such a stupid taboo. I think you are right and brave. I do the same in my own way, and I've always admired this about you. I think it is a strength and a gift to the world we live in to be so open and not to hide the most imortant people in our lives because they are no longer "with us". You have two children and the world can bloody well learn to deal with it.

Tash said...

You know what, just today I decided I would do this. Frankly, I think it's harder on *everyone* if you wait a while and then drop it like a bomb. So I decided, with the new school year, and new parents in the class, that if someone asked, I would lay it out. Today it was, "Is she your only child?" to which I responded, "Only living." I left it at that. I got a soft "Oh" in return. But she kept talking to me. And came back and talked to me more later. And I'm hoping she's one of the cool ones that eventually will know the story.

It wasn't the same as a lengthy explanation, and I might try something else on for size the next time someone asks. But I'm tired of being in the closet, too

It's nice to hear your voice.

janis said...

I teeter on that. Sometimes, I just do not wish to limit my discussion of my son to just "he died." I want to talk more... but if it seems it will not be the case, I just shut up.

But I totally agree with your stance. It is not our duty to keep people comfy and cozy.

niobe said...

I think that what Tash (and others I know) say in response: "Yes, our only living child" can work very well. It gets the point across and allows the person to ask questions -- either at that point or some time later, once you get to know each other better.

That said, I honestly am not sure that I really see my twins as my children. Or rather, I think of one of them as my child and the other as, well, not really my child. And it seems unfair to acknowledge one and deny the other, so I usually just leave both unmentioned.

Karin said...

This question always gets me. I talk about it alot on my blog actually, it comes up so often.

I try not to assume, but often the question is tainted somehow, with a ring of disapproval. 'Oh he's your only?? Hmm.' Magnus is a spirited, kingly little guy (that is why we named him Magnus, you could just tell...) and I've been told by strangers that he must be a "spoiled only child". That has hurt me to the core.

Occasionally someone has commented, "One is not enough of a family." They don't know how well we understand this.

Just the other day someone I met at his school said within the context of a conversation about parenting, "you better hurry up and have another." Hmmm. Yeah. Ran out of embryo's unfortunately and my eggs are crap now. She wasn't being malicious, she just doesn't know me. It wasn't the time to explain. I know there will be another opportunity.

It's probably me who attaches too much meaning, or maybe I feel that there are grains of truth spoken, but it's a sore spot that is consistently prodded. I own my reactions I know, I try to be graceful. I also try to give myself a break.

Mostly, I try to deflect the label, for Magnus's sake. He is not 'an only child', 'spoiled' or compromised. He is simply himself. Mostly, I answer honestly, "He's our youngest actually. He has a brother and 2 sisters who died." I don't mention the 4 miscarriages because even for me, that is just too much personal information.

Dizzy said...

Drop the news like a pin, rather than a bombshell. Then people hear the sound, rather than feel the fallout.
What I say varies according to who I'm talking to, the circumstances, how I feel, etc. Gareth can be my only son, my second son, or my only surviving son.
If I am feeling bitchy, if someone says how many kids they have, I ask them how many pregnancies they had to get that many children. If they answer with the same number, I sometimes reply, ah, it took me about 10 to get my 2. That's a friendship stopper, mind!