How many children do you have?
A simple question. Or is it?
It’s a question I dread because most of the time I lie. I say that I have two children.
I don’t. I have three.
So why do I lie?
The vast majority of people who ask the question have only just met me. They have seen me with one of my children and politely enquire whether there is another. It could be a work contact who knows I have been on maternity leave. They may have known me a while, but maybe not personally. Most people who ask probably didn’t know me before January 2011. Because that is when my firstborn was stillborn.
I lie because lying is easier than telling the truth. If I tell people I have two children, two boys, it is a safe answer. They nod, smile, maybe ask their names, enquire if they are good or not. It may spark a conversation in which we might swap stories, compare notes. It is easy.
But every time I lie, I feel a pang of guilt. I feel as though I am cheating. That I am denying Ewan’s existence. Deep down I know that I am not. I do talk about him to friends and family. I write about him in this blog. But somehow I can’t help thinking I am taking the easy way out.
What would happen if I told the truth? I have a fair idea. I would tell them I have three children, three boys. ‘Oh really’, they would say and possibly follow it with a ‘that must be a handful’. They would most likely enquire of their ages. And that is when it would get awkward. Well one is 3 ½, one is 7 months. And one was stillborn.
Under most circumstances that would be a real conversation stopper. Come on, be honest. What would you say?
So rather than deal with the likely discomfort and embarrassment, I lie.
Occasionally I tell the truth. Not often, but occasionally. And I think I do this because I believe the person I am talking to will understand. I believe that they won’t fidget or look at the floor. That they will respond in a way that won’t make me feel the need to apologise or hurriedly gloss over it. I don’t mean to criticise those I don’t initially tell. It’s just the best way I have of explaining it.
Reading other forums and social networks on the topic of stillbirth and baby loss, I know there are other parents out there who don’t take the easy route. They tell it how it is. And to those, I raise my hat.
I know my reasons for doing it. I’m kind of ok with it. I think. I guess. But I still feel pain. And I still feel guilt.
So to Ewan, this is my apology. I am sorry. I don’t mean to act as though you never existed. I hope you understand.