Monday, July 25, 2011

Counting

We were all sitting around in my brother's house in Dallas. His oldest daughter's birthday party had brought both sets of grandparents together. I hadn't seen my sister in laws parents in years. All my kids were playing with their Dallas cousins. My father and I sat with my sister in law's father, Bob, at the table. Harrison was on my lap.

Bob looked around the room and began to count, "One, two, three, four, five. So you have five children?"

I paused...

Just after Camille died the matter of how to answer this everyday question weighed heavily on my heart. It tore me up inside thinking about it. Initially I determined that I would ALWAYS include Camille. She counts. I bore her, nursed her, changed all those diapers. She is my child. She counts.

I reasoned, "My grandmother had two daughters pass away before she did. My two aunts were both grandmothers before they died. I would never think to say my grandmother only had 4 children. She had 6 and 2 had since passed away. My child shouldn't count any less just because her life was shorter. I would count her."

And that is what I did. Occasionally, however people would see me with my kids and assume how many children I had, like Bob was now. Sometimes I corrected them. Sometimes not. I found it is not fun to deliver the heart wrenching news of your child's death to a stranger in passing conversation.

So as time passed I stopped correcting every person. Still every time the subject arrises about how many kids I have, there is a pause in which all of this goes through my mind and I decide how to answer.

And so in my brother's kitchen I begin to nod my head in a sort of affirmation and resignation. Then, in the spilt second pause it takes me to process this all and decide how to answer, my dad interrupts. "No. She has 6 children. She had a little girl who passed away."

Even now ... writing this ... a lump forms in my throat. She counts. He counts her. My dad is not letting her be forgotten. He counts her ... even when he has to correct someone.

That night in my bed, tears rolled down my cheeks. They were tears of love and gratitude to my dad. I don't know if he can ever fully know how much it meant and means to me that he doesn't let her go uncounted. It is one thing for me to remember her and count her. But to have others, outside our little family, continue to count her mean so very much to me.

On our plane ride home our steward took an interest in our family all lined up in our row of the airplane. He looked across the row and said, "So you have five kids huh?" With confidence I said, "No, actually. I have six."

22 comments:

Brittany said...

She is still your child, so I say she counts. I love that your dad said that...so sweet. Brought tears to my eyes. Your family is beautiful.

Anonymous said...

My mom lost a full-term baby girl before I was born - she only lived a few hours - and then my older brother passed away at 25. They would be 42 and 41 this year and recently, for the first time, I have heard her say, when people ask, that she has 5 children - I think it must have bothered her every time anyone asked and now she just says it. And people ask me how many siblings I have and I do exactly what you did, struggle with how to answer. There's no easy way to handle it - either way the question forces you to confront your loss and it hurts. Bless your dad.

Jill said...

How sweet of your dad. I come from a family of 11 kids, and three of my siblings have passed away. Whenever siblings come up in conversation, I always say there are 11 of us. It's never been a struggle for me, and I hope that it won't be something you have to pause at every time someone asks. Hugs to you!

Diane said...

I just love every thought you have and how well you handle each situation that you share with us. Your dad is right and I am certain that Camille is not forgotten. Knowing your family through her story has strengthened me immeasurably. You are strong and gentle and in tune. Much love to you. I always, always smile whenever I see that you have posted. Thank you, Stephanie.

Princesses in waiting said...

When I find myself having to answer this question I to pause and think does it matter if this person knows that my son will always be carried in my heart. I know that to me he will always matter and therefore the joy it brings me when I answer 3 is without words. I love the way that you write about your family of 8.

MaryClaire said...

i love this stephanie.

Leslie said...

Stephanie, your feelings on this make total sense -- all of it from wanting to count her to not always wanting to have opened up that conversation (aka "wound") to confidently counting her now. I had a granddaughter pass away just prior to her being born 7 years ago and I do the same thing. I count her. I have often hesitated, too, but I always always remember her and count her even before I answer the question as I'm sure you always have, too. It's nice to be able to be who you want to be, who you already are in your heart. P.S. That was very sweet of your dad.

Mindy said...

Love this. Especially the last line. :) You DO have six. And you always will. :) Wellllll, unless you have seven. ;)

Joyce Kay said...

You do want to answer people when they ask How many children do you have? Proudly say 6.....
I love your blog.

Anonymous said...

I had ten pregnancies and two live children. I usually say just that. Camille counts so you should count her.

The Robinson's said...

Camille definitely counts! Your right you bore her, nursed her, changed her, etc. She was here!

Yes you have 6 kids and one of them is an angel watching over all of you!

Your dad is so AWESOME!! He stood up for you in a time of need. Just by this post you can tell your dad still thinks and loves that little granddaughter of his.

Such a sweet post!

Marin D said...

She counts. :)

My mom is one of ten kids. Four of which died before my grandmother did. When we talk, grandma has ten kids, my mom has nine brothers and sisters. Whether they were babies or 23 when they died, they existed in this mortal life.

Even if they only live a few minutes or never get a breath of air, they count.

Lovely post by the way... Thanks for sharing your life... From across the city - Marin

Anonymous said...

Again, your courage inspires, Stephanie.

Emily @ RemarkableHome said...

You should always include Camille. If it is someone who will be a friend, you can say that Camille passed away. If it is a stranger you can just say, "I have another daughter who isn't here right now." I do that all the time when we are out with our 4 boys and Matty is not with us. People say, "Oh, you have 4 boys?" And I say, "Actually we have five but our oldest isn't here". They rarely ask where he is. I know it is different, but it is kinda the same. I don't want to have to explain that he is with his "other family", etc. But that rarely happens. And if you are telling someone who you will probably be getting to know better, like a new ward member or something, then they should know about Camille and her passing because that is a big part of what makes you who you are now.

Samantha said...

I started this so many different ways, trying to offer support, give advice, etc. What it really comes down to is that she matters. Even to those who didn't know her.

cat said...

Your dad rocks. That was such a cool experience. He probably had no idea how much that meant to you for him to say it.

Anonymous said...

love,

Jane

The Reed's said...

As I read this I had tears falling. My frist born a son was stillborn at 40 weeks. I always count him as I carried him for 9 months and I gave birth to him. I LOVE that your dad counts Camille. I really wish my dad would count my son. He always tells people I have 3 grandchildren I just want to scream at the top of my lungs you have FOUR!!! It breaks my heart every time. I am so happy that your family understands and is loving.

Anonymous said...

What an amazing Dad you have, Stephanie! I can only wish my parents counted our two angel sons, but they don't. No matter how much I talk about them, or how many pictures I show.

Anonymous said...

i had a little boy pass away. he was number three of 5. when people ask if i have just the four boys i say nope i have one boy at home, or often i will find myself saying nope 5 but number three is home with his father. makes for a quick and easy way for me to let people know i have all of my boys without having to tell them what happened to numbr three. never, never will i let him go uncounted. <3

Larsen said...

Give your dad a big hug for me. And tell him "thanks" for remembering your sweet angel baby, and giving permission to all of the other angel moms, that yes in deed, each one counts:)

The Holland Family said...

Good for you! I do the same and you echoed my feelings exactly. I HATE to have my little one forgotten. However when she is remembered by someone other than me, it is a blessed day. And believe it or not, even after 8 years there are still several that do remember her. I love them for it. And I LOVE her and MISS her more than ever still. Thanks for your sweet post today. I look to you for strength often. Someday maybe we will meet in person even though I feel like our hearts have met. Thanks - Nicole Holland - Kanab, UT