Child Death
Stillbirth > How many children do you have?

By Clara Hinton

Moments before a speech I was presenting, the lady who was getting ready to introduce me pulled me aside and asked the very poignant question, "How many children do you have?" Since I had mailed her my biographical information weeks before, I thought maybe she misplaced that part of her introduction. I would soon find out that was not the case.

"How would you like me to introduce you? Would you like your son included as one of your children?" The question was a valid one, and an issue that is quite sensitive, as well as something that needs to be addressed.

This lady was making reference to my stillborn son. She is the first person ever to ask if I wanted him to be included among my children. Nobody else had ever asked me that question before, and I appreciated so much her being caring and brave enough to ask! Even though this event happened many years ago, whenever I see this woman, my heart feels warm. She remembered my baby boy as being one of my children, and I needed to hear that!

How does a mother answer the question, "How many children do you have?" Only recently are some states legally beginning to recognize a miscarriage and other forms of early child loss as the "death of a child". I certainly was not issued a death certificate for any of my miscarriages. In fact, because of the estimated time of death of my stillborn son, the state of Pennsylvania did not require a death certificate for him. We missed the legal date by one week. The question of how many children one has remains a difficult question to answer simply because a lot of people do not recognize miscarriage, and some forms of early child loss, as children who should be counted. This is so sad!

Thankfully, society is becoming more aware of the need to call a miscarriage child loss. With the aid of modern technology, babies can now be "seen" on sonograms. Because of this, what used to be labeled as fetal tissue is now being called by the rightful name-a baby. That still leaves the sensitive question unanswered. How does one answer the question, "How many children do you have?"

The way this question is answered is very personal, and should be left entirely up to the parents. It is becoming common practice now to name babies who have died as a result of miscarriage. As public awareness grows, I believe we will see more and more mothers answering the question of how many children they have by including the children lost through miscarriage, stillbirth, and other forms of early child loss.

It is my strong belief that the grief and pain associated with child loss will be greatly diminished when a mother can say, "I have three children. Two are living, and one died as a result of a miscarriage." That statement validates the miscarriage as being a real child, and also validates both the need to celebrate the joy, as well as to grieve the loss, of having a baby!

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