Saturday, January 27, 2007

A name

Yesterday it occurred to me that it would be so much easier to dodge those well-intentioned so, do you have any kids? bullets if parents like My Beloved and I had a title - a one-word name given to people in our particular circumstances. The childless parents.

When you're a child and your parents die you are an orphan. Why isn't there a title for grown-ups when the unthinkable reverse happens?

My typical reaction is to drop my head, nervously shift my eyes back and forth in their sockets and listen to my heart pounding in my ears while I determine how to tell whoever has just innocently asked for a piece of information they probably don't want to hear, that my son died.

It's gotten to the point where it's not as emotionally painful as it is just plain deflating. I'm a normal person when I meet a stranger, but the instant they ask that dreaded question I become a pitiable wretch. And I know they think of me as "the woman whose baby died" anyway, so wouldn't it be so much better if there was an actual name that could be used instead?

Do I have children? No, I'm a ____________. End of story.

Well, end of story unless you have a hairdresser named Eduardo who prods you into telling him the whole story and then wants to know about the current status of your fertility.

I know people would still look at me as a pitiable wretch even if I had a title, but at least delivering the information that would lead them to that conclusion wouldn't be so awkward.

So I propose we name ourselves, we childless parents.

And while we're at it, we should think of a name for those who have living children in addition to ones that have died. That would allow those folks to include their missing little ones when they answer "yes".

So, any thoughts?

I'm only half kidding, by the way...


Aurelia said...

I'm bad at thinking up names, so I'll get back to you. This is something I've thought about for awhile.
Funny thing is, I DO have a hairdresser who bugged me to tell him the entire story, and every time I see him insists on knowing the current state of my fertility.
I talk with him more about my girl parts than I do with my husband. Geez...

Ruby said...

Great idea! That would both simplify and dignify those otherwise awkward situations.

I can't wait to see what names you come up with.

BasilBean said...

I'm not very good at coming up with names for anything, but my husband is, so I will ask him to think on it.

I don't know if you ever watched the show "Six Feet Under" but I think it was on that show that two characters were talking about how you call a child who has lost their parents an orphan, but there is no name for a parent who has lost a child because it is too fucking horrible to name.

kate said...

Yes, i have thought about this too, and it would certainly help...

Bronwyn said...

That being said, I don't know if I think any differently of someone who says, "I'm a widow" rather than, "My husband died" (in answer to the question "Are you married?").

I get less and less bothered by "Do you have children?") question now. Sometimes I say that I had a daughter who died at birth (the word "stillborn" just gets me blank stares, so this is the phrasing I've come up with), sometimes I just say "no". If they don't know me well and they are inclined to think I'm a selfish, career girl (ha!), so be it.

Maya's Mom said...

I fit into your last category--someone who lost several babies through early miscarriage (autoimmune issues), then was finally blessed with a living child 6 years ago. To this day, when people ask me, "How many children do you have?" it throws me off guard. Sometimes I stammer, "Just the one" and then I mentally kick myself for denying my lost children--occasionally I give the number plus the explanation, "I miscarried the others" and then you get THE LOOK, which I just hate...I agree, it seems like there should be a word that describes our condition without all the explaining and angst.