During the last week and half of Sonzee's life, Sam asked me what I would say when someone would ask how many kids we had. Despite being a planner in general, for a lot of Sonzee related items, a common response from me was, "I don't know, I will see what happens when it happens". I don't recall what his answer was, but I am fairly certain I turned the question around as a standard conversational gesture. I won't lie and say I never thought about what my response might be, but I did feel as it has always been with Sonzee, that it would be dependent on the circumstances, on what I was feeling, on who brought up the question, and a various amount of other unknown variables.
Fast forward to this week when I ran into a mom of a child our oldest used to dance with, her second daughter is now ice skating with our middle daughter. It was nice to be talking about the older girls and catching up on what they are now up to, but then it happened, catching me off guard. The innocent statement was said, "You have four kids right?" This direct statement was not one I prepared for, I didn't anticipate the question would be asked in that manner. She wasn't wrong though, I did have four children when my oldest was at dance. The four children she was referring to included Sonzee, who at the time was a baby. My brain quickly wondered, how do I answer this? What do I say? I don't know what to think, I don't know what to say. I can't let her think Noam doesn't exist, but Sonzee is no longer part of the active count.
After what felt like an eternity to me, I began to speak, but my brain wasn't connecting to my mouth. It began with, "well, umm...so yes I did have four, then I had five, but now I have four." I don't know if I paused at all, or what her brain was doing while I spoke, but I followed up with more rambling. "Well, so, my daughter died 2 weeks ago and she was the 4th child you are thinking of, she was a baby at the time, the one with special needs, but then I also had another baby who is now two, and so I had five, and now technically I have four, yes, but really five." She, of course, felt horrible for bringing it up, and then, of course, my verbal vomit continued by saying, "oh it's ok, it's just you are the first person to ask me the question since she passed and I haven't figured out how to answer the question" Which again, I could tell made her feel awful. SIGH.
Why didn't I just say I have five kids? Besides that being an easier answer, it is the truth. I have five children, but yet, I don't. I am not actively caring for five, it is almost like that cheats the system to say I am parenting five kids. I am no longer a mother of five who "gets what having five kids is like, and one who is special needs". I no longer have five car seats in my car. We no longer book travel as a family of seven. We are only six in the count of RSVPs. We now have two empty seats in the car. We now have a completely empty trunk where a wheelchair used to reside. We actively have four children. Yet saying we have four children feels like I am erasing Sonzee, it feels like it is lying, it feels like I am choosing to not acknowledge her. But saying we have five children feels like I am not honoring the reality, it feels like I am misleading others, it feels unfair to Sonzee. I still don't know what the answer should be. I am well aware that there are going to be a lot of other firsts along with this new chapter, but I am just not so sure I am going to be ready for them.