I need to stop talking about the furnance

I made small talk as she ran the credit card.

“Weather’s turned cold, huh!” she said.

“Yeah, and our furnace is broken, so we’ve been without heat for the past few days.” I replied, trying to be friendly.

“Oh no! That’s awful.”

“Yeah, We’re surviving. We have space heaters. It’s the no hot water that’s tough.”

“Oh, no. Do you have kids?”


“None living,” I said quietly, the upbeat tone of companionship gone from my voice, and quickly changed the subject.


“Brr, it’s cold in here!” the phlebotomist apologized.

“It’s ok, it feels good! We’ve been without heat for five days!” again making small talk as she busied herself with getting the vials ready.

“Oh no! Do you have kids?”

“None living,” I replied, with that now familiar quietness in my voice, knowing that the conversation was about to die.


So much for small talk.


I can’t seem to simply just say no. These are the kind of people I should say no to- the ones I wont see again, who don’t need to know about the beautiful baby I brought into the world and said good bye to a few hours later. I should save her story for people who will respond well. But I just can’t. I know we all struggle when asked this question, and I’ve loved reading how people respond. I’ve really respected those who respond “no” or don’t count their one less baby when talking with strangers and sharing their story with closer people. It seems like the right thing to do, though apparently I just can’t- or at least not yet. Perhaps if I had kids, it would be easier to answer. “Do you have kids?” yes, and maybe the follow up of how many would not come. But being a childless mother- there is no simple answer to “do you have kids?” and my conversations over the past couple days have shown me just how pervasive the question is, even in conversations that have nothing to do with family!




8 thoughts on “I need to stop talking about the furnance

  1. I’m sorry all conversations seem to be leading to this hard topic.
    I tell everyone who asks whether SB is my first about the twins. It is so cruel that they aren’t here, I want to at least have them acknowledged. And I learned that people are much more comfortable with this story now that there’s a living baby in my arms. Perhaps eventually I’ll keep the twins for those close enough to me.

  2. It’s so frustrating that even the most basic conversations become so complicated. When people ask if I have kids, I can’t say “no” either. I usually take a breath, nod slightly then say “he died”… But, honestly, I don’t let my voice get quiet and I don’t feel bad about it! If I have to face the awkwardness of that question so frequently, shouldn’t some people (even strangers) have to face a difficult answer once in awhile?? Have to spread some of that awkwardness around, it’s only fair 🙂

    • I like the- “he died” statement. It somehow gives him more life. Some people write us off when they hear our kids were just babies when they died- so not qualifying it, I feel like garners more respect. and yes, I often feel like others can handle a little awkwardness if I have to live everyday with it! though I have trouble actually doing it. I’m inspired- I’ll try not to lower my voice next time. With the phlebotimist, we did end up having a much more detailed conversation. Later she asked how many kids I want- I said as many as I can, because I lost a child. she responded she had had 4 miscarriages- and though I think there both is and isnt a hierarchy of loss, I felt I had to qualify my loss and explained how mabel died after birth. I hope I didnt minimize her miscarriages (she did also have 2 living kids).

      • I’m so glad that you were able to have a bit more of a conversation with the phlebotomist. I don’t think sharing the details of Mabel’s story minimizes her losses. I bet she was happy just to have the opportunity to talk about the miscarriages with someone whose reflex reaction wasn’t “Oh, but it all worked out for you, more than two children would be handful anyhow!!”

  3. I’m wondering what kind of response you would like to get as I imagine myself on the opposite side of the conversation. How about, “I’m terribly sorry. Tell me about your child.” Is that too prying? or “I’m terribly sorry you have to be without your child this time of year.” Or even just “I’m terribly sorry you lost a child.” I hope somehow I’d be able to respond in a way that would validate your loss if I could think it through ahead of time. My thoughts are with you and I truly am terribly sorry for your loss. ❤ I think of you and Mabel so often.

    • what an excellent question. I’m not sure I’ve thought so far ahead as that. I think just a simple (perhaps a surprised ) “oh, I’m so sorry” would do- then I could say thank you and move the conversation on. I’ve gotten good at that, as long as the loss is acknowledged. With a perfect stranger making small talk, I wouldnt have any expectations of more- if it was asked with compassion I would certainly tell lots about my daughter (god, I love to tell her story). But I think a simple acknowledgement speaks worlds.

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