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!