2022 - April - Gazette - How Many Children Do You Have?

By: Jackie Naginey Hook
Thursday, April 28, 2022

How Many Children Do You Have?

“How many children do you have?” Thankfully, for most people, this question has an easy answer. But for the parents of the one in four pregnancies in this country that end in pregnancy loss or stillbirth (according to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists), this question is complicated. For these people, they might wonder if they really are parents, if they should include their losses in their child count, and if the person asking the question will treat their answer with gentleness and kindness.

While doing some genealogy research, my husband discovered that in the 1900 census mothers had to answer the “how many children” question. They also had to answer a second question – the number of those children living. The implication being that it was expected that some children would not survive pregnancy, childbirth or infancy. They were simple questions with simple, and often sad, answers.

These days it’s not that simple. I have a very wise friend who lost her twin babies during pregnancy. After that devastating loss, when people asked her how many children she had, she’d ask herself, if my babies were here, would I let this person hold them? If the answer was yes, she’d tell them about her twins. And if the answer was no, she’d remember her babies in her heart but not share their story.  

Even when the question of the number of children doesn’t carry as much sting as life moves forward, parents don’t forget their pregnancy and stillbirth losses. I know grandparents and great-grandparents who still remember. I also know grandparents who remember their children’s losses and struggle with the question, how many grandchildren do you have? But we don’t have many safe places to honor these generations.

Thankfully, that is changing in our community. As someone who suffered six pregnancy losses, I’m grateful for the newly created Footprints in the Field Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Garden on the grounds of Harvest Fields, 150 Harvest Fields Drive, Boalsburg. This is a beautiful place to honor ourselves, our losses and our grief journeys. And on Sunday, May 1, from 3 to 5 p.m., you are invited to join us for A Gathering in the Garden: Honoring the Parents.  

As we approach Mother’s and Father’s Days, this will be a time to honor those parents who have experienced a pregnancy or infant loss, whether the loss was recent or decades ago. Together we’ll nurture our hearts, spend time in nature and reflect. We’ll also explore the garden, make personalized mementos, enjoy light refreshments and order memorial stones to be engraved this summer.

If you’ve endured this type of loss or know someone who has, you are invited to join us at this healing space, the Footprints in the Field Pregnancy & Infant Loss Remembrance Garden. All are welcome regardless of religious or spiritual beliefs. Support for this gathering is provided by Harvest Fields and Koch Funeral Home. Please RSVP or visit their Facebook page @FootprintsIntheField. And if you would like to financiallypport Footprints in the Field, visit their website or look for them in Centre Gives on May 10 and 11.

In addition, you are invited to join us at the following grief and loss education and support programs:

For more information, please visit the Bereavement Gatherings and Events page on the Koch Funeral Home website. To reserve your spot and receive the invitation links, email Jackie@JackieHook.com, call 814-237-2712 or visit the Koch Funeral Home Facebook page @kochFH. If there are changes to our in-person gatherings because of COVID, we will provide updates on the website.

Jackie Naginey Hook, MA, is a spiritual director, celebrant and end-of-life doula.  She coordinates the Helping Grieving Hearts Heal program through Koch Funeral Home in State College.  For more information, please call 814-237-2712 or visit www.kochfuneralhome.com.



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