Two. I have two kids.

This question hurts so much, but I also can’t wait for it to be asked whenever I meet someone new. This is very often right now as we’ve recently moved, and each time I meet a new neighbor I can barely pay attention to the conversation because I’m waiting. Waiting for the inevitable. Waiting for them to ask, “So, is Greyson (my son) your only one?” I’m planning my response. Because I can’t wait to tell them that I actually have two kids. I can’t wait to tell them about Greyson and Maddie.

As soon as I share that I in fact have two kids, and that my daughter Madeleine passed away after 5 weeks, their face falls. And this is the part that I hate. I don’t want you to feel sorry for us when I say this, or feel bad for asking. I genuinely don’t want to put a damper on our conversation or darken the mood. I just want to tell you about my babies, just like you want to tell me about yours. I’m so proud of both of my two children, even though one of them isn’t here for me to show you face to face.

This conversation isn’t incredibly difficult for me when it’s a neighbor or someone I may have a future relationship with, but what about the waiter, or the bank teller, or the store associate that I’ll never see again? How do I approach these conversations? Recently, a waiter asked if we planned to have any more kids. Tyler and I both stumbled over our words and said “Oh yeah, maybe…” not knowing how to tell him that we do have another kid without making him feel awful for asking. His intent was not to cause pain. As soon as he left the table I started crying. I don’t know how to handle this yet, but I’m working on it.

Since this encounter, I have had this strange urge in public places to yell out that I have a daughter. I haven’t actually done this, of course, and I don’t know why I feel this urge. I think it’s because I want the world to know about Maddie. I want to tell every stranger. I want to scream from the rooftops that my daughter was here, and is always a part of me, and that she mattered so much. Even though her life was short, she will always be my baby. And I am so proud.

I’ve said this before, but don’t be afraid to ask about her when I tell you that I have a daughter, and that she died. I know you’re sorry; I am too. But ask me about her, just like you would ask me about Greyson. I know you think there isn’t much to say because her life was so short and you don’t want me to feel pain by talking about her — and sometimes it does cause me pain, but talking about her also brings me so much joy.

Photograph courtesy of the McDaniel family

I have two kids. I have a son, and a daughter. One is here with us on Earth, and one is our guardian angel forever. I feel a hole in my heart, a void that can never be filled, but I have two kids.

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