How Many Children Do You Have?

His question slid out effortlessly. As if it were the most natural question in the world to ask. "How many children do you have?"

I froze, with my teacup in my hand. I opened my mouth but could not form the words. 

He straightened his back and rolled his shoulders just slightly while waiting for me to answer.

“Two.” I replied. 

My friend Christy looked at me with her mouth open, the expression on her face was the same as if she had just seen a ghost. 

My friend Eyoungsoo stared at me too, with his mouth open. Then Eyoungsoo, with a look of disbelief on his face, said, “Only two? You only have two children?”

I wanted to take my statement back and share my story but I couldn’t. It was the worst moment in my life. It felt like my son died again, and this time I killed him.

Later I told my friends it was just too hard. Before I had three children, and now I didn't. It had been one year since my son died. I'd learned how to seem strong even when I wasn't. But that day I couldn't. If I told about my son I knew I would cry. It was odd because even at the time I knew this was one of those social-business situations where it would be all right. These kind people we were meeting with would understand, and in the end it would draw us closer.

It was the moment that would define me. It ravaged me and took me down, like chemo attacking a cancer. Then I rose up, healed.

I was in Seoul, Korea, at a business lunch and I had tried out a new identity of meeting the world as the mother of two daughters, and not mentioning my son who had died. After that I never did it again.

The image of leaving out my son left a horrible hole in my heart. It left me a stranger, I didn’t know myself. If I didn’t claim my son then I might as well not claim anything or anybody in my past.

One thing remained certain: For the rest of my life I knew my answer would always be,
“I had three children, and my son died.