The Hardest Questions


For better or worse, change is inevitable.  Words develop different meanings, views shift and questions take on a life of their own.  My wish for this is that you would just take a second and look at things from a different perspective.

I am a nurse and talk to who-knows-how-many people every shift. Physicians, respiratory therapists, other nurses, and of course, patients and their families.  While I’m trying to get to know my patients, they are trying to get to know me.  I ask many of the same questions each shift — Are you in pain? Where is it? Do you use a cane or walker to get around? How do you feel now versus when you came to the hospital?

Then there’s the questions they ask me — How long have you been a nurse? How long have you worked here? What about before this unit? Are you from here? Are you married?

Then HE dreaded ones.  Do you have children?

How many?

Well, how much time to do you have?

This questions terrifies me on several different levels.  There isn’t an easy answer.  Do I say 2 and not elaborate? Do I answer honestly with 4? How will they react? How will I react? Can I hold it together and not become an sobbing mess? There’s a least 14 ways this could play out.

There is such an emotional side to this question for me.  If I answer 2, I feel like I’m ignoring the battles that I have endured, like I’m saying they didn’t exist.  I feel like I’m saying they didn’t count, that all of them aren’t equal. I have had FOUR perfect babies. But if I answer 4, then there is an explanation that I feel like I must give.

2 boys, 2 girls.

2 on Earth, 2 that are not.

2 that I tuck in at night. 2 that I can’t.

And then there’s also questions like will you have more? Do you think you’re done?

In my “old” life, these questions were just questions.  They didn’t cause my world to tilt or my breath to catch.  Just questions. They are now questions that I do not ask other people until they bring it up to me first.  Life is complicated and questions are complicated. And, oh, so messy.


I totally and completely understand that people generally aren’t asking these questions to cause pain.  I get it. People are trying to be polite and make sure that me, as a nurse, aren’t an unfeeling robot.  They like to feel like they know something about me.  I have felt like that as a patient before. It’s totally okay to want that.

But sometimes questions aren’t just questions.  They are big and ugly and dreaded because there is a story behind them.  Don’t stop asking questions, just be aware of which ones.

That’s all I ask as a mom of 4. Not 2.

Just awareness and perspective.


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