As a mom who has experienced loss, I have always dreaded the question, “How many children do you have?” For so long, I struggled with finding an answer that was simple and truthful. Now, after over two years of fumbling my words, I feel somewhat okay with sharing that I have two daughters knowing that there is the possibility of a follow-up question.
So it would figure that just when I was starting to feel comfortable with the “how many children” question, that a new question would take its place in filling me with dread.
“Are you going to have any more children?”
The short answer to this question is: No, we are not planning on having any more children.
The long answer to this question is, of course, more complicated.
The complications arise because the decision to not have any more children is tainted by our experiences with loss. It’s a complicated answer because this decision we made does not feel like it’s entirely our decision. There were so many factors to weigh in our choice to say we’re done, but it really came down to two things: the health risks and the heart risks.
I know that, if we were to go ahead, our doctors would support us through another pregnancy. I was so fortunate to have them support me through my pregnancy with Frances and I have no doubt they would offer me the same level of care and monitoring. However, for me, the risks are too great. My body has been through a lot and I am not willing to test it one more time. I have experienced my kidneys shutting down and restarting on their own. I have laid helpless as my retinas detached and repaired themselves. My body has shown me what it can endure and I am choosing not to put it through any more stress if I can. I have experienced the true strength of my body, yet I am still scared of its weaknesses.
Just as my body has demonstrated incredible strength, my heart has done the same.
This is the strength that I am most afraid of testing. I do not know if my heart could sustain the devastation of another miscarriage or stillbirth. I don’t even know if I could handle hoping for a positive and having to see a negative. Logically, I understand that I would manage the burden of another heartbreak, but I am simply exhausted from carrying so much loss. It’s time for me to give myself permission to honor what I’ve been through to reach motherhood. It’s time for me to open my heart to other experiences of love and loss.
Perhaps, we would have always made the decision to parent an only child but the truth is, I will never know that.
It hurts not to keep building our family. It makes my heart heavy that my daughter’s only sister will always live beyond her reach. I dread the days ahead when Frances will inevitably ask for a brother or sister to play with. I wish that I could chase away that lingering doubt I feel when wondering if are making the right choice. My worry is that if we don’t try again our family will never be whole. But, the truth is, even if we kept on having children our family would never feel complete.
So, to answer the question — no I am not going to have any more children. We are done because even though my arms may long for more babies, my heart is full of the children I need.