My first child was stillborn in 2010. Lily came early at 20 weeks and 1 day gestation. I was diagnosed with an incompetent cervix and a uterine abnormality. It seemed that my body was not made for reproduction.
I wondered if I would ever have children.
I went on to have a rainbow baby. A beautiful little boy. He melted into me when we cuddled after birth. He’s still my little cuddlebug.
I wondered if I would ever have a living girl at home.
Two years later I gave birth to a beautiful baby girl. She came into the world screaming and hasn’t lost her feistiness since.
To the outside world, I finally had one of each. But I had three. And I wanted three at home. My husband and I always wanted three or four. Did we have that already?
A little over two years later we would have another baby boy. A sweet boy whose pregnancy threw me for a loop with many challenges and obstacles we didn’t have previously. He continues to throw me for loops, sometimes making me feel like I’ve never done this [parenting] before. But he’s continually happy. I’ve called him the “happiest baby on the block.”
So now we have four. Three here, one not. Do we go for the fourth at home or is our family complete?
This is the question with which we have been struggling for almost two years. Really, I’m the one who’s struggling. My husband, despite asking when we were going for another moments after our second boy was delivered, said he’s done.
I’ve heard that there’s a grieving process you go through whenever you decide you’re done having kids. It doesn’t matter whether it was your choice or not. There’s sadness associated with it being your last time – for pregnancy, for infancy, for toddlerhood, etc.
I can’t help but wonder though if this grief is exacerbated by my loss and by the fact that it was not my decision to be done.
I struggle with this a lot lately. On the one hand, I’m trying to convince myself that it is okay. We have three beautiful children at home. Our house is full of love and laughter even after unspeakable loss.
I won’t miss the anxieties that come along with being pregnant again after loss. Even after having three subsequent pregnancies, anxiety, worry, and fear exist. Sure, it lessened somewhat the more successful pregnancies I had, but it never truly went away. Wondering if we are ever going to lose another pregnancy will never be a thought in my mind again.
Still, I’ll miss being pregnant again. I’ll miss seeing the baby on the ultrasound screen. I’ll miss my growing belly and the kicks from deep inside. And I’ll miss the moment you meet that baby for the first time and fall instantly in love with someone you seem to know so well already.
The decision to be done is so much like grieving the lost of my first child. I’m sad. I’m angry. I’m frustrated with the lack of control I have over these decisions. The start of my family was not within my control. I did not experience a situation where I chose to become pregnant, had a blissful, uneventful first pregnancy, and brought home a bouncing baby. The start of my family was more complicated that that. Something else controlled the outcome. It’s the same with the decision to stop. I didn’t choose this outcome, but I’m stuck with it and need to learn to live with it. Once again, I find myself learning to adapt to a different plan. And it still sucks.
I also truly don’t know if I will ever feel my family is complete. Lily is not here with us. It will never feel complete because she’s not at the dinner table. We’re not complete because someone is missing.
Then again, I’ve met loss moms who know their families are done and are okay with it. They experience the grief that all moms do when the baby is their last, of course, but they have said “yes, this is the last one and I don’t want any more.” I may just very well be one of those women who just loves to have babies. Maybe after a fourth, I would want a fifth. Who knows? Maybe, I’ll always want more.
I know I’ll adapt. I’ll accept. I’ll eventually be okay. I’ve made it through harder things. But for right now, it’s hard to be done.