Before losing Zachary, there was no question in my mind about how many kids I wanted. The answer was “lots and close together.” I learned from my loss, however, that I am not in control of every facet of my life. That reality took some getting used to.
I was a mess of emotions right after my loss, yet the one thing I knew with all certainty was that I needed to have another child. When asked at that point, “Are you going to have more kids?” I would have said a resounding, “Yes!” The desire was intense, coupled with longing. As soon as my family received the positive news from our genetic testing – that Zach’s condition was random – I immediately focused on getting pregnant.
The sad reality is that not everyone can get pregnant again right away or at all after loss. This is one reason this question can be so challenging for bereaved parents.
The trigger of this question can bring up hard to swallow feelings and pain. I have met a few women that find this question downright inappropriate. While I don’t mind it myself, I think the boldness to ask it in the first place speaks to our cultural norm of sharing information, or “over-sharing” some would way – thank you Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. For many, this question is asked innocently enough, and likely the person asking has no idea the reaction it may evoke in the bereaved parent.
There are well meaning people that don’t mean to pry, but are simply curious and hope to show they care by taking an interest. I find it’s always helpful to give others the benefit of the doubt. If you are not comfortable with this question, instead of getting angry, be honest in a gentle way. You can brush it off by saying, “I don’t know,” or, “That’s a little too personal to discuss at the moment.”
The question, “Are you going to have more kids?” always causes me to stop and think. I honestly don’t know the answer.
Since losing Zach I have gone on to have two healthy rainbow babies. Now, when people ask me if I am going to have more children, I feel like a wobbly tightrope-walker, balancing between “yes” and “no.” There is a part of me that feels greedy for wanting more kids – which I secretly do – but that I should be happy with what I have. The superstitious part of me warns myself that I should not tempt fate again.
Then there is another part of me that wonders if I will ever feel “done,” because there will always be someone missing from my family. The question of having more kids triggers the ache in my heart for Zach and the future I had envisioned for our family. I do know, though, that no number of children can ever replace a baby that died.
These feelings are normal, however frustrating.
What’s interesting is that this question triggers my husband differently than it does me. It causes him to remember the stress of our rainbow-pregnancies. If asked, he would answer a firm, “No, no more kids!” He comes from a place of logic and protection. He saw how hard those two pregnancies were on me physically, mentally, and emotionally. They were tough on him too, don’t get me wrong. I know the possibility of losing another baby was a palpable fear for him. At the same time, he was my tireless supporter and was endlessly compassionate, as much as he was able. His concern is always in protecting our family from more tragedy and stress. I also think he’s just flat out tired. Grief-work on top of parenting can be exhausting.
While everyone will have their own feelings about the question of, “Are you going to have more kids?” it is important to remember that it is okay to have a strong reaction – one way or another – or to be unsure. I keep telling myself: one day I will know for sure, one day I will be comfortable making this decision. And for now, I do know that this question is deeply personal and it’s okay if it stays that way.