As I gazed down at my new morning cocktail of prenatals and preventative meds I thought grimly, “This sucks.” Since Everett passed away, we’ve gone through extensive testing and appointments in anticipation of trying for Baby #2 someday. As a result of this process it has come to light that I have something in my blood that may or may not be a low-lying autoimmune disease. Hence, the preventative-measure-cocktail. Gulping down these torpedoes one by one, I started to wonder why pill time was always prefaced by an inexorable pit in my stomach. Certainly taking a few pills and attending a few extra appointments is nothing in comparison to what other people go through just to conceive. So why did it bother me so much?
The week prior, my husband and I were discussing the prospect of a second child. While there is a big part of me that yearns to hold a living, breathing, healthy baby in my arms, the idea of conceiving again comes with mixed emotions. I’ve begun to realize that this thing that happened to us, this beautiful pregnancy that resulted in a tragic loss, will eternally be a part of who we are and everything that lies ahead. Things that used to be so easy to enjoy will forever be bittersweet. We cannot just simply have another child, a solution so many (myself included!) have referenced for reassurance. The fact is, we had a child that died and we have no earthly idea how. In addition, we are more aware now than ever of how common infant loss actually is. For example, 4.5 million babies each year are stillborn; about 1 in 4 pregnancies results in miscarriage; and 1 in 60 births results in stillbirth or neonatal death.* Those statistics aside, we’ve heard countless stories of miscarriages, stillbirths, miscarriage followed by subsequent pregnancy ending in stillbirth, failed IVF, infertility, neonatal death, and so on.
Aside from those facts being absolutely frightening, the awareness of just how delicate life is can make planning your future feel like a game of Trust Fall. Having another child means knowing the grave risks and being brave enough to try anyway. Having another child means still grieving the one you lost, the one that in twisted fate experienced birth after death. Having another child means somehow compartmentalizing that grief while celebrating a new life being created. Having another child means a baby shower, labor and delivery, a filled nursery, diapers, CRYING (I would give anything to have heard Everett’s cry), breastfeeding and so many other magnificent experiences met with a sadness for the child that didn’t reach that milestone. Everett will never be (physically) part of these memories or our future.
It dawned on me, this was the real tough pill to swallow. Something as simple as prenatals bothered me because while we are trying to be proactive and healthy parents to Baby #2, it cannot and will not ever just be about Baby #2. It will be about taking these pills every day to prevent another loss rather than just to be healthy. It will be about walking into every ultrasound praying for a heartbeat and remembering how it felt when there wasn’t one after almost seven months of carrying our first. It will be about mustering up hope, every single day, that history won’t repeat itself. Our thoughts, decisions, actions, and memories will be profoundly impacted for the rest of our lives. Gulp that down with a big glass of water (or wine?)!
We don’t pretend to have it all figured out, and in fact I had a complete meltdown over this just a few weeks ago. What we do know is that we can move forward in a way that honors our son, allows space for grieving, and also allows space for healing and celebration. It is realistic to say that many things about our next pregnancy may trigger mournful memories of the first. But there is resolve in knowing that those emotions can coexist with the bliss of creating and carrying another baby. We don’t have to put our grief or our happiness on hold in order to process each. We just have to understand and accept that it is another emotional juxtaposition that will require a healthy balance. It is our new daily pill. It is a way that we, as parents, will show a unique love to both of our children. I’ll conclude with this, the most reassuring of all: Although Everett is no longer here, the bond and love we share is unbreakable; and we look forward to passing that onto our next little one when the time is right.
with lovE, Skyler
“We live in a world where we are constantly told to seek pleasure while at the same time we should be denying all pain, loss and grief. The truth is, without experiencing all emotions we can never be filled with joy.” -Zoe Clark-Coates