Before I became a mother, I used to image that my husband and I would have three kids, all quite close in age. I didn’t think to worry overly much about it, though. How hard could it be to create the family we wanted?
Then our first child, our sweet daughter, died and was born.
And suddenly, the idea of family planning felt incredibly ludicrous.
Because how can you plan for the future when you’re still picking up the pieces of what was supposed to be, and the edges of all that shattered slice deep into your tender palms?
Our rainbow son is nearly nine months old, and the question of trying again for a third child is looming large in my mind. I don’t know how to decide that the time is right to try to conceive once again. When I hear friends who have not lost a child discuss family planning, they say that (finances and wisdom allowing) they keep adding children until their families feel complete.
But my family? It will never feel complete, because one of its members is missing.
Even though I have our sweet son here, I long for another baby to hold and cherish and watch grow. But it is impossible for me to tell if its a future child I’m wanting, or the daughter I had who is gone.
As we all have learned too well, pregnancy is not something to be entered into lightly. I only want to walk back into the uncertainty of rainbow pregnancy if I am sure it’s a third child I’m wanting and not our first that I’m missing.
And then there is the matter of spacing (I write this as if I have any real amount of control over such a thing).
I still wish for my children to be close in age. I love how close in age my daughter and son would have been, if she had lived — a mere 10 months separate them. But now it is too late for us to try for such a small gap between our son and a third child. And frankly, after 17 nearly consecutive months of pregnancy, my body needs a rest.
But I also don’t want to wait too long to try to conceive. Because should another of our pregnancies end in tragedy, I want our living son to be as unaffected as possible. I don’t want to expose him to the tremendous heartbreak and confusion of having a sibling die before, during, or after birth. So if we try again while he’s still quite young, he would remain somewhat protected from the sting of babyloss if such a thing befell our family once more.
And all this? It’s just sad that anyone should have to take this into account in their family planning. Sad, and painful, and unfair. For us, it is yet another of the still-unfolding side effects of our daughter’s death, one new wave in a pond full of ripples that her stillbirth set in motion.
I don’t know how to plan for the future of our family — or even simply know what to hope for. There is so much confusion, and fear, and pain. And nothing, nothing, is under our control.
Grief upon grief, even when making room for new life. Will we ever feel that we are standing on solid ground again?
What do you think of the term “family planning” now that you’ve been affected by loss or infertility? How have your family planning efforts changed by your struggles?