After my second daughter died due to complications at her birth, I did not know if I could have another child, physically or emotionally. With both of my pregnancies, I was categorized as advanced maternal age, and therefore the chances of getting pregnant again were lower and the risk of miscarriage was higher. After 40 weeks of being pregnant and the last eight weeks of it being a challenge physically, the thought of getting pregnant again took my breath away. And not in a good way, more like being sucker punched in the gut. I felt the unfairness of it all so vividly as well as the anger about the position I had been placed in. It felt like my picture-perfect life had been stolen from me.
I remember the feeling of emptiness. The desire to hold my baby and nurse her was so strong in those first few weeks after she died. My husband carefully asked me if we could have a conversation about whether we would try for another sometime in the future. I think a part of him needed to know if that door was closed, if our family would be complete with two. He said he would be ok either way; he just wanted to know my thoughts. I told him that I wanted another too but that I was not sure if I would ever be ready.
When I contemplated trying again, I thought of my living child. Most days it felt like I was barely functioning as a mother. If I decided to have another baby and this baby died too, I thought that would break me; literally destroy me. I now knew that statistics did not matter, that even if you do everything right, you are not guaranteed a living baby in the end. And while I felt broken after my daughter died, I knew I could continue to be a mother to my living child in time. I was not at all confident what I would look like after another loss.
My body took a long time to heal after my second daughter’s birth. So, for us, trying was not even an option in the first four or five months after she died. The clock kept right on ticking though, and I turned one year older. I knew that even if I could get pregnant again that there would be higher risks involved.
So, how do you know when you are ready? When you are ready to hope for a different future? I wanted there to be some kind of test or marker that would make this decision clear for me. But alas, this did not seem to exist. In the last year, I’ve learned that a different future is inevitable. My world and everyone in it is constantly changing. The idea of trying to control your future is a challenging one, mainly because it is impossible. Yes, I can control some things in my life like whether to try to get pregnant again or whether to eat healthy or exercise. But I don’t control if I can actually get pregnant, if I will miscarry or not, or if I will carry a baby to term only to have that baby die shortly after birth.
I have heard that you will know you are ready to try for another child when the hope for a new baby outweighs the fear of another loss. And I think there is some truth to that. It makes sense to me. But as someone who has made the decision to try again, I don’t know if it can really be quantified, if you will ever truly know when the hope outweighs the fear. For me, the hope and the fear are both present and have been all along. I think what has changed is that I now have the ability to reframe my thoughts when the fear threatens to take over my mind. I have learned that fear, when what is feared has not yet happened, is a choice; and I can choose hope over fear.
I’ve made the choice to live in this new world after loss, to try to be present for each moment of my life. I have hope for a future that includes a living sibling for my daughter. But even if I do not get the future that I think I want, I plan to continue to live each moment with love and courage. How do you know when you are ready to hope, when you are ready to live? Perhaps it is like falling in love. In my experience with love, there is no definitive moment but rather a series of moments along with an intense feeling of love within the soul. Just as there is no ultimate test to determine if you are in love, there is no real gauge to recognize if you are ready to try again. Only you can know.