I always knew there would be a time when we’d reach the end of building our family.
However, I didn’t expect that when I reached that point, my family would still feel incomplete.
Our first child was stillborn. We said hello and goodbye in one day.
Never getting a chance to know him.
We knew we wanted to have more children and started trying right away.
Three months later I panicked as I saw the positive pregnancy test. I was pregnant with his little brother.
Carrying him for 40 weeks was filled with terror, but it was also filled with immense love and gratitude.
We were so grateful to have another little boy whom we could bring home.
Two years later I found out I was pregnant again. This time was filled with less terror but still a good amount of anxiety.
We were shocked and excited to find out we were having a little girl.
I feel blessed beyond belief that I have my living son and daughter. From the outside, it looks perfect.
“One of each, how perfect” family, friends, and strangers would exclaim.
What they didn’t know is that there should be a big brother chasing them both around.
There is always someone missing. For the longest time, I dreamed about adding one more to our family and giving my living son a brother to rough house with.
I mostly kept that dream inside because it brings tears to my eyes just thinking about it.
I felt guilty. Hell, I still feel guilty.
My living son doesn’t have his brother here. He knows his name, sees his pictures, and knows of him.
It was easier to cope with it then.
Until the day he said, “Mommy, I wish I had a brother.”
My heart sunk. Fighting back tears, I calmly told him he had a brother, but he’s not here, but he’s always in our hearts.
His response: “But, I want to play with him.”
My heart broke again that day. That’s when I really started contemplating having another child, but not any child – a little boy.
I so desperately wanted my kids to have another brother to play with. I wanted to give them their brother back.
What I soon realized and what I honestly knew all along, was that no matter how many children I have, even if they were all boys:
Our family would forever be incomplete.
No subsequent children could ever replace Parker. So, what was I going to do, keep having children?
That didn’t seem reasonable or responsible.
Yet, how was I supposed to stop when there was a giant void?
My husband didn’t want to have more children. Now that I think about it, I’m not sure if I did either.
I wanted my family to be together.
I wanted the three children I do have to be able to wrestle and tease each other.
So once again, I was left to face the grief and guilt.
Guilt that I couldn’t give my kids the complete family they deserve.
Grief and guilt that my son will never get to play with his brother.
I began to accept that this is our family structure. We are a family of five: two boys and one little girl. I have three children.
That will never change, even if the world can only see two of them.
I’ve faced the fact that I can’t fill the void and it will most likely always hurt.
So I talk about him. I include him in the family stories, in holiday cards, in photo albums.
His brother and sister know his name.
They recognize him in pictures and include him in their drawings.
They will grow to understand that they do have an older brother and they carry him in their hearts.
Kelly is owner and therapist at Evolve Counseling, LLC and proud mother to three children, including her son, Parker who was stillborn at 24 weeks gestation. At Evolve Counseling, LLC she provides counseling services to individuals and families healing after infant and pregnancy loss.