I know for many (most?) of you, the decision to have another baby after the death of the same is as innate and natural and "Well, DUH" as drinking a glass of water or breathing. In fact, I'd hazard a guess that for many it's hardly a "decision" at all, but a compelling force or internal drive. Or something.
And not that it's easy for anyone to go back down that road, but for some, like me and a few others in my shoes who have more than just "Well, that was just a fluke of (really fucking abysmal) luck, really" it's not quite so easy to jump back into the saddle. It is, in fact, a decision. Maybe you have some grim odds to contend with on the next go-round, or a few more rounds of reproductive nonsense ahead of you, or perhaps you're just scared out of your mind. Or maybe some ugly combination of those circumstances. In any case, rather unlike, say, Elizabeth McCracken who averred from her hospital bed -- freshly blown apart by the death of her son -- that she would (!) indeed have another baby, I loudly proclaimed from the NICU: "Hell to the No."
So it's rather sheepishly that I stand here before you, three years later, 23+ weeks pregnant. What happened?!
Someone here asked me recently how I did it, how I made this decision, what my thought process was, or how I otherwise found my way from A to B, and I thought it would be useful to dissect my route in case anyone else out there had to face similar circumstances. And yet I sit here with my hands levitating above the keyboard and burping up the trail of breadcrumbs I've unfortunately consumed instead of leaving for the next traveller, because quite frankly, I honestly don't know how I got here. I'll set my water glass down, now.
I can in fact point to a few issues that -- when refocused through my new sporty Grief Goggles -- altered a bit and allowed me to sit somewhat comfortably where I am now as opposed to where I was almost three years ago now.
The primary contributor to this shift, you'll probably be sorry to hear, is simply the passage of Time. I remember when I first stumbled out my door to walk the dog in a haze of tears and blackness, one of my neighbors said something stupid like "It will feel better with time," and I wanted to punch her. (And oh my god, is she ever one of the sweetest women who said and did some simply lovely things for me a few days later.) But it turns out, it's one of those trite little sayings that I now agree with, I just think I should have the power to say and not a bystander.
Time does help. For starts, Time gave the doctors opportunity to fully and completely research what on earth happened, the results being: They have no fucking clue. But. They ran (and I found out last May continue to run) Maddy's samples through the Genome project multiple times, and presented her case at conferences, and with each day (month, year) that passes without a genetic hit, it looks more and more like the Ockham's Razor death rationale: undetected placental abruption and/or infection. Because the odds of a never-been-seen before autosomal recessive fuck up between two people from different ethnic backgrounds are apparently outstanding. And not to say our luck isn't piss poor, and those recurrent odds for the abruption/infection aren't daunting, but sure beats the hell out of 1:4.
But you know, the geneticist could still be right. And again, here's where Time has helped to an amazing degree: I have transformed from a pre-Maddy cautious optimist, to a post-Maddy pessimist, to a neo-post-Maddy realist. I no longer think in terms of odds, nor do I "hope" or "wish" or envision things. I now rely on the basic premise of probability, stripped of statistical odds: Either something will happen, or it won't. Either the baby will live, or it will die. I will get in a fatal accident on my way to buy groceries, or I won't. The chicken will catch fire under the broiler, or it won't. And I know for many such an oversimplification probably reeks of negativity and a 50/50 coin flip, but for me, in my circumstances, it has been remarkably freeing to simply let statistics go and deal with the end game. I used to mull over things like genetic testing risks for example, and now I simply throw my hands up: Either it will be fine, or it won't. (I did decide on genetic testing because I don't want any surprises this time around except for the big one at the end, but I certainly didn't sweat the odds of problems arising from said testing.) And you know, if it isn't, I've been there. I've hence liberated myself from months of stress over minutia, and will simply wait until the end to find out what's going on. Thankfully, I'm a patient person.
Which leads me to Time and the fear factor: I was so completely afraid after Maddy died that I couldn't have sex let alone think about eventually bearing another child. And there was a time after I climbed online and realized all the other ways in which babies die when I wondered how we exist as a species, and how I could ever be talked into that again. I completely understand people who almost grow more fearful rather than comforted after reading other blogs -- just think, you could escape problem A and fall head first into problem B. There are those here who have lost babies more than once. Support groups can be sobering reminders that lightning indeed strikes twice.
But enough Time has passed that frankly I feel as if I now know all the ways in which babies can die (or at least the big group headings -- sometimes the subgroup can be a surprise). As I wrote to someone recently, I recognize all the bogeymen now. It's not that I feel immune to them, or don't think they won't pop up, it's that I no longer fear them, and they won't surprise me. I see them, lurking there around the corner, and in that way they've totally lost their power. Should one jump out, I'll say, "Oh, it's you," and know exactly who to contact for support. I've mentally walked my way to the end of almost every bad dream, and I'm strangely very comforted by that.
I want to put in an aside here that is too important for parenthesis: Some people here are dealing with the odds and the fear that not only will future babies be at risk, but their own lives as well. There are women reading here who (sometimes barely) averted death due to preeclampsia (and other complications), and the odds of recurrence of that particular problem go up steeply. I consider myself thankful that when I ponder my outcomes, I am alive at the end of each -- in fact, it was a huge factor in my ability to move forward. My worst case scenario has already been lived through, and I feel confident that I can and will make it through intact again should I have to. Others do not have this luxury of (at the very least) being able to envision themselves at the end of a process that goes horribly awry for the second time. And that is a whole other debate and discussion and risk taking endeavor that Time probably does nothing to ease. If you've had to make a subsequent decision that involves your life, I -- and I'm sure others -- welcome hearing from you in the comments.
Back to my final breakthrough: Enough Time passed that considering another child became it's own debate, not one necessarily connected anymore to the discussions we had about having another prior to Maddy. This was both a blessing and a curse as it turned out. We had moved since the last decision was made, we have new social lives, Bella is older and our parenting has changed dramatically along with her needs. Thus, it was easier (and sometimes actually fun) for three of us to move as a unit, and yet it was also easier to imagine going through a (probably) stressful/problematic pregnancy. We had come to the place in our hellish aftermath where we felt like doing things again: traveling, eating out, relishing time for the three of us, for the two of us, for me. My grandmother died last summer, and I saw my mother and my aunt work and grieve together and realized I wanted to at least try to give that to Bella -- no one should have to to deal with a senile me by themselves. And in that way, in this jumbled mish-mash of plusses and negatives, I feel as though this child within me now -- should he live -- will be his own person, with his own identity. He was discussed and planned and brought at least this far for a separate set of reasons, through different rationales. He will always be connected to his older sister -- it's hard to say if I would have had a third, and yet it's hard to say I would have ever had another.
I am not kidding myself here -- this will work, or it won't. I cannot claim to be learning anything about myself five months in, nor am I undergoing emotional shifts in my missing because I am pregnant, but frankly that's not why I decided to try and get pregnant again. I did this simply because I wanted another child of our own genetic make-up, and we'll know if it was a good idea -- or not -- come mid-May.
Did you decide to have another child after your babyloss, or was it more of an instinctual feeling that really didn't warrant discussion or debate? If you did have a decision to make, what went into your decision? How much time passed? What were the mitigating factors? What if anything shifted inside of you (or happened externally) to make a subsequent pregnancy possible? Did any of you decide "Hell no," and remain in that place?