Since Finley was born, a question that seemed to be on everyone’s mind was whether or not Steve and I would ‘try again’. People throw those words around as though it is the most natural question in the world. I know it’s genuine curiosity from people who were so excited for us to become parents, and yet to me it often feels like people are really asking if we are going to try again because we failed the last time. Or, I guess I should say, that I failed the last time, since I was the one who carried him.
Very shortly after Finley died, all of the doctors were keen to tell me I’d be able to conceive again, though they all had varying opinions of when I should try. I couldn’t take in these conversations initially. My milk had barely started to come in, and my body was bruised and battered. I didn’t want to try for another baby, I wanted the one that I had given birth to less than a week previously. I couldn’t comprehend why I would even consider getting pregnant again when in all honesty I don’t think I quite realised what had happened. You can’t imagine the overwhelmingly empty feeling that remains when you spend 9 months carrying another life inside of you and making every plan for a future only to have it ripped away in a moment. We both knew we wanted a family, so Steve and I agreed we would wait around a year before we would begin trying to conceive again.
The fact is, almost as soon as the shock wore off, I was desperate to get pregnant again. The thought would not leave my mind even though I knew in my heart it was too soon. The extreme feeling of emptiness I felt was so overwhelming and to my broken heart and empty arms, the only thing that felt like it would slightly diminish this feeling would be getting pregnant and bringing new life into the world. It still is, and yet there is a big part of me that knows that nothing, not even another child, will replace Finley. It won’t take the pain away. It will bring a new joy that is completely separate from my grief.
Franchesca Cox from Small Bird Studios recently released her new book, Celebrating Pregnancy Again, to followers of her blog. I’ve been eagerly awaiting it, as I’m a keen follower of her writing. It brings me such hope to hear about life after the loss of a first child, and the joy that she has found since with her subsequent pregnancies.
I devoured her words. I found in some ways that I couldn’t relate, as I’m not yet pregnant with Finley’s little brother or sister, and yet in a lot of ways it felt as though she was speaking to my heart.
Thoughts on trying again were inevitable. The urge to hold my own child seemed endless, forceful and growing with strength everyday my arms were empty…
After we lost our first child my arms literally ached to be a mommy to a living child. Of course, I missed my daughter beyond words, but I longed to be a mommy again, feel new life growing inside, and hold my own child. I had empty-arm syndrome and it was every bit emotional pain, as it was physical.”
I’m not sure if these feelings are the same for every grieving mother, or if the feelings are somehow slightly different for those who lose their first(and only) child. But her feelings seem to perfectly mirror my own.
Occasionally I wonder about the reason why Finley died. Obviously it was a horrible circumstance that nobody could have predicted, but as I’m sure any baby lost mum can relate, I feel immense guilt over everything that happened. I wonder if I did something wrong in order for things to end up this way. And in the same token, I wonder what makes me deserve to try again when things went so horribly wrong. That, and the fear that if it was just a random, unfortunate occurrence, how I can possibly look at pregnancy the same again? Fran says "I was afraid. I was afraid of bonding, falling madly in love all over again, and losing what I knew I could not live without… I know and knew then that happy endings were not a guarantee. I was skeptical about miracles.” How can I ever let myself make a plan and have so much hope and love for something, someone, when I know how easily and quickly it can be snatched away?
I try to convince myself that losing another child couldn’t possibly happen to us. Even the doctors tell me that the likelihood of it happening again is next to nothing. But I can’t help thinking that the chances of it happening to Finley were next to nothing. We had a perfectly normal, healthy baby boy. He died because of circumstances regarding his difficult birth.
"I knew how many things could go wrong in such a short amount of time. I knew that nothing is guaranteed, which is why it always frustrated me beyond measure when others would try to reassure me, and silence my fears by saying ‘Everything is going to be okay.’
No one can possibly know that. No one.”
Who is to say that we couldn’t be in the extreme minority of people that this happens to twice? People tell me that I will be looked with greater care in the next pregnancy. My care in the first was very in depth - 9 ultrasounds, weekly monitoring. It wasn’t the pregnancy that was the problem, it was the birth; yet pregnancy is what scares me. The idea of falling in love and bonding. The idea of another soul-destroying loss.
Somehow Fran managed to come up with a beautiful mantra that she repeated to herself throughout her third pregnancy (her second after the loss of her daughter). "I deserve this. It is okay to dream. It is okay to hope. Pregnancy can and will be beautiful - for as many days as that may be." She told herself everything that I am afraid to hope for. The key to it all though is the last part – “for as many days as that may be.” My pregnancy with Finley was beautiful. It brought so much joy and hope into my life. Despite the fact that he had to leave us much earlier than we ever could have expected, I would never wish to go back and undo any of it. I suppose that is the way I need to try and look at any future pregnancies.
"The risk [of another loss] was daunting, but never enough to think about not trying again for us. Looking back I don’t know what we would have done if it had [happened again]. It, no doubt, would have been the end of me.”
And yet despite all of this, like Fran, not trying again isn’t an option. I am trying my best to look toward the future of having a family and children running around. The guilt I feel for Finley is immense, as though by having another baby it will somehow make me forget him, though I know that isn’t true.
When Fran speaks of the birth of her son she says:
"I was able to hold him for a bit. Hear his cry.
Yes. This is how it was supposed to be.
I began to cry as he let out his first sound in this world. The nurse asked me if I was alright.
Oh yes, more than alright. Perfect, actually. I just nodded, and smiled through tears.
I didn’t say anything. I only longed to hold him again. Hold my own child. The child I so longed for, so loved and so hoped for. The child that would restore so much hope and love into my heart and world
These are the moments that I hope for when I think of getting pregnant again. It fills me with so much fear and hope all at once.