I know I’ve mentioned a couple of phrases or questions that make me cringe, but today I’m going to address one that I loathe. I’m a firm believer in forgiveness, so if you’ve asked this question to me or someone else, I forgive you. You don’t need to email me to apologize for it. You don’t need to comment saying that you had no idea this was hurtful. You just need to never ask it again. Ever. Why? Two reasons. 1) You have zero idea the reproductive history of the person you’re asking (even if you think you do–miscarriages and infertility are not always obvious) and 2) It is none of your business.
“Are you going to have any more children?”
Variations include “When are you all going to have kids?” “When is So-and-so going to become a big brother?”
When someone asks me when Benji is going to be a big brother, I just say “It’s not that easy for us” and move on. I’d like to hand them a copy of what I’ve written below…
Besides burying my son, being pregnant with his brother was the most terrifying experience of my life. I can’t speak for other parents out there, but I think when something takes the life of one of your children, you live with a fear that something awful will happen to the one(s) you have left. I’m convinced that fear never really goes away, but I think, for me, the worst of it is behind me. “The worst of it” left me clinically depressed and underweight. If you’ve seen me lately, you’d know I’ve managed to overcome one of those things.
At ten weeks pregnant, we were in the center of town raising money for the children’s home when I had a major hemorrhage. We flagged down an out-of-service cab, headed for the hospital, and called my doctor–that succession of events sounds way less frantic and scattered than it was, trust me. I cried on the way there. I sobbed when I saw my doctor (the same doctor who delivered Silas) and she assured me that sometimes this kind of thing happens.
To my absolute shock, the ultrasound confirmed that our baby was okay. It also confirmed that something wasn’t quite right and I was sent home with orders to get in bed and stay there. The next six weeks were iffy, at best. I’d have a few good days when it would seem like everything was normal, then I’d have a couple of days when I was certain no baby could survive what my body was doing to it. Because I was so scared of losing our baby, I had a very hard time connecting with it.
I’m not sure when it happened, but the lonely days laying in bed started to get to me. Blake continued teaching classes and serving as the interim minister at a local church. He tried to be with me as much as he could, but it was never enough. I was terrified that something would happen every time he left the house. The four walls of our bedroom felt like a prison cell. I read books. I watched t.v. I posted on message boards. I did everything I could to keep my mind off of my situation, but it didn’t work.
Not knowing what was happening inside of my body was so difficult. Being powerless to prevent another tragedy was maddening. I couldn’t sleep at night, afraid something would happen while I was sleeping. I couldn’t eat. Instead of starting to gain pregnancy weight, I lost fifteen pounds. I wanted to eat for the baby, but I could only stomach a few spoonfuls of mashed potatoes or a few sips of Gatorade. I got what felt like a stomach virus a couple of times, but I’m convinced now that it was just nerves. Even though I don’t believe God deals with death, I begged God to take me if the baby didn’t make it. That way, I reasoned, I could be with both of my babies. When I started wondering if I even wanted to live if the baby didn’t make it, I probably should have told someone. But I didn’t. I continued to suffer in silence.
Going to the clinic for appointments was a nightmare. Before each one, I’d have to walk past the room where Silas was born, the nursery he never slept in, and down the hall to the room where my doctor first couldn’t find his heartbeat. We’d find our way to the waiting area and I would stare at the floor, shaking. Blake would hand me his phone to play on or take my hand in his own, but it didn’t help. One time we heard a baby crying down the hall. I sat there choking down silent sobs, tears running down my hollow face.
At my last appointment before I returned to the United States, my doctor handed me a prescription for Zoloft. I was grateful that she took note of my tormented state and did something about it. I was relieved that the burden of suffering from depression and anxiety was no longer an untreated secret. I knew I needed help.
That’s a snapshot of what pregnancy after loss (PAL) looks like. Every moment of it is terrifying, as you try to appreciate what you have at any given moment. For me, the struggle was worth it and I have sweet Benji now. Sadly, not everyone gets a happy ending to their PAL. Lightning does strike twice, three times. It’s heart-breaking and it’s unfair.
Will Blake and I have more children one day? It’s just not that easy.