Hard Advice for those Trying to Conceive

Many women who have lost a child see having another baby as the next step in their healing. While I do agree with this, I also caution women and couples not to jump too hastily into TTC (trying to conceive). Instead, I encourage spending a good quantity of time devoted to grief and healing before trying again.

Our culture favors instant gratification and aims to avoid pain at all costs – but healing a broken heart is not a quick fix (a band-aid will not do the trick) or something to be avoided (we may metaphorically bleed out if not attended to). Even though the cliché saying “Time heals all wounds” makes us who have lost a child gag, there is a seed of truth to be found within that statement – although I’m sure this is not what any of us want to hear.

As soon as I lost my son Zachary, I wanted to get pregnant right away. This urge must be innate in us ladies. We dream of being a mother and prepare for it from childhood, caring for plastic-faced fluff-filled dolls, yet when these dreams are snatched away by death our first instinct is to chase after this vision for our lives with unrelenting passion. Helpless to protect our lost child, it is easy to crave another life to champion.

After Zachary’s death, our high risk obstetrician recommended waiting a year before having another child for “emotional reasons.” I was outraged. Asking our family doctor the same question, “How long should we wait to try again?” she responded, “Any time, it is healing to have another child.” I hastily rejected the obstetrician’s recommendation in favor of our family doctor’s opinion.

My hope for a child right away was thwarted by the nine months of genetic testing our family endured. My husband and I did not want to risk losing another child in the chance we would pass on a familial genetic condition so we waited for the final verdict before trying again.

In many ways this wait was torture. On the other hand it was my salvation.

Nine months, the length of time it takes to make a baby, was how long it took to discover that no faulty gene was passed on from my husband or I; that our son’s death was a random occurrence as the genetic counselor put it. Hence, baby making could begin and I was thrilled. It was also at that time that I looked back at my earlier self, reflecting on where I was then, emotionally and mentally, compared to where I was now.

It was as clear as a summer day, I was not ready to get pregnant and have another baby back when the loss of my son was so fresh. I thought I was ready – but I wasn’t. Obviously everyone is different and there are valid reasons why waiting may not be an option – but please, be honest with yourself after the death of your child. Are you really ready?

Having another baby is not the solution to your heartache – healing your heart is the answer.

Since recently having my son Eden after the loss of my son Zachary, this truth has been confirmed to me a million times over. I had imagined myself never taking a day for granted, exuding patience, and enduring the challenges of early newborn days with serenity and calmness as this is the child I had prayed for.

Yet, parenting after loss has proved more challenging than I had envisioned. I often feel guilty for lapses in patience and gratitude on tough days. I can only imagine how much more difficult this journey would be if I had not first labored through grief, rebuilding the foundation of my life with healing and time. I am so thankful now that I had not rushed into pregnancy immediately following my loss.

There is no magic period of time to wait before trying again. If you have grieved and grown, sought healing and regained hope, you will know when the time is right.

After losing a child, it is easy to idealize giving birth and raising another baby. While being a parent is the greatest blessing I do wholeheartedly believe, it is our job as parents to be as emotionally healthy as possible for our children. Readiness to be a parent looks different from person to person and especially following loss, the idea of being “ready” is murky. For me, it took nine months of waiting for our test results to come to the point of self-reflection and growth needed and another nine focused months of growing my child while constantly doing the work of grief to prepare me for his arrival.

Still, there are moments I lose my patience, where I cave to despair in my sleep deprived brain, where triggers of the loss of Zachary crush me with sadness.

Healing is a journey, a process, an evolution. It should not be rushed or ignored or saved for later. I encourage you, before deciding to make a new life, take the time to mourn and grow – any future children you have deserve the love that this patient season will harvest.

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