Friday, May 15, 2009

Summer solstice

After Lucia died, six months seemed like such an impossibly long time away. June?

It will never come.

June is warm. June is beautiful. June is summer. I couldn’t conceive of where I would be in my life, my healing, or my grief. I measured my mood based on the hour, even a day seemed too long. Lucy died and was born on winter solstice. December, I could conceive of nothing warm. Everything was much too icy, much too cold, much too dark and lonely; the sun seemed lifetimes away.

Six months later was summer solstice, the polar opposite of Lucy’s day. I have these markers forever, and I suspect that I will attach my grieving to those days rather than to a date on the calendar. Summer solstice, would I be on the opposite side of my emotions as well? I had no idea. Now, six months has become a different marker of sorts. Not simply because half a year will have passed since Lucy died, which is its own pain, but also because it is the time when our midwives and high risk OB told us we can start trying to conceive again.


I’m not one of those women who left the hospital thinking I would try again. Ever. “I will never have another child.” I said to Sam, staring into the beautiful eyes of my husband. The ultrasound technician and the nurses and the midwives and the doctors had left the room to give us space after telling us our baby was dead. “I’m sorry, love, but I can’t.” I cried softly into his shoulder, repeating “I’m sorry.” And he held me repeating the words, “I know, Angie, I know.”

In the next few weeks, and months, I would periodically say it to him, just to remind him not to get any funny thoughts. “I’m not sure I will ever have another child, Sam. Do you understand?” And he would answer, “I will be sad, but I will understand.”

Some days, I mourn for all my possible children, not just Lucy. I cannot imagine ever being pregnant again. I don’t ever want to be pregnant again. I always wanted two girls. I have two girls, even if one is dead. Even if one can’t run and play, she is still a daughter I birthed. She is still a girl I birthed and is my daughter. Does it only count if they breathe?

I think sometimes this is why I don’t have shadow issues, like some babylost mamas, with pregnant women and babies, because it is not something for which I am longing. I want MY baby, my Lucy, my beautiful beautiful Lucia. I don’t want another baby. I don’t want a new baby to remind me of my loss. I don’t want to push my luck. I appreciate the child I have. I don’t want to move on, have a “rainbow” baby…I want to be whole again. I want to be a whole person. A good mother. A stable daughter. I’m not sure I can do that with a newborn. And yet, I fully understand when other women focus on trying again. It is an impulse that is just below the surface of not wanting to ever again. Sometimes I’m afraid if I scratch that veneer, I will desperately want another child I may never get.

All of these thoughts sometimes make me feel very Other in this community and outside of it. People say things that I know are meant to comfort, but that ache in me. Friends who say it would be a travesty if I don’t have another baby, since I am such a good mother. (I DID HAVE A BABY!) People that interpret my dreams to mean I am destined to have another living child. Acquaintances that assume I would be trying again, as soon as I get the green light. Other people that tell me it is fear, cowardly, to not try again. Even my first grief therapist refused to accept that I didn’t want to have more children, she would repeat like a positive birth loss therapist mantra, “Some women wait as long as a year before trying again.” The metatext simply being: But they always try again.

Truth be told, I haven’t really read many stories of women who go on to decide not to have any more children. I have read stories of infertility, of painful decisions, of not conceiving easily after loss, but to choose not to have another child, it seems strange, even to me. I decided to have Lucy, why not decide to have another baby that lives?

It is not simply that she might not live. It is NOT fear, though for a while I thought it was. It is just that my heart isn’t in it. I imagine going back to square one with grief. Square one with child rearing. Square one with being out of work (being a stay at home mom is a sacrifice I chose to make for a limited time.) I imagine if something were to happen to child number three, would I, could I, still be a good mother to Beatrice, or a good wife to Sam? It’s not just about me; it is also about them.

I do not take this decision lightly. I remember my midwives, like a hippie Greek chorus, saying, “Some women just chose to forgo birth control and see what happens.” To use birth control, or not use birth control…it is very tempting to leave it up to the Fates.

I think about having another baby all the time, even if it seems like my decision is made already. Molly once said to me, “I thought hard about my decision to have children, and now I resent having to make that decision again.” And I have thought that too. I resent having to make this decision again. But the truth is, I thought it would happen that one day I would wake up, and say, “I need to have another baby.” That my body would want it. That I would know, deep within my soul, that another baby is the right decision. But that hasn’t fucking happened yet. Will it ever happen? Did it happen to you?

I catch myself, every now and again, imagining my full belly, moving with baby, and the expectation. I think of baby names constantly. I paint pictures of Bea and Lucy and imagine what our family portrait will be in a few years. I think about the women I know who are pregnant—there are many many of them (nine at last count), and remember what that was like—pregnant with my first, pregnant with my second. The happiest times of my life. I think of Beatrice with her little sister, and I get choked up and sad. She deserves a sister, or brother. I think of breast feeding, and baby smells, and then...I also can’t go there. Not completely. It always stops. Something stops me.

On the longest day of the year, I will begin making the toughest decision of my life. I know I don’t have to make this decision now, every therapist I have seen, every person I have talked to, says that to me. It’s not that I don’t appreciate that sentiment. It is good to be reminded that I have flexibility and choice in this. It is that it is out there lingering. It is eating me up. I want to know if I should begin mentally preparing for this next phase of our life. Baby after loss. I also don’t know if getting pregnant will be easy. I am 35, that bullshit magic age. I want to start trying now, if I am going to try again.

Sometimes, despite my logical, non-superstitious, non-fate-believing mind, I want to consult the Oracle of Delphi. I want the hallucinogenic smoke to waft over an altar, and a half-crazed woman in long flowing gowns and crazy gypsy hair screaming and high to tell me what the gods have in store for me. I want someone to read my tarot cards, my astrological forecast, my aura.

I want someone to tell me what to do. I've made too many decisions since December. Is that too much to ask?


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. Wow Angie, you really made me think. I can relate to you on many of these points. I say the same thing to Shanti Papa, to prepare him for what I might decide. I am also at that 6 month mark and have yet to make a decision. That 35 thing is breathing down my neck and it is stressing me out. I'm just healing and letting this settle for now.

  3. Oh drats. Thinking I had copied it to paste it, I deleted my comment because I saw a spelling error...but I didn't copy it. RRRG.

    I can understand a bit of this struggle Angie. I hate that we even have to be thinking about these things - making this decisions.

  4. Angie,
    I remember a couple things that were said to me shortly after I lost E. One came from my friend, who happens to be an OB/GYN: "You'll try again right? You can't allow this pain to be your last memory of having children." The other came from a woman who lost her third child more than twenty years ago and went onto have at least one more child: "I always knew I wasn't about to replace the one I lost. But, I know wouldn't have my subsequent children otherwise. I cannot imagine life without any one of my children." Both of these statements inspire me and haunt me.
    For me, I don't want something or somebody else making this decision for me. I want to decide when I'm done. I've often said that I can't replace E. I know that. But, I wanted another baby. One that I could hold and raise alongside my other living children. That desire hasn't faded because E died. I don't know that I would have felt I was finished having children even if E had lived. I've always taken my children one at a time.
    I know I've provided no answer for you, but I also realize that just isn't possible. I do have a lot of fear, so I cannot say that my journey is or will be easy. Regardless of what you decide, I'm certain you'll factor in everything that's important to you and make your decision based upon your own values and desires.

  5. Angie, thank you for writing this post. It has really made me think. My main concern about having another child is, as you so eloquently put it, that my heart would not be in it. Not like it was the first time. I cannot be the mother that I could have been, should have been, would have been. I'm not the wife that I was. I'm not the daughter that I was. I'm broken now. I'm sad all the time.
    The decision seems so complicated that I can't think about it. And I now have an appreciation that it isn't really my decision to make. I can 'decide' that I will try to have another child but other forces will decide whether I get to keep my children.
    I hope you can come to the right decision for you and your family. Thank you for writing this. xo

  6. This is such a thought-provoking piece.

    I wonder why there is the assumption made by so many that you WOULD want to have another baby? If there is one thing being part of this community has really confirmed to me, it's how different we all are, us women.

    Keep doing what feels right for you, Angie.


  7. "Some days, I mourn for all my possible children, not just Lucy. I cannot imagine ever being pregnant again.... Does it only count if they breathe?"

    Our daughters count Angie. Do they ever count. Their life in our womb changes everything. One thing that always strikes me in your writing is your ability to connect with what is in your own soul. Whatever you decide, I believe, will be your soul choice.

  8. Angie,
    I am so sorry you are going through this. I completely understand. Do what you want and can handle. Follow your heart. People don't truly understand that have not been in our shoes. They think it is so easy to "just try again". I am in the same spot as you. Thinking of you.

  9. I always felt that 6 months was too short.

    Sure, technically in medical world you can get pregnant again. Surely our well-fed ancestors did. But a whole pregnancy is hard and draining on the body and emotions. Add to that so much grief. I think grief has been terribly hard on my body - it is far from recuperated on that front yet, over a year out.

    I also felt that Serenity should have her year. I didn't want o be pregnant at that mark.

    I felt I needed to heal more before I could even think about this decision again. Now, I still feel like I am dragging my feet to take the plunge and ttc.

    Take your time. The decision to wait to see is not irreversible.

  10. "I want someone to tell me what to do."

    Sounds like you already have plenty of that! I think others feel more comfortable with a pregnancy story that ends with a living baby and they think that we will heal once that live baby arrives.

    It took about a year before I started to think about trying again. Then my husband left. Now I don't know if I'll ever have a live baby.

    It is a very big decision and I wish you the best of luck and love while you consider what will be best for you and your family.

  11. It's all so bloody hard. Thinking of you & Lucia.

  12. Maybe the decision was easier for me ...
    I want a living child.
    It's that simple.
    But I can't just keep having babies who die. This is my third pregnancy and I hope this child will live, but if he doesn't, we won't be having more.
    The decision is different for everyone.

  13. oh angie, i remember that 6 month mark too. thought it would never come, so far away. then it came and we started trying again because we could and because i'm now 37, so we had no luxury of waiting til i felt ready. and because we started trying now three years ago and still don't have a living child. i think it would be very different for me if i was already a mom to a living child. that is something i need in this lifetime. i want lev. but he's not here. and even if i do have a living child one day he/she will never replace my first beautiful boy.

    i am scared of being pregnant again. so scared of going through it all again for nothing. and i'm more scared of never being a mom to a living child. being pregnant the happiest time of my life and losing him has really fucked me up.

    for me i feel like i have no choice, it's not a decision. i have to keep trying.

  14. Speaking of what dreams mean, a few weeks ago I had a dream where you went away on a trip with Sam and KellyAnn in January '10, and came back unexpectedly pregnant and ecstatic, glowing. The dream-you was experiencing this incredible relief and excitement, giddiness...I didn't mention it then because I could see what my subconscious was doing, when it produced the dream: it was "curing" you of your grief and loss with a new pregnancy. Everything you and your community testify to is that there is no such cure.

    But your own incisive mind paired with your huge, kind heart shows me that you are your own wise woman (crazy hair and all?), and that you will with careful thinking like you display here reach that point of rest, of clarity, of knowing either when it is time to try or when it is time to settle in. It must be exhausting to add that prolonged decisionmaking to all the other demands of grief and life, and I wish I could give you a steady drip of energy to help sustain you.

    And finally, bless that Sam. Such good loving.

  15. I wish I could tell you what to do to make it easier for you, but only you know what's best for you. It's complicated no matter what you decide. I hope you come to a resolution you are at peace with.

  16. (((Angie)))

    No matter what decision you make or when you make it, I will support you and love you. I think it's brave to move on and try for another baby, but I also think it's quite brave to not do so. Living and loving Bea and Lucy and Sam is a brave and loving choice.

    While the babylost community is close and supportive, we still all grief separately and in our own way. Finding your own path and making your own choices, it sucks. I often think it would be easier if there was some kind of formula. Do x, y and z and you'll recover, feel better, stop aching. Bah. It just isn't that way.

    For me personally it's getting harder and harder to think of having another baby. Initially I was so sure I would try again. Now I am so unsure. If I could see the future, see a positive outcome, maybe I would do it. I just don't know...

  17. Angie, there are others who have dec'd not to have another baby, so you are not alone. I can totally understand your sentiments, and will abide with you, no matter what you decide on.
    ((hugs)) thinking of you and Lucia mightily. xoxo

  18. Oh Angie,

    This sounds like me. Like us an the conversations I have had with my husband since Alice died.

    I cannot decide what to do - we are trying, kind of. But I am not sure if I want to? And I am not sure if I don't want to.

    I also wanted two girls and that's what I have. I am just torn about what to do now. Things all changed the day Alice was born and then died.

    I am waiting for an answer...

    I hope you find your way. xxx

  19. I could have written this post except that I lost my first child. My 6 month mark was Saturday. I don't want another child, I want my daughter! I was told by my doctor that we could try again as soon as we wanted to, but right now, I don't know if I will ever want to...and I am about to turn 34 so the clock is ticking so to speak. I wish it were easier and that Lucia was here with you.

  20. I think each of us chooses what we feel we can live with in our hearts. Only you know the right answer for you and your life. We all have different needs and wants and different grief over the loss of our babies. Do what you think will help to heal your heart. If that means closing the door on any future children for now, than do that. It doesn't mean you can't open it later, if you change your mind.


  21. Oh Angie, this is such a hard decision. For me, the thought of living in this limbo state of childless parenthood was more unbearable and scary than the terror of trying again to have a child that lived. But I'm struggling every day, desperately angry and sad that my first child, my daughter will never be here with me, confused at who this next person might be, terrified I'm too broken to finally mother a child if he or she actually makes it. It's a knotty, tangled mess.


What do you think?