I sat at a large table in a conference room. I knew I was there for bad news. I knew it as I followed the nurse down the hall. Before they even began, they asked about the death of my first son. My third-born was across the hospital, hooked up to countless machines, keeping him alive. They were about to show me scans of his brain. I was about to see a gray mass of inactivity….
But before they told me he was dying….
Before sharing that there was nothing else they could do….
They asked about my firstborn. They asked how he died. They asked if there was any genetic reason this could be happening to me a second time.
There was no reason. No explainable cause. Both of my sons died from brain injuries. Both of them experienced horrible brain trauma. But otherwise, their deaths had nothing in common. No genetic cause. Nothing that science could prevent in the future.
They wanted to know…. they wanted ME to know…. just in case I have more children.
I stared the doctor straight in the eyes as I told her, “I had my tubes tied.”
Her face fell. She looked down at her lap. I heard her associate’s breath catch. The hope they wanted to give me, about my life moving forward, had failed them. My beautiful baby, dying in the other room, was to be my last. They told me how sorry they were. They stumbled over their words, as they found their way to the point….
My 6 week old son was dying. His brain was 90% inactive. And he was only being kept alive by the machines attached to him.
Hearing that I was facing the death of another son was devastating. I will never forget that cold conference room. I will never forget the way I felt when I pieced together that it wasn’t “if”, but “when”. And I will never forget the looks on their faces, when they realized that I had taken away my own ability to have more children.
It was a thing I heard quickly after both boys died…. “Are you going to have another?” After Lincoln, I said yes, and watched relief spark in the asker’s eyes. After Liam, I said I had a tubal, and watched the person asking try to grasp for something hopeful to say. In both cases, every time I heard that question, my heart dropped deep down in my stomach.
What does it matter? Does having another child erase this nightmare? Does another pregnancy take this pain away? Will holding another baby in my arms, make me miss my sons any less?
I can say from experience, that the answer is no. I have one living son, born 2 years after Lincoln died. He didn’t take my pain away. Even after he got here, I still cried at night for his older brother. My middle son was never a replacement. He was an addition. And I will never get to see him interact with his big brother. Now that Liam is gone too, and my tubes are tied, I’m not certain if I’m going to do this again. I’ve done my research. I needed to know that I had options, just in case I change my mind. But even if I do, it won’t change what I’ve been through. It won’t heal the trauma of my two sons dying.
The thought of having more children is absolutely terrifying to me. I never imagined that things would turn out this way. I never would have expected that life could be cruel enough to take another son from me. And everything has changed now. I know nothing is stopping it from happening again. I feel as though my life is meant to be that of the bereaved. I fear more death. That is my reality.
So before you ask a grieving mom when they’ll have another, please know that we are all different. Some of us have had our tubes tied or removed. Some tried for years for the baby they lost, and suffer from infertility. Some choose not to have any more children. When you ask a bereaved mother when they’re having another baby, you may not be providing hope and comfort. You may be reminding them of all that they will never have.
What grieving moms need, is love and support right where they are. Here and now, for their empty, aching arms.