No Child Can Replace Another Child. Expecting Strong Baby 3.September 11, 2016 by Victoria Strong
I am now six months pregnant with our third sweet baby girl. And I am filled with utter joy about her. I have hesitated to write some of this because it is murky and nuanced. I never want this tiny child to question for one minute that she was nothing but good. Because she is. Completely. And I have never taken for granted, for one second, the tremendous gift of her growing life.
But it isn't quite that simple.
Babies are the definition of joy. And a wanted pregnancy is nothing but goodness and love and hope.
But pregnancy after loss is complicated. Pregnancy with a genetic disease is complicated. Heck, pregnancy at forty is complicated. And this pregnancy has been very different for me.
From the moment we hoped for her, I have worried. I worried about her health. About the "rare" things. About worries that can't be detected. I worried about miscarriage. About stillbirth. About those things that "just happen" sometimes. I worried. I worry still.
For months, I was paralyzed by those fears. I was filled with wonder and amazement at the miracle of growing a human being, while simultaneously I was afraid to hope too much. To say anything out loud. Petrified that if I shared our little miracle, somehow the other shoe would drop. My heart races in sharing these thoughts now.
Rationally, I know worrying about "what ifs" does nothing positive. But none of these worries are abstract notions for me. I know too much and too many people who are the statistics, who have experienced these heartbreaks, sometimes heartbreak after heartbreak, to brush aside worries with simplistic answers. I understand on a deep level the fragility of life, especially a child's. I know too well the shattering devastation of loss... and I just don't know if my still very broken and fragile heart can take any more.
Nevertheless, life can't be orchestrated into comfortable predetermined paths of our choosing. And although we've prepared as much as we can (she does not have SMA), at some point when creating a human being, when becoming a parent, when choosing to consciously live our one wondrous life fully, we must take a leap of faith.
While I've come to a calm about what the future holds, there is still an undercurrent of fear that I've somewhat mentally rearranged into hope. I don't hope for perfection by any means. (A "designer baby" to me is one who survives childhood.) But I do hope for health - for all of us. I know we will rise to the occasion and tackle head on whatever obstacle we must face; I just hope we don't have to face serious health issues again. Because it is hard. The hardest thing in the world.
Before we announced the baby news, I also worried people would judge or over simplify or, God forbid, believe we were only having this baby because we lost Gwendolyn and were somehow trying to "replace" her.
No child can replace another child. And while I am filled with joy for this third little babe, I am still filled with grief over losing my first. For me, they are two separate entities. Grief over losing Gwendolyn resides in one part of my heart and joy for this baby in another. Having another baby in no way dusts up the messiness of our life or undoes the pain or means we are turning the page on the "Gwendolyn chapter." Gwendolyn will always be part of our family. She will always be the big sister. She will always be counted and thought of and talked about. Always.
Instead of judgment, however, we've been greeted with genuine happiness that we get to experience such a pure joy in our lives in the midst of sorrow. Though I initially felt fearful, there has been no whitewashing or tidying up of our story to "turn the page." And, most heartening of all, I have been so relieved to feel a concerted effort by so many to acknowledge Gwendolyn in this pregnancy.
A friend gently correcting a stranger asking about what they perceived as my second pregnancy, letting them know it is actually my third, so I don't have to. An acquaintance asking, "How is the third pregnancy different?" or basking with me about the blessing of "three children." And special, mindful comments about Gwendolyn being part of this baby's life now and in the future are both healing and validating of the way we think of this sacred relationship.
This has all mattered so much to me to have Gwendolyn remain in other's minds as part of our family unit. For all of this, I am so grateful. And, thank goodness, no one has been insensitive or naive enough to believe a new baby will somehow help me "get over" losing my first baby... at least they haven't verbalized this out loud.
Recently, a friend said to me that having a baby takes real courage. And it does, for anyone. And, yet, we humans do it over and over and over again, willingly laying our tender hearts out in the wild. Knowing our vulnerability in doing so. Because of love. Breathtaking pure love.
This baby, my third, already has all of me. Just as my other two precious girls always will.