Right after Josh died, we didn’t know what we wanted. I didn’t really want to think about another baby someday. My body was still making milk for the baby that wasn’t here. I didn’t want to even consider the question seriously until Joshua’s one year birthday, but of course it was on my mind a lot. I knew I could be content with our other two beautiful children and I also knew that no matter what, there would always be a hole in our family where Josh should be, no other baby would “fix” us losing Josh.
We debated adoption or having another biological child. We knew that another pregnancy wouldn’t mean any higher risks for a baby with defects, but it was still scary. But I’ve been on a journey or a mission of sorts, in my life. A mission to not live in fear. I didn’t want my fear to keep us from adding another child to our family.
So here we are, I’m officially starting my second trimester. So far, baby looks healthy. However, this pregnancy after losing our son Joshua is different than our pregnancies before infant loss.
#1. I don’t assume or take for granted this babies health. I see more clearly what an absolute miracle each child is that is born when you consider every process that has to work seamlessly together to grow a baby. Our genetic counselor explained that for babies like Joshua, if our DNA is a book, then if the dot of one “i” is missing in the entire book, it can cause problems. One tiny piece of the puzzle, or even half the dot of the “i”, if it’s missing, can mean the difference between life and death.
#2 My hope isn’t dependent on my babies health. What’s the response when people ask whether you want a boy or a girl? Most people will say, rather self righteously, “Oh I don’t care about the gender, as long as my baby is healthy.” What if your baby isn’t healthy? Josh taught me that as devastating and gut wrenching it is to learn of health issues and birth defects in your baby, I’m going to love that baby no matter what. I’m still going to think that baby is perfect and beautiful. So while of course, I hope this baby is healthy, I also know that if he/she isn’t, we will deal with it. We will still love him/her. God will still be with us.
#3 This is not my rainbow baby. Some people like to call their healthy baby after pregnancy or infant loss, their “rainbow baby”. It’s a term that implies that this baby is a rainbow after a storm. I’m not upset with people who embrace this term, I just personally can’t. Joshua was not a “storm” to be weathered. He was my precious child and just as much of a gift as my other children. Are we implying that only healthy babies and pregnancies count as rainbows of God’s blessing and promise?
#4 I’ve never been more ready to hold my baby in my arms. It’s hard to end your family on loss. To have all of your most recent memories of pregnancy and childbirth and babies to be ones of trauma and heartbreak and loss. For your last experience holding one of your babies to be holding their cold body against yours and instead of tracking milestones, remembering how long it’s been since you’ve buried them. It’s still hard for me to hold babies or go to baby showers. I’ve heard a common phenomenom among mothers who give birth and have their baby die, is called “aching arms”. Their arms physically ache for the baby they can’t hold. I don’t know if I’ve ever been more ready to feel the weight of my chunky newborn in my arms.
I realized very concretely during our 12 week ultrasound, that even with the news and promise of another healthy baby, this baby would never replace Joshua. I realized how badly I still wanted my one armed, one eyed baby with the most incredible fighting spirit. I’ll never stop wanting him and wishing he was here to be taken care of by his big brother and sister and soon, little brother or sister.
I love the song, “I get to be the one” by JJ Heller. While I don’t get to watch Joshua grow up, I am the lucky one, cause I got to be the one. The one who carried him for 9 months, the one who got to call him son. The one who held his hand through surgeries and bottle feedings. The one to see his smile light up the room and cuddle with him skin to skin. I will always be grateful that I got to be the one.
So as we look forward to welcoming another sweet baby into our family, I’ll forever carry Joshua forward with me, through every ultrasound, through every family portrait. Josh will be there, because we, his family, will be carrying him with us.