Trying Again

I’m not meaning to be rude, but I don’t think it’s anyone’s place to ask if Bill and I are “trying again” yet. It’s a deeply personal question that now comes with so many emotions tied so tightly to it. On the one hand, if we are not ready, then you’ve probably upset us by asking. On the other, if we are ready for another baby, the question “are you trying again?” doesn’t fit the situation. Of course this is just my take, but I think it’s an angle most people don’t see.

I was reading a few articles and blog posts recently about “trying again” after stillbirth.* When I read those words, it always hits me deep down – it’s not really “trying again.” Every month for 18 months, we tried again and again. And again. Again. And finally conceived last April. Then it all came to a very abrupt end only a week later in miscarriage. Given the all clear by the doctors to “try again” during my next cycle, we did. And then again the next. And the next. And there I was, pregnant, again. This was truly “trying again”, because our first glory baby didn’t “take” or “stick” or whatever you want to call it.

But Joanna did.

She “took” and she “stuck” and she grew.

Joanna, my miracle. Nearly two years of trying again, month after month. One miscarriage. And there, two pink lines. I was so excited. I wrapped up the Disney baby clothes we’d purchased a year before in NYC (an act of hope, that good things were coming our way). I stuffed the pregnancy test in the bottom. I set the bag on the table and waited for Bill to get home from work. As I sat, I doubted. This baby could be gone in a week as well. This baby could make it 8 or 9 weeks and then be gone. What if this baby is not mine to keep?

Back track. I took the items out of the bag I’d so carefully wrapped them in. Put it all away. Sat on the couch, positive test in hand, begging God for this baby to stay with me. Anxious. Scared. A wreck. Those words don’t quite cut it.

When Bill finally got home from work, there was no gift bag. There wasn’t even a cheer. A smile. Not until I could see his face react. I handed him the test. He looked at me, a little unsure. I said, “We are having a baby,” which came out more like a question than an exclamation. He smiled, calmly, laughed a little, and hugged me.

His smile said, “It’s OK!” And it said, “Be brave, my love.” This baby is going to make it.

And she did. For a while.

About 26 weeks. The best 6.5 months of my life.

But here is the simple truth of stillbirth: when your baby dies, you don’t “try again.”

You knew this baby. You saw this baby’s face. Saw her heart beating. Saw her arms and legs flailing around inside you.

You felt her moving. Kicking. Punching. Rolling. She grew, and you grew with her.

You held her on her birthday. You counted fingers and toes. You stroked her little nose and you cuddled and kissed and rocked her. You sang her special lullaby.

“Trying again” is something you do when you haven’t met your child. When you haven’t held her in your arms. When you haven’t had to decide to cremate your daughter. To have or not have a service or memorial. When you haven’t made a memory box full of sympathy cards.

“Trying again” is for when you haven’t spent the last five months cuddling a stuffed elephant because you need something of hers to fill your aching, empty arms. Not for those who labor and deliver in the same physical pain as any other pregnancy, but in terrible emotional anguish as well. Not for those who enter the hospital full and leave empty. Who go home to empty nurseries. Empty cribs.

“Trying again” is not for those who have to prevent milk from coming in with compression, rather than praying there would be enough to fulfill tiny infant needs.

To me, “try again” is for those who don’t know – the innocent. You’re a mother from conception, but you don’t know what it feels like [what it is, how you’ll miss] holding your baby in your arms.

Joanna is our firstborn and not replaceable by “trying again.” Any other children are siblings; they won’t bring Joana back. They won’t fill the hole that is a permanent part of my heart.

Finally, to me, “trying again” feels like an implication of failure. It’s taken me a long time to work beyond the feelings that I was the failure, so I don’t need this type of language to take me back to where I don’t want to be.

I did not fail. Joanna was perfect. I love her. There is no failure in that.

So, when we do discuss more children, we ask “should we have another baby?” or “are we ready to have baby brother/sister?” – but never “are we ready to try again?”

*Please note: I am not meaning to offend or upset anyone. These are my personal feelings based on my motherhood journey through infertility, miscarriage and stillbirth. Every situation is different. Every pregnancy is different. Each person will feel differently.


7 thoughts on “Trying Again

  1. Anonymous says:

    Carol, reading your blog and crying. Lentil has been born 6 months ago today. You cannot have said it better. On one hand I am glad that so many people don’t get it – because they never went through loosing their child and I am happy for them but I wish people would get it and won’t ask questions or say stupid things without having to experience the stillbirth and just by being a little bit tactful… It is not that much to ask.

  2. Adrienne says:

    I’m really touched and inspired by your posts. Thank you for sharing such intimate parts of your family’s journey. I am praying for your healing to continue.

  3. Mom says:

    People don’t say things to be mean or try to upset you. It’s just that you and Bill are probably the first of their friends to experience stillbirth and they just don’t know what to say. Probably nine of their busyness but trying to show love to you by bring interested. But I certainly understand all your points and though I can’t feel what you are feeling because I have never experienced still birth myself, only through you and my Gramma-heart (which aches forJoanna) , I can see how asking that question, or maybe phrasing it that way would be upsetting. Maybe you just need to answer that question the way you told me…when it happens you’ll know, until then, don’t ask. Just don’t be to hard on people. They love you and are just trying to help. We all love you!

  4. childhood friend says:

    Carol I love you and there is never a day that goes by that I have not thought of you and pray I could take all your pain away. I have cried many tears for you even when we didn’t know if Brandy was going to live and praying the ECMO would work. If you ever need someone I am always here no matter what.

  5. everydayspirit1 says:

    Carol ~ your post is a gift to all who know what it’s like to be on the receiving end of hurtful comments from those who love us and honestly mean well. This is a hard thing to voice but if no one talks about it, nothing changes. We all grow when we ask for what we need. It reminds me of one Christmas, asking both my mom and my mother-in-law to please include Angela in their “grandkid count.” They seemed surprised at first, but in the years that followed I heard them on countless occasions proudly include her, and integrate her short life into the story of their lives. Thank you for the courage to shed light on the unsaid. xo

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