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Having a Child After Losing a Baby

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When my third child was born I bought one of those calendars with the stickers to mark off my son’s milestones. I had so much fun documenting his first sounds, first trip, when he rolled over, etc. He’s 9 months old now, and there is still a sticker I have not been able to use: “Slept Through the Night.” As I sit with him night after night, I have visions of him swaddled in my arms rocking until he graduates high school. I know it will end, but when you see hour after hour, night after night, you really begin to doubt it.

My daughter was my first, and it was hard. She was up every two hours for several months. I was concerned about going back to work, so I was militant about her sleeping schedule to try to get her on track as soon as possible. Perhaps this is why she’s such an independent soul.

When my first son came along, I was a little calmer, and he was so easy! I could put him down awake, and he would stay asleep. I felt like I won the baby lottery! After all of the issues I’d had with his sister, he was a breeze! Maybe it was because I was calmer and felt like I knew what I was doing.

My second son is just not a good sleeper. I have to wonder if it was something I did or if it’s just him. I’m a different person, nay, a different parent to him than I was to the other two. I know loss. I know what it’s like to hold your baby one moment and have it all taken away in the next. I know what it’s like to be so terrified something else is constantly lurking around the corner and that there are no guarantees. I know what it is like to lose a son.

Having a baby after losing a baby is hard. I can’t even begin to explain how complex the emotions are. Couple this with little to no sleep and it’s a no-win situation.

Sometimes I tell myself he just loves me so much, that’s why he wants me in the middle of the night. Maybe I made him this way. My need to have that bond again and hold a baby in my arms. Perhaps we are both just needy for each other.

I’m much calmer about the sleepless nights with this child. I’m much more open to sharing my bed and snuggling in with his warm little body as he wraps his hands into my hair. I think I wanted to feel needed again, to be able to carry around a little person of my own. My arms are no longer empty.

There are nights though, when I really want to sleep. I want to close my eyes and not wake up until it’s morning. I want to sleep in my bed alongside my husband, just the two of us. I want to sleep so deeply that I’m able to dream of my lost son and feel his peace.

Those nights are tough because those nights I’m needy for my first son. I want to be able to feel him around me and throw myself into my grief without worrying about the baby. I want to be able to yell and scream at the universe about how unfair all of this is. I want him back so badly. It’s hard to be able to have those moments uninterrupted anymore.

When I get frustrated about him not sleeping I feel guilty. I realize how lucky I am to have this gift, this life to share in. I feel like I should never be upset with him for needing me because I need him just as much. It’s like a tennis match back and forth in my head. I never know what emotion is justifiable.

I’m confused and tired and walk around in a state of heightened emotions. There is so much guilt and so much love surrounding this little one. I constantly question myself as a parent, scared the littlest thing I do can lead to disaster.

I feel like I did as a first-time parent again, even though he is my third. I’m exhausted, scared of screwing up and hoping for the best. I guess I kind of am a first-timer again in the grand scheme of things. I have no clue if what I’m doing is right half the time.

I will do my best to love him for him and not for who he’s not. What I do know is this, he will be loved.

If you or a loved one is affected by infant loss, you can find grieving resources at The Grief Toolbox.

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Getty image by kjekol

Originally published: February 22, 2018
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