Trigger warning: miscarriage
A few weeks ago was National Siblings Day.
All day we saw the posts and comments: “… the unbreakable bond” and “…watching you grow-up together” and “the best big brother in the world…”
Why did this bother me so much? I grew up with a younger brother. I’m a big sister. I have a picture I could have posted of me dressing my younger brother up in one of my own dresses when he was 4 years old because I was a typical big sister and he did whatever I said. I have happy sibling memories, so why did these posts all over social media cut me so deep?
Before I got pregnant, I always envisioned I’d have at least two kids, but I could have been persuaded to have more. I wanted the whole dream: two kids, a white picket fence, a dog, a loving husband. I had been slowly checking milestones off that dream list. I had everything but the kid, so when I got pregnant three years ago, I was well on my way to “having it all.” I remember feeling anxious and scared about how a new baby would change our already wonderful lives, what it would mean for our marriage, and how we would function as a unit of three instead of the two individuals we were.
When my son was born after an extremely difficult pregnancy, a six-week early delivery, and a two-week stay in the NICU, I couldn’t have been more in love with him, and also completely sure that he was going to be our one-and-only.
Around his first birthday though, the questions started: “So, when are you having another one?” Cue the anxiety about adding a fourth member to our family. How could I love another child as deeply as I love my son? Will he be missing out if he’s the only child? Should my fear of what could happen in pregnancy and delivery be the reason my son doesn’t get to have big brother status?
Eventually, after battling months of comments from well-intentioned friends, family, acquaintances, and some encouragement from the clothing line at Target (“Oh, wouldn’t he look adorable in this I’m a Big Brother T-shirt?”), we decided to give it a try. If we got pregnant, wonderful. If not, well, we weren’t completely sold on the idea anyway.
I was almost instantly pregnant.
And then I wasn’t.
I remember being shocked. I had a positive pregnancy test, and then five days later I got my period. Because the miscarriage was so early, I felt like I didn’t have the right to be that upset. It was a fluke, maybe it wasn’t even a real pregnancy (whatever that means). I rationalized that it wasn’t something we were sure we wanted at this point anyway, and that maybe in a few months we’d try again.
After the holiday madness, things began settling down and I was instantly pregnant again. A couple of weeks into being pregnant, it started to sink in. I was picturing my son as the older brother, thinking about trips we’d take as a family. Moving my son’s furniture into the guest room to prepare for the new baby, getting my son his big boy “stuff.” It was coming together for me, and although I was scared about how this would change our three musketeer dynamic, I had confidence that a second baby would be just as life-changing and wonderful as our first was.
At our first ultrasound at 8 weeks, there was no detectable heartbeat. Just a sack. No baby.
I was given brochures and handouts. I listened to the doctor talk about how statistically I wasn’t at a higher rate to have another miscarriage until I had three in a row. I couldn’t imagine trying this again, just to have a third miscarriage. The doctor kept saying that the odds were actually in our favor to have a healthy pregnancy next time, but after two miscarriages, it sure didn’t seem like it.
I remember feeling like I was testing fate. I wasn’t sure I wanted another baby because my first one filled my heart so much, so maybe I brought this on myself. If I had proclaimed with confidence that we desired to grow our family, would I be gifted with another child? Was making my son a big brother just not in our cards, not in the master plan?
I do know that while I should have been so happy for my friends on social media posting pictures of their gorgeous children, hand-in-hand, or in an embrace, I unfortunately felt bitter, and jealous. I felt like my body had failed not only me and my husband, but now it was depriving my beautiful son of experiencing a bond and closeness only siblings can explain.
Every time I can’t play with my son because someone has to cook the food, clean the clothes, and do all the things, my heart hurts watching him push his cars around the floor alone. I so badly wish for him a built-in friend, a person who will always know him and who will remember how he was when he was little when both my husband and I are gone.
I do know that we are a family, even if we are just the three of us. My son has completed our family in a way we could have never dreamed of. I do know that this doesn’t have to define us, or control us. I do know that even if it isn’t clear now, it will be eventually.
I do know that there is always a reason to hope.