“How many more hits and blows can I take before I cannot get back up again?” I asked this to my husband the other night and his response is him stumbling over words, trying to come up with some great answer while knowing that there is no answer.

woman in mask holding toddler - Parenting After Loss: How Many More Hits Can I Take?

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I wrote a while back during our pregnancy after loss about bobbing and weaving, about having the rules changed again and having to duck the direct hit or to recover quickly in order to be able to continue in the fight. We experienced it with infertility, with not being able to conceive naturally no matter what we tried, how much we wished and hoped, then for infertility treatments that failed again and again, then to treatments that worked that resulted in miscarriage, to what seemed to be a healthy, “normal” pregnancy, only for that to lead to hospitalization at week 21, preterm birth, NICU stay, and then Colette’s death at nine days old.

When we experienced the worst terror of any parent, when our fears became our reality, I honestly thought I would not ever get back up again. I did, slowly, and with my fair share of emotions and setbacks and gains and guilt and all, only to be hit again when there were no answers, no reason to explain why my daughter was not here with us.  Then the hits as we started down the road again to try unsuccessfully, both naturally and via IVF, before coming to a difficult, but good decision to use a gestational carrier.

It felt like the hits would maybe subside, that we may have changed the ring enough so that we would have the strategic advantage.

I did one more egg retrieval (my third) that was tougher than either of the previous two, but resulted in a good amount of embryos. I started to lick my wounds so to speak, to start feeling the relief of not having all of the pressure of a pregnancy on me. We went through the process to find a surrogate, come to an agreement on the contract, and then a successful IVF transfer. We were pregnant!

Just a few days after finding out that we were expecting, I felt a surge of emotion and another series of hits: Was I taking the easy way out? Was this the best decision for us? What if our child grew up and hated me because I wasn’t brave enough to hang in there with him? Would this lovely woman we barely knew at the time take care of our baby as well as I would have?

As the pregnancy progressed and I started to feel more connected to the pregnancy and developed more trust in our surrogate, I started to truly relax. Sure, the whole pregnancy after loss was scary, but at least it was not feeling like hit after hit after hit. Then came along March 2020 and everything changed. We were shut out from doctor’s appointments, not able to do hospital tours, and not even sure if both of us would be allowed in the delivery room.

Every day, we worried, we checked in, and prepared for all possible outcomes with Covid.

We hid inside, terrified of getting Covid and feeling like the second half of our pregnancy was way longer than any pregnancy after loss because distractions were gone. Every day, we would watch news briefings and read articles and try to see if there was going to be some sort of relief, something that would help put our minds at ease a little or news that would help our fight to be in the delivery room together.

Our attorney called us and advised us to set up short-term guardianship for LL Cool T in case one or both of us got Covid and therefore were not allowed in the hospital. That felt like a true gut punch, one that landed solidly after lots of mini punches over whether we would both be in the delivery room or whether we would be able to stay safe long enough or whether our baby would be protected enough to arrive healthy and for us to take him home. To learn that the smart plan was to have these guardianships in place was a direct hit. Finally, at about 32 weeks, we got the news we were so waiting to hear—the hospital had granted us an exception and we both were allowed in the delivery room.

In the time since our amazing rainbow baby has been home, it has felt like the hits have been coming repeatedly, not having to do with Elliott so much as the rest of the world and Covid.

We waited with bated breath to get our vaccines personally, thinking we would feel better once at least mom and dad were fully vaccinated. Once it happened, that feeling of relief and euphoria was fleeting thanks to the Delta variant. Ouch, direct hit. Then, my sister, who was super cautious, wore her mask, socially distanced, did all that she could, came down with Covid, thankfully without exposing herself to LL Cool T or either of us. But, seeing her so sick, especially coming from the woman who throughout my whole life has had the highest pain tolerance and the least feel sorry, whininess, hit again because then we started wondering what all of this meant for our little guy and felt that enormous burden to keep him safe all over again.

Then, once again, just as there seemed to be movement for a vaccine for his age, the FDA rescheduled their meetings to review the data and possibly approve the vaccine.  While I understand that this was probably the correct decision, for me, a parent who already lost one child and fears everyday that she will lose another, this feels like the absolutely worst decision and the biggest blow possible.

The most recent blows came in the last few weeks as our state and county who had been so proactive at avoiding the illness and putting in restrictive measures loosened up measures, so that masks are not required and status of vaccination does not need to be presented. It felt like this may in fact be one of those blows that cause me to just say, oh the hell with it, I’ll stay down.

In the midst of all of these developments and changes to Covid protocols, while our son can still not be vaccinated and we just do not know when he will be able to, we also are nearing that point of deciding whether we try to have another child.

When right now, it looks like we’re a little over three years away from a vaccine (he’s almost 2 and the vaccine is good for 5 and above), why would we want to bring another child into the world that may have to wait another 5 years before being eligible? But, again, these are all hits and blows because we always saw two kids in our house, even choosing the house we bought in part because there were two kids’ bedrooms connected by a Jack and Jill bathroom. Knowing that Colette will always be missing in our home or better said, Colette will not live in our home in the way either of us imagined makes the decision even harder. Do we play it as safe as possible and say okay, we’re done, or do we take the risk and the plunge, knowing that we are open to being hurt yet again trying for a better outcome.

Being deemed strong after losing a child sounds innocent and helpful, but the simple fact is none of us want to be strong, it’s something we had to develop and go with just to survive.  So, please take it easy on us, we are just trying to survive.

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