I see a lot of people posting on social media asking friends (and strangers) for their opinions on if they should have another child after having a child with special health care needs. I become angry when I see these posts.
This is a personal decision that you and your partner need to make together. I understand asking some of your close friends for their thoughts, but ultimately this is a decision that needs to be made by you and your partner—no one else gets a vote.
There are a lot of things to consider when thinking of having another child. I know people who have chosen both paths. There are good arguments for both sides. It must be your choice, though. Only you know what you can and cannot handle.
Many of us start our journeys in the NICU. Our children are often diagnosed at birth, or the medical issues are a result of birth traumas. There is a chemical reaction that does a number on all of us that start in the NICU. It doesn’t matter if your child will make a full recovery or have a life-limiting condition; we all experience the same weird reaction.
We spend 9-10 months planning a delivery and a life with our child. We picture going into labor, our partners cutting the cord, the doctor handing us the baby, breast feeding, leaving the hospital with our beautiful new baby, etc.
When any of these things don’t happen and instead we find ourselves watching our babies fight for life in isolettes, hooked up to so many monitors and machines, our brain starts to send us signals. We all find ourselves thinking of getting pregnant again, right away. I was obsessed with the thoughts of getting pregnant again before we ever even took our baby home from the NICU. I was so fixated that I thought I was going crazy.
I later learned that this happens to all moms in the NICU. This is our subconscious trying to make it all better. Our brain tells us to try again and we can get back all of the things we missed out on. This is our brains way of trying to bypass grief.
When I was first told that I was grieving, I was totally confused. My baby was alive, why would I be grieving? But I wasn’t grieving the loss of my baby. I was grieving the loss of the life I had planned. Once I understood this, and could process my grief, I was able to move past the nagging in my head to get pregnant again.
For us, we chose not to have any more children. Casey was a full-time job and we felt that if we had another child it would take time away from her—or that the other child would be neglected frequently because we would be so busy with Casey. We thought about having more children a lot!
It still crosses my mind often. We had to do what was best for us. We have friends and family who tell us to have another, and even strangers would offer up their opinions without being asked. This is a decision that my husband and I had to make together.
If you find yourself in a similar position, please don’t worry about what “everyone else” thinks, and just focus on what is best for you and your family.
The Family Support section of this site offers information on grieving and adapting to life.
We have all found ourselves, at one point or another, comparing our child or our situation to another. The grass is always greener and you want what you can’t have—all phrases we have heard. Sometimes we must remind ourselves that we are all doing the best we can and we need to support one another and focus on the similarities, not the differences.
With every passing year in the world of being a parent of a child with special health care needs, you have the day to day struggles, the fun holidays, and some surprises. Good and bad.