The subsequent child

I have previously written about the subsequent pregnancy my wife and I experienced after Kathleen died. For me, it was a very stressful 9 months filled with building protective walls in order to prevent myself from being hurt if something bad happened again. For Monica, it was a time that she let herself cherish because she had lost her innocense and understood it was possible that those months inutero were the only ones she might have with our baby.

In both cases, we were greatly influenced by our previous loss -- even though how we dealt with it was very different.

After our son was born, ironically, I was better able to let go of my stress and relax a little, while Monica got more nervous that something might happen to him during infancy. I think she was a little more protective than she might have been and her bond with him was very strong.

I would be curious to hear how others felt about that experience and how you think your loss has impacted the relationship with your subsquent child both short and long term. I have had some parents tell me that they had a more difficult time bonding with the subsequent baby because they still felt such tremendous pain for their child that died. Others have shared that they cherished all their children so much more because they realized how fragile life can be.

Any thoughts?

33 comments:

  1. I appreciate your post, but unfortunately, my husband and I haven't been able to have children since my miscarriage. The pain was unbearable, physically and mentally. . .

    I am so glad to see a father share his side of the story, here's mine:

    http://normaltoeatpb.blogspot.com/2011/01/recipe-for-baby.html

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  2. I am living the subsequent child experience. Our 2nd child was born in August; he is almost 6 months old. We lost our first son to SIDS when he was 4 months old. When our 2nd was born, I retreated emotionally....but at the same time would let my self dive in head first...at times. I was definitely more guarded...afraid to get attached...afraid to lose another child. I couldn't go through that pain again. Every day, I plead with God to please let us keep this child. 6 months later...I still plead. However, as the months have passed, I've grown more and more hopeful that he is here to stay. I will say that I am 20 times more protective over our 2nd child. No one else keeps him except my mom - mostly because he's most comfortable with her -...and the longest I've been apart from him is 3 hours. I am determined to spend as much time with him as possible because I know how suddenly it can be taken away. He has just begun rolling over, which is what happened when our first son passed away. To say it terrifies me doesn't even begin to describe how it makes me feel. I continue to take each day one step at a time....

    He has been an absolute blessing, and he brought so much joy back into our lives. Our house is filled with laughter, and joy, and most of all...hope, again.

    Thank you for writing this post.

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  3. We are currently toying with the idea of having another child (2 years post stillbirth). The "when" has been left up to me since my dh has openly admitted that he fears he will never be "ready" to have another child, but understands my intense desire...or at least the desire I had BEFORE he handed me the reins. Now I live in fear each month. Fear that I will get pregnant, have another child with Down Syndrome, have another child who dies. Fear that I won't get pregnant. Fear that I'll have a healthy, living child only to ruin the child with the scars that I carry. Fear that I'll have a handicapped child and forever alter the "perfect" life that my daughter is afforded now. These days I just live in a tremendous amount of fear about having, or not having, another child. And I feel like if I knew the outcome now, I could be better prepared for whatever were to come. I don't want to regret not having another child. I fear I will have a deep regret of that. Thank you for posting this subject. I am anxious to hear everyones response.

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    1. I see that it has been quite sometime since your post, but reading it gave me chills! I felt like I was looking in a mirror. I lost my son in Dec 2012. He too had DS & the only reason he wasn't stillborn was b/c they delivered him with just enough time for us to meet him briefly before he passed. My hubby doesn't want to try ever again either & I too have the same fears you describe. Anyway, I just wanted to share that w/you. Hugs!

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  4. Hi Heather. I can relate to the fears you are expressing and certainly understand your husband's honest reaction of not knowing if he will ever be ready to make the decision to have another baby.

    No matter what you and your husband decide, know that you are in this together. I think it's good that you can both be so brutally honest about how you are feeling -- but I also understand that along with that honesty comes some resentments of not being in complete agreement as to how to move ahead. Bottom line is, you are taking a gamble no matter what, because neither of you can foresee the future.

    I doubt that anyone who might respond to this will be able to offer you any perfect answer that will suddenly make this decision an easy one. All any of us can do is let you know how we faced this obstacle.

    For my wife and me -- we approached our subsequent pregnancy very differently. I lived in fear and tried to protect myself by not allowing myself to feel anything. She cherished every moment, knowing that the outcome might be hurtful, so wanting to enjoy what she could of the time she had with our baby. I don't beat myself up for how I handled it, because I did what I needed to do at the time to survive. But I also know that there was no way I could have protected myself from being hurt again had we had another loss -- so a lot of my behavior was trying to deny the undeniable and therefore probably a waste of energy.

    I would recommend you talk to your doctor about the risks. Maybe find a counselor who could help you both talk out your decision and weigh the pros and cons of your choices. But – no matter what, or how difficult or frustrating it might be – keep talking to each other. You are both understandably scared, but no one is copping out. No one is being selfish. And unfortunately, no one knows what is ahead.

    Keep reminding yourselves how much you love one another and your daughter, and know that you will love another child with the same intensity. It might sound cheesy, but together you can survive and regain the happiness you felt before you got dealt a blow none of us saw coming.

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  5. I used to check this site everyday as it helped me get through the loss of my son just over a year and a half ago. I didn't think anyone could get through the pain my wife and I felt until I could hear from my family on these blogs. People I will never meet but people who understand my "new" life better than my closest friends. I checked the site today randomly and saw this post. It hits very close to me as my wife is pregnant and we are going to the doctor tomorrow morning for a 10 week exam. My son had a heart defect that was caught at 27 weeks into pregnancy and he died at the age of 54 days. It was the greatest thing to have him and hold him for that short time. Since that time, we have had a miscarriage at 9 weeks last August and we can't ignore the fear we have that something else will happen. Everyday I pray that things will be okay but I just wait for the doctor to tell us the bad news. I know it is not the right way to think but we want a child more than anything else. I smiled when I heard Tim mention his wife embraced every minute she was pregnant because she knew how short life was. My wife and I try to feel the same way but are scared that the more excited we get the more the chance of bad news. Since the loss of our son we have become very close with the church and we know God gives miracles each day. We were blessed with a smiling baby boy for 54 days and just want the chance to have a second child. Thank you for your post. It has given me hope and courage to be happy, not scared.

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  6. Hi Dave ... thank you for the post. I can only imagine how difficult the waiting must be. Do keep us posted on how it goes. You are definitely in my thoughts.

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  7. Dave, I can sympathize with your experience. My wife and I had two miscarriages before 12 weeks. After that, we had two healthy girls. But the pregnancy with the girls was a very dark time. We kept waiting for something to go wrong. Every time we went in to the doctor's office - especially with the ultrasounds - I found myself expecting to be told that the baby had died. It took several weeks after my oldest daughter was born for me to believe that she would really stay around (when my brother-in-law said "Congratulations Dad" to me in hospital, my gut response was "I'm not a dad yet.") My wife's response was very different - she was in love with our daughter and celebrating her life as soon as she came out.

    Thank you for your post. I appreciate seeing someone else articulate my own experience (which has not gone beyond my journal and discussions with my wife). I do not know if it's possible to live without fear in your position. But please be encouraged to not let the fear be the thing that defines you while you wait.

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  8. Our son is now 5 months old. His older brother died of SUDC almost 18mths ago just after his first Birthday.

    It was an incredibly difficult decision to try for another baby,particularly as at the time my wife and I were in a very dark place. Since our second son was born he has brought so much light and laughter into our lives that without him I dont know where we might have found the strength to continue.

    It isnt easy. Our son is so similar in appearance to his older brother that it can sometimes bring back very bad memories but in other ways he gives us hope for the future and is the closest connection were ever going to get to his brother.

    Most parents go through some key landmarks with their child in 6 months and then a year. We wont feel safe until hes well past that first Birthday.

    Before our second son was born I was very concious of whether I would be wrapping him up in cotton wool and maybe being distant emotionally from him to protect myself from further pain. In the event though he just needs to look at me and I know I absolutely adore him and do the same things as a father I did with his brother.

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  9. I've been thinking about this and it has been a scary topic to talk about. I lost my firt born baby boy at almost 2 months old, the whole experience is and will be the most difficult time of my life. It is almost a month since he died and I feel so down, even more when I feel this guilty for sometimes wanting another baby. I keep thinking if I could handle another pregnancy, will I be this terrified about something going wrong again?, will my baby look my little one, will I compare a new baby with my dear one, is it possible that all that went wrong will repeat itself?
    I have fears, doubts, desires... all mixed up with grief; I know it may be very soon to think about this but also I consider my age and at the end I feel guilty because one way or another I dont want to replace my dear son... Sorry if I am babbling but there are so many thoughts in my head and many emotions all hitting at once.

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  10. My son was 2 months away from his 3rd birthday when he unexpectedly passed away ten weeks ago on January 23rd. He had the flu and his brain swelled so much that he experienced seizures, which herniated his brain, and he died the next day. His younger brother, only 4 months old at the time, had the exact same strain of flu and he was completely fine and is healthy now.

    The love I had for my first born son was unrivaled and something I have had never felt before. Right now, I don't see myself being able to love so deeply ever again. I admit that I have had issues with allowing myself to love anyone, especially after the divorce of my parents. I have always been guarded and almost expect anyone who loves me, even my wife, to end up leaving me. But I didn't feel this way with my son. I knew he would NEVER leave me or stop loving me. The only person who could leave was me, but I vowed to myself at a young age that I would never do such a thing after watching my father leave. I was "all in." Every ounce of my soul was dedicated to loving my son and I was rewarded with a bond that will never be replaced.

    I'm only ten weeks removed from life being turned upside down. In those ten weeks, my 2nd son has been hitting all of the milestones- smiling, laughing, cooing, rolling over- that are usually moments of immense joy. Unfairly to him, they are now moments that I compare to my first born and I feel the deep pain of loss.

    Fortunately, the last couple of weeks I have seen a general uptick in mood and countenance in both myself and my wife. We are actually laughing and enjoying our little guy while still being consumed with our grief and longing for our first born. Our second also looks EXACTLY like our first born which both helps and hurts.

    What I'm trying to say is, we didn't have a choice. Our next kid was already here. We are trying our best to be just as good of parents as we were for his older brother. He's an absolute dream of a baby. Never cries and is always smiling. But there is definitely something holding me back from being completely head over heels in love with him.

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  11. Thank you, Bryan, for a different perspective on a difficult topic. Certainly the feelings you are describing are normal grief experiences, so I hope you will be patient with yourself.

    I have always held back from letting myself become vulnerable, so I can relate to what you are saying about that. It was not until I had kids that I really experienced the unconditional love you described. It was both an amazingly wonderful feeling as well as somewhat frightening. When Kathleen died, I too was not sure I would ever let myself love so completely again. I am happy to report that while that event changed me and left me wanting to once again protect myself from being hurt, there was no possible way that it could stop me from loving my other children as completely as I did before her death.

    I wish you and your family the best. Thanks again for writing.

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  12. I was not going to read this blog, since I figured it was for men, I wanted this to be a place for my husband. But I doubt he's read this blog. This is the first time I've read anything here since I forwarded it to him a month ago. Happy I took a peek. ;)
    I have wanted another baby almost immediately. Our baby was diagnosed with an incompatible with life NTD at 13 weeks in utero, March 2010. We have 2 healthy children, 9 & 6.
    This rocked our world in a bad and good way. We turned to God and clung to Him through the rest of the pregnancy and after leaving the hospital empty armed. Nothing has been harder in our lives than that moment and picking up her ashes.
    We talk openly and I bring up the topic from time to time. But the last time we discussed another pregnancy, he shed light on what goes on with him during pregnancies and I had no idea. I was disheartened to learn he is stressed the entire pregnancy. That explains his pattern of distance. We know we can do this again, with God's help of course, if that's His will. It doesn't mean we'll like it anymore. But, I don't want my husband to be stressed the entire time. He said he's tired of feeling stressed.
    So I am trying to come to terms of grieving the baby we will never have now. I really wanted to have another baby, to hold a healthy baby again. I feel it would bring a closure I need. (Not a closure to our daughter's death, there is no such thing). But we are not promised anything.

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  13. What a great topic. Thank you to all of you for sharing so openly. Our second daughter was stillborn about 18 months ago. My wife and I have not tried for another baby, because we're in the process of adopting, but the process of making that decision is agonizing. So amazing to read Heather's post, because it totally sums up where we're at, too. (Heather, if you're MY Heather, I just want to say 'hey', 'I love you', and 'we're in this together' :) ).

    Like I said, we haven't gotten pregnant again since the stillbirth of our daughter Selah, but I understand some of Tim's comments in his original post. Our first daughter was about 20 months old when we lost Selah, and I've felt schizophrenic since. On the one hand, losing her forced me to face the fact that I'm not in charge of the universe, and that God is not a genie who responds to formulas of faith+prayers+whatever...the best I can do is trust that He is who He says He is and make peace with it--so in my better moments I feel like Selah's death has enabled me to "hand over" all of my loved ones and relationships to Him more completely than I ever had before. But then there are the frantic moments when I want to wrap our oldest daughter in bubble wrap and never let her out of my sight again. Sigh. I'm still striving for balance and praying and hoping that my swings from one extreme to the other won't scar her for life. I will say that I am much more able to look past minor irritations and just savor what a blessing she is to our family--I don't know if I love her more--but I think I actively appreciate her more than I would if we'd never lost Selah.

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  14. I am almost 19 weeks pregnant now with "Pickle." Our daughter, Eleanor, died at six days old after an emergency c-section at 30.5 weeks in January 2010, due to a previously undetected heart defect. We have a now three year old son as well. Since then, I experienced an early miscarriage in November 2010 and lost a twin with this pregnancy at 9 weeks. I am having a VERY hard time connecting to the baby out of fear. I have nightmares something is wrong. I actually try to just focus on other things instead of being pregnant, which makes me feel incredibly guilty. (If it is possible for me to feel any more guilt about losing three children because as the mother, it is my job to take care of my babies. Irrational, I know.) Of course I want to be healthy and of course this baby is desperately wanted (as they all were). But I am scared my heart would literally stop beating if I lost another child.

    My husband on the other hand is, seemingly, very optimistic and calm about this pregnancy. We have a big anatomy scan May 31, with a Maternal Fetal Medicine Specialist and I was expressing my fears last night. He said, "I know everything will be okay." I don't know if he said it more for me or for himself. He asks a lot if I am feeling the baby. He takes care of me and our son. Maybe staying busy is his way of dealing too. We know we aren't "out of the woods." In fact, attending The Compassionate Friends monthly meetings have shown us that we are never "out of the woods." But he seems to be doing better than I am. It could be a gender thing. It could be a personality thing. Or it could be our different survival modes.

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  15. Thank you for your post. I know it does not help much, but your fears and reaction are very common. I can certainly relate to what you talk about and hope that you won't let the guilt become too unmanageable. It's always easier to look back, but I know now that I did what I needed to do to get through that time of my life. Maybe I would do it differently today, but that doesn't really matter -- I'm in a different spot today than I was then.

    As for your husband being positive, I am guessing that a lot of it has to do with personality as well as a need to try and be the more optimistic one when he senses you are struggling. That is one of the beauties of a good relationship in that we try to compensate for each other -- even though that sometimes means our roles reverse.

    Obviously I wish there was some sort of guarantee that I could offer you of a positive outcome, as I'm sure everyone who cares about your family wishes they could give you. I can't any more than anyone else can. What I can tell you is that it sounds like you have the tools and support system to get through whatever life brings your way. I hope you will keep us posted on this blog and wherever else you have found helpful to reach out. There are a lot of people that you will never meet that are cheering for you, praying for you, and wishing only positive things for you all. That has to be good for something! Best of luck and I guarantee we will be thinking of you in the coming months.

    (We too lost a twin early in a pregnancy. We were fortunate to go on to have a little girl that was healthy and experienced no complications at delivery.)

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  16. My daughter Emma died two days after she was born in November 2009. Aoife, Emma's little sister was born in February this year. The pregnancy was not a pleasant experience, with a couple of scares, massive medical attention and a whole ton of stress. Things have been easier since she's been born and have been getting easier the bigger and stronger she gets. But to be completely honest, when she sleeps soundly, and I mean really soundly, I do panic for a few seconds and poke her until she stirs.

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    1. Hi Mark...our son Patrick died in his sleep aged 22 months of SUDC (Sudden Unexplained Death in Childhood). That was 25 Jan 2011..No idea why, no reasons, no answers.Eoghan, our second boy, was born 25 Oct 2011. I can relate to what you say about poking your daughter. When Eoghan sleeps, in the buggy or otherwise, he often gets poked until he stirs. Just to make sure.....Whatever gets you through it, we think...

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  17. It has been a long time since I have posted but read frequently and am touched by everyone's comments and reactions to these life changing events that have happened in our lives. When I posted last it was just before a 10 week exam. It was a milestone because previously we had two miscarriages around the 9 week mark. Things have been going great as she will be 30 weeks tomorrow and we are now starting to really enjoy the pregnancy. This doesn't mean that I am not still scared out of my mind each doctor’s appointment but now I go in with optimism instead of expecting the bad news. Most pregnant mothers joke about the discomfort and hassle but we look at every move stretch as a sign that our growing son is doing okay. We know things can easily change and our next milestone is holding our 2nd son. We will take it day by day until we are blessed with that opportunity.

    Today is our son Tristan's 2nd anniversary. My wife found this great poem that I wanted to share with my internet family. I want you to know we are not alone and I think God chose us specifically to be parents for these angels. Only extraordinary people can go through what we consider to be our normal everyday life. It is how I get through the days...

    [i carry your heart with me(i carry it in]
    BY E. E. CUMMINGS

    i carry your heart with me(i carry it in
    my heart)i am never without it(anywhere
    i go you go,my dear;and whatever is done
    by only me is your doing,my darling)

    i fear no fate(for you are my fate,my sweet)i want
    no world(for beautiful you are my world,my true)
    and it’s you are whatever a moon has always meant
    and whatever a sun will always sing is you

    here is the deepest secret nobody knows
    (here is the root of the root and the bud of the bud
    and the sky of the sky of a tree called life;which grows
    higher than soul can hope or mind can hide)
    and this is the wonder that's keeping the stars apart

    i carry your heart(i carry it in my heart)

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  18. Hang in there and best of luck in these final weeks of the pregnancy. Keep us all posted and know a lot of people are cheering you all on.

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  19. I am pleased to inform everyone that Sarah and I were blessed with a healthy baby boy! Braxton David Horacek was born 9/5 and is doing great. I still get up every time I can't hear him breathing and run my finger on his cheek until he squirms. This is a practice I think I will do until he moves out of the house when he is older. I can't tell you it has been easy. My mind wonders all the time but I know to take every day as a gift. God blessed us with 2 handsome boys and I praise every day for the time we had with Tristan. Tomorrow we will be going home, this is something we did not get a chance to do with our first son. If anyone is scared and nervous about trying again or having a difficult time doing it remember not to give up. Seeing his face makes the 9 months of nightmares worth it. We are truly blessed.

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  20. Congratulations to your family and thank you for sharing. These stories bring hope that happiness can return even though none of us will ever forget. Take care.

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  21. This blog is great source of information which is very useful for me. Thank you very much.

    BEST LOVE POEMS FOR FATHER.

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  22. I lost my nine month old boy to a rare liver disease, even though he was on the transplant list none became available and the disease eventually took him. My wife and I endure with our son a great deal of pain, agony, and live a life no one could even contemplate. As we go through the grieving process and trying to pick up lives again there is the question do we have another baby. I am struggling with this as I fear something may go wrong again, will I love cherish the new born as I did the other, is this going to bring back all the nightmares of the hospital system again, will I lokk at the newborn and only see my deceased child, will the new born grow up in the shadow of the deceased??? I dont; want to make the wrong decision and I don't want my wife to miss out on another child.

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    1. First let me say my heart breaks for you and your wife. I lost my twin daughters Aubrey and Ellie in 2008 a few weeks after they were born and it took me a while to "be ready" to have another child. I already had a son, lost my girls in the middle, and I have had another son since. I eventually came to the conclusion that I will not live my life ruled by fear. The truth is the risk is there and will always be there with every child you have. We will never be safe from what could or might happen. Not ever. What is more important I think is letting yourself go through the grieving process and get to a place where you are strong enough to take on this risk again. You won't always feel like you feel now. Give yourself time. And I can also tell you from experience that your new baby will not be a shadow of the deceased but a light to shine on the memory of the child your lost. Your new baby will be a gift and a profound source of healing and joy. Yes, there will be times you will miss what would have been-but you'll have those without having another baby. I guess to sum up what I am saying is if your heart longs for another baby have one. Step outside your fear and take the risk to welcome more joy than you can imagine. That is why losing your son hurt so much, because getting to keep one brings SO MUCH JOY! I hope that helps.

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  23. This blog is an incredible place. I don't know if it's still live or not, but thank you for creating it.

    I'm a woman (an interloper) who is currently dealing with a very specific problem. My long-term boyfriend and I are planning to try for children in the next few months. He has a son who's 9 from a previous relationship and we all get along fantastically well when we see each other. He is a great father, and the thought of spending the rest of our lives together - and starting a family, make us incredibly happy.

    The thing he doesn't know is that I found an online obituary for what appears to have been a second son, 'born asleep' around the time that I know he split from the mother of his child. I found it by accident.

    I have sat on this knowledge for nearly a year, but feel I should raise it in advance of us trying for a child so he knows he has the space to talk about any/all feelings he may have at being pregnant again. I don't know how he will react. And I don't know how best to support him - he's a bottler, who once told me that 'men shouldn't cry because other people need them to be strong' it broke my heart thinking that he may have been referring to the loss of his son.

    On the face of it, this is none of my business. It's in the past. But I worry that the feelings are in the present and will always be with him - I can't bear the thought of him battling away on his own.

    He once said I could ask him anything about him and his past and he would be happy to talk about it, and he has always (to my knowledge) been honest. But I just don't know where to start.

    Any ideas?

    With thanks, hope and light to all,
    Charlie

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  25. Thanks for sharing this helpful blog.

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  26. During difficult times, people often allow discouragement and hopelessness to derail them from the many joys of life. Life for them resembles a never-ending ride on the treadmill of boredom, frustration and despair.

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  27. Thanks for sharing your blog... I want to see your blog again and again..!
    funny baby bibs

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  28. Hi. I'm not much of a blog poster, but I'll give it a try. My beloved son Marco died in September 2011 of cancer. He was 9 months old and he was our first child. My wife and I agreed at the time that we wanted to try to have another baby and we got pregnant very soon thereafter.

    Our second son Oliver is now 8 months old. We love him so much but it is difficult in a lot of ways. For one, he really reminds us of Marco now and makes it impossible to forget even for a second how much we loved Marco. Oliver is now basically the same age Marco was when he got sick and so it's pretty bittersweet.

    In addition I often struggle wondering if I really invest in Oliver the way I did with Marco. My wife thinks I am distant with Oliver compared to how I was before. I wish she wouldn't say that because it makes me sad and upset but it's probably true at least to some extent. It's not easy and I don't expect it to ever get easy.

    Anyway thought it might be worth sharing. Chris

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  29. Today it is twenty years since our unborn daughter died. Nine months later, our healthy son was concieved. I worried though the whole pregnancy. He was born perfectly healthy. I bonded with him even before he was born.I still grieve for my girl. However, I went to therapy to deal with my grief. As I cried in despair and grief , the therapist asked me if there was anything positive I could think of.It suddenly dawned on me that the months that she lived in her mother, were the most joyous time of my life. Only her death brought pain. She gave me the greatest gift..I was a father. Also , as time went on, I realized that had she been born, my son would have not been born. Who would I have chosen? I am resigned that a higher power made that easier for me. I wish both of them were here however. I am not afraid to love....

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  30. your blog post defines everything that it would feels to the dad when this kind of circumstances has grown with any one's.thanx for the post.

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