Thursday, August 4, 2016

Early Pregnancy News: Why We Share With Our Kids

During a recent conversation with a newly expecting friend, I asked when she and her husband would tell their older children of the new pregnancy.  She shared with me that because she remembers my experience of sharing my miscarriage with my oldest daughter, she and her husband would wait to tell their children.

I left that conversation wondering if my husband and I made the wrong decision in sharing about our pregnancies and losses with our older children.  Was the weight too much for our (then toddlers) to grapple with in their developing minds?  I've wrestled with this question quite a bit in recent months. 

The decision to share about a new pregnancy with older children is not one that falls universally right for every family. 

For my sweet friend and her husband, the decision to wait was absolutely the right one.  Only they knew what their little ones could handle.  Subsequently, sharing about the loss of a baby with older children is not something any parent wants to do. 

I am confident after much thought, that for our little family, we have made the right decision.  We share joyfully about our baby's new life, knowing full well that we risk sharing the sadness of loss as well.  We share about our new pregnancy with our older children for these reasons:
1. Sharing about the life and loss of our babies opens up conversations about Heaven and Jesus.

After our first pregnancy loss, we inevitably had to answer some tough questions asked by our three year old daughter.  Questions like, "Where is Heaven?" "Is our baby in Heaven?" "Will we meet our baby someday?" and, "How do I get to heaven?"  These questions eventually lessened and our daughter began to speak confidently of Heaven.  She would point to the evening sunset and tell us that our baby was watching over us.  Our little girl is 7 now, four years removed from this first loss, and to this day she reminds us of this every time she sees a beautiful sunset. 

After our second loss, our son asked similar questions.  "Where is God?", "Is our baby with Him?"  "Does God love us?"  The loss of life within the walls of our home has opened up opportunity for us as parents to speak truth to our children. These questions are ones I likely wouldn't have addressed with my toddlers had we not lost our babies.  Not for one second though do I regret that we had these conversations with them young. 
2. Children are incredibly intuitive. 

I don't know about your kids, but my kids can read me like a picture book.  They can tell when I'm struggling.  I realized early on into motherhood that I could try to mask any feelings of vulnerability and walk around like a puppet with a plastered on smile. Or, I could just be honest with them...because, I'm a person too.  "Momma is having a bad day.  You'll have to be patient with me." 

Kids need to learn that it's okay for others to feel.  And, it's okay that sometimes the world isn't centered around them.  I also want my kids to grow up knowing that mom and dad are human beings, with really great days and really bad days.  This gives them the emotional freedom to share on the days that they are struggling without shame. 

On that note, after the loss of our babies we chose to be consistent. We wouldn't normally lie to our children about having a bad day so why would lie to them on some of our hardest days? 

There are ways to share openly with your children about the really tough stuff of life without dragging them in feet first. Children don't need to know the gory, emotional details of losing a baby.  But, you can choose to speak honestly by saying, "Mommy is feeling extra sad today.  Yes, I'm still sad.  Even though our baby is in heaven, Mommy still misses our baby and that's okay." "Yes sweetie, it's okay for you to miss our baby too. Would you like to do something today that will remind us of our baby?"

3. We would not downplay the integrity of our baby's life at a 20 week ultrasound gone poorly. So, why would we downplay the life of our 6 week old baby?

My husband and I believe that life begins at the moment of conception. Period.  I understand that many families don't believe this or teach their children this.  But we do.  So, we've chosen to honor our baby's life by recognizing our baby as part of our family from the minute we know he or she exists.  We don't pretend that this baby isn't alive until after we have confirmation of a heartbeat at 9 weeks or a healthy, properly growing baby at 20 weeks. 

We realize that for every life that is created, there is the chance that something can go wrong.  We are not promised a full term pregnancy with any of our babies.  Just as we are not promised grown adults from the babies we bring home from the hospital.  As parents, we want our older children to understand that the lives of their siblings are precious from day one, just like they also were and are.

4. Our babies' lives are part of the heritage of our family story.
If you ask my daughter how many members of our family there are, she will almost always tell you that there are six of us.  I promise, I haven't coached her on this.  On her own, she regularly reminds us that there are four of us in our home and two babies living in heaven.  I can't tell you how proud as a momma this makes me.  Our babies were intentionally created by God.   While short -- the days of their lives were purposeful and thought out by the Creator.  They were significant and loved.  Our babies on earth and in heaven will always have a part in our family tree and we believe that it is important for our older children to know this too. 
5. Our children take an active part in the hoping and praying for our future family.
Our older children know that adding to our family is a desire of ours.  No, we have not had "the talk" with our 7-year-old.  But, she does know that babies are a gift from God and that mommy and daddy pray regularly for her to be a big sister again.  My husband and I speak openly with both of our children about our desire to grow our family. 

Both of our big kids know that we do not control when we meet our next baby but they remain hopeful with us.  When out in a store, our daughter will see a baby and express that she's excited to have another baby brother or sister.  When meeting a friend's new baby, my husband and I share with our son that someday we know he would make an amazing big brother.  These are dreams that we as a family have together.  These are prayers we pray together and we remain hopeful that God will fulfill.

Every family is different.  There are no easy answers as parents for how to handle something as tough as pregnancy loss.  But for our family, for these five reasons, we are confident that we've made the right decision to share with our children about the life and loss of our babies. 
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  1. My sweet friend, Daisy, shared your blog with me and this word could not have been more timely. Your words have soothed this mama's aching heart. Thank you.

  2. Hi Jennifer, You are SO welcome. This is EXACTLY why I write. Sometimes I write a post and wonder if anyone actually cares. I feel like my words are just another drop in the internet pond. But comments like yours remind me that I write to reach women and mommas who are hurting. I share my own experiences so that other women know they aren't alone. I am so, so very sorry for your loss. I get it. I really do. Praying for your heart today Jennifer.

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