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Devastating Losses and My Unintentionally Small Family

Growing up, I remember telling people I wanted seven children. Kind souls that they were, I only received a lot of knowing smiles and head shakes in response. I grew up in a family of six — four kids, plus parents. For the most part, l Ioved having a playmate around.

After we had our daughter Bella, now 5, I started wondering if I truly wanted more. She was hard work. The first seven months of her life, I nursed her every two hours, around the clock, due to severe reflux. The night she slept five hours in a row, I woke up and cried in relief.

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Of course, time faded so many of those memories, and we decided to try for another when Bella was 2.

I'll never forget the day we found out we were having twin boys in 2012. I was stunned, elated and completely overwhelmed. At five months into my pregnancy, they were born and lived just a short time. Devastated, we debated trying for any more children for months. Yet, in December of that year, I was expecting again. This time I felt completely ready for a baby — normal hesitations, but more than ready to bring home a little one.

That August, Kaden was born full term. At 5 days old, he was found to have a rare heart condition caused by an even rarer virus almost no one had heard of. At 3 weeks old, he passed away in my arms.

This multiple loss has greatly changed our family plans. We don't know if we can have more children, or if we want to. Nothing can take the place of the little boys we lost. In spite of all of this, the desire for a bigger family is always on my mind. We've had two failed adoptions (domestic and international) in-between our losses as well. So our choices are fairly narrow.

This isn't an easy path to walk — but so many of us are.

I watch my friends prepare their children for a baby, then adjust to life with one. Most of them are on their second or third child, and I'm still trying to cope with a life that is so different from the two years I spent preparing for it to be. I feel lost so often — not sure of where my place is in a world that puts so much significance on repeat motherhood.

My first priority has been to become a healthy, fully engaged mother to the little girl I was blessed with. She doesn't deserve to have a mama who spends time wishing away the life in front of her. Honestly, though, this can be hard when everywhere we turn there are babies and siblings. It prompts questions from her about our family that I can't answer.

I struggle often with this new look of motherhood that I never envisioned. When you prepare yourself, twice, to change your life with babies, it takes a long time to wrap your head around not having that happen. It would have taken far longer than nine months to prepare myself for a new baby, so I can only imagine the time it might take to adjust to that being taken away and the loss that comes with it.

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I don't have an ending for this. We have no idea what the future holds. If you're a mama struggling with loss, know you're not the only one out there feeling a bit like an outsider at times. This isn't an easy path to walk — but so many of us are walking it.

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