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Having Another Baby After the Loss of a Child to SIDS
It seems like I have spoken a lot lately with grieving moms who are wrestling with the desire to have another baby after losing a child to SIDS. I've spoken with some moms who are already pregnant and overwhelmed with fear at the thought of losing another baby. Bill and I have had 2 sons since we lost our beloved Billy. I understand many of the thoughts and fears you may be having right now. And I'm still living them myself, as our newest just turned 5 months old. So let's talk about that.
First of all, having experienced the tragedy of SIDS, we feel much more vulnerable than we may have before. When I was pregnant with our first child, it was pretty blissful because I did not have complications and I was so naive to most things that could go wrong during pregnancy, childbirth, or the first year of life. But when I got pregnant after Billy died, fear consumed me. I wrote this prayer in my journal- "Jesus, please protect our baby- this miraculous new life growing inside my broken body." My body wasn't physically broken, but my heart still was. And new anxieties emerged within me as I now knew all too well just how fragile life really is.
The fears you may have about having another child are absolutely normal- but you want to recognize and deal with them in a healthy way. You certainly can't enjoy your pregnancy and new little one if you are consumed by fear.
God's Word says, "For God has not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind." I would pray that constantly during my pregnancy, asking God to take my fears and replace them with His spirit of power, love, and a sound mind. To me, "a sound mind" meant peace in my thoughts, and not an anxious mind.
I also prayed Isaiah 41:10- "Do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand." We have to remind ourselves that the God who holds life and death and the entire universe in HIS hands is also holding us and our babies. God is WITH us- we are not alone, and He will help us walk through our fears.
What are some fears you might be wrestling with? When I became pregnant after the death of Billy, I felt guilty for being excited about another baby. Then when I'd grieve Billy, I felt guilty for not getting excited about and putting my focus and energy on the new baby. I feared having another boy- and then I feared NOT ever having another boy. You might fear the new baby looking just like your child who died- or fearing the new baby NOT looking at all like the baby you lost. You will fear SIDS, but you might also now fear birth defects, miscarriage, stillbirth, choking, car accident, the list could go on and on. We have to try our best to ask God to help us put our trust in Him. As much as we'd love to have it, we do NOT have complete control over our children's lives.
Here are some practical, "what you could do" suggestions if and when you do have another child.
- Have your baby sleep in his/her own crib in the parents' bedroom for the first 6 months.
- Have nothing in the crib but the fitted sheet and your baby.
- Put him/her on his/her back to sleep. The Halo SleepSack Swaddle (www.halosleep.com) and The Miracle Blanket (www.miracleblanket.com) are both wonderful swaddling blankets, and when he/she begins to bust out of the swaddle, use the Halo SleepSack Wearable Blanket (www.halosleep.com).
- Dress your baby comfortably, but do not overheat him/her. We did all that with our son Nathan, but I still would jump out of bed every time I woke up and put my hand on his chest to make sure he was breathing.
- With Jared, we asked for the apnea monitor (www.smartmonitor2.respironics.com). I would highly suggest this. You can ask your pediatrician to prescribe the apnea monitor, which connects to the baby via a fabric belt with electrodes that monitor his/her breathing and heart rate. Instead of putting my hand on Jared's chest and disrupting his sleep several times a night, I can quickly glance at the monitor and see both lights blinking green and know that he is just fine.
Honestly, though, what has given me the greatest peace of mind is reading and praying scripture over myself and our baby. I keep a list of encouraging verses in my bedside table, and I pray them, oftentimes at night when I go to bed and when my mind is also more prone to "wander" if I don't keep it in check. You can find those verses on our website atwww.sidsamerica.org/sids-resources/healing-scripture-for-sids-families.
I strongly suggest that you pray over your child daily, do what you and your pediatrician believe is best and safest for your child, and then rest and enjoy your baby, knowing that God is in control and cares more about your child than even you do.
God has brought incredible joy and healing into our lives with Nathan and Jared- but let me make this clear- it is not having more babies that has healed our hearts, but God. I have an emptiness still in my heart that will not be filled until I hold my Billy again. The pain is still there, but the "sting" of the pain lessens with time and with God's healing. No parent is "guaranteed" more children, but I do know that God promises to heal the brokenhearted. He may do that for you through another child or more. If He blesses you with another child, embrace that precious gift, give thanks, and enjoy, without guilt, the new little life that has entered yours.