From Deborah L. Davis, Ph.D.:You will need his emotional support more than ever during a subsequent pregnancy, so you are wise to be concerned that you are both ready before you take the leap.
How can you convince him it’s okay to try again? You can’t! He must convince himself that it’s okay. After all, isn’t this true for you too?
While you can’t make him ready, there are some things you can do:
Instead of talking to him, try listening. By encouraging him to talk about his feelings and fears, you may provide the support he needs to feel ready.
Be aware that you may very well share many similar thoughts and feelings. This sense of common ground can make you feel that you agree more than you disagree. It can be illuminating to discuss together the following questions:
a. What is the worst thing that could happen?
b. What is the best thing that could happen?
c. What is the most likely thing that will happen?
There are no right or wrong, good or bad, reasonable or crazy answers. Every answer is valid and can give you insight on ways to support each other.
For many dads, a main concern is for the mother’s safety and well-being. He may fear for your health, your life or your sanity. If this is the case, you can try to reassure him. Perhaps your doctor or therapist could address some of his concerns. Meeting with a genetic counselor may also offer information he needs.
Being patient can be most helpful. Pressure does little to help anyone adjust or work through issues and feelings. By simply easing off, you may give him the space he needs to feel comfortable. Of course, being patient is especially challenging when you’re feeling so eager or anxious. It may help to consider that you’re not “doing nothing,” you’re easing off; an active response, not a passive one.
Many couples are on different timetables. Be aware that a common dynamic is to strike a balance in the relationship, such that the more obsessed you are with getting pregnant, the more he backs off. By reducing your obsession, you may enable your partner to step up and feel more open to another pregnancy. But how can you stop dwelling on it? If you think about it day and night, try putting your thoughts in a journal. This can reduce their pressure on you. Your obsession may also serve to distract you from your more unpleasant feelings of grief. Try to set aside time for yourself to remember the baby or babies who died. Go over your mementos or write about the child you’re missing. Doing so can help you feel less desperate to move on to another pregnancy. Also recognize that new babies don’t fix things-they make things more complicated. While having another baby can be a healing step, doing so will not completely fill the emptiness or banish the longing you feel. The main key to finding lasting peace and happiness is to work through your grief.
Try to find a spiritual perspective that helps you cope. Focus on the idea that important events in your life unfold when they are supposed to. Have faith that your next baby will wait for your readiness as a couple-that delaying conception won’t make you “miss the boat.” Ask your spiritual guide(s) for comfort and direction.
Deborah L. Davis, Ph.D. is a developmental psychologist who specializes in perinatal and neonatal crisis, medical ethics, parental bereavement and adjustment, parent education and child development. Dr. Davis is the author of four books for bereaved parents, Empty Cradle, Broken Heart (Fulcrum, 1991; 1996), Loving and Letting Go (Centering, 1993), Fly Away Home (Centering, 2000) and Stillbirth, Yet Still Born (PILC, 2000). With Mara Tesler Stein, Psy.D., she is the coauthor of The Emotional Journey of Parenting Your Premature Baby: A Book of Hope and Healing (NICU Ink, 2002).
From Maribeth Doerr:
This is always a difficult situation, and it seems that quite often, one partner reaches the decision to try again before the other is ready. Pushing or forcing isn’t the answer. In my family, we talked a lot and tried to rationally discuss the pros and cons. We weren’t always rational (or calm!) in our discussions so if we reached that point, we’d agree to “reconvene” the discussion later.
It was much harder to make the decision after we had a healthy subsequent baby. Since we were finally parents to a living healthy child, we found that it was truly a “decision” the next time rather than an urgent “must-do” if we’re ever going to be parents. To be honest, we hadn’t really met with a mutual agreement when I conceived the last time. My husband had been going through a phase of changing his mind every other week. We conceived twins during one of his “okay” weeks, and he was in one of his “no way” weeks when we found out I was pregnant. He wasn’t really angry but truly not ready to go through another high risk pregnancy again so soon. He was MUCH more detached than before through the whole pregnancy which made it much harder for me. He was, however, very much available for our toddler and they forged a close bond during this time.
It was also much harder for us to feel close again after the pregnancy. We now had a toddler and a newborn who ended up having a series of medical problems after coming home, and we were grieving for our twin son who had died. We were so busy with life that we forgot each other for a long time.
A lot of couples have “accidents” or conceive before one of the partners is ready, and I certainly don’t want anyone to think they’re in for years of trouble if this happens. The important thing is to discuss it through the pregnancy, get your feelings out in the open, and be there for each other – for better or worse. When Greg and I look back on it now, we feel so blessed to have Chad in our lives that we can’t imagine NOT having him. Even our extended family (who was not happy about that last pregnancy) says everyone should have a “Chad” in their family because he brings sunshine when it’s pouring. He’s definitely our rainbow!
Maribeth Doerr is the owner of StorkNet, founder of Pen-Parents, Inc (a group for bereaved parents), and the cubby moderator for our PAILS of Hope Cubby. She is also the coauthor of Another Baby? Maybe . . . with Sherokee Ilse. Maribeth experienced the loss of five babies from stillbirth, neonatal loss at 5 days, two miscarriages and the loss of one identical twin in the early second trimester. She has two living sons.
From Leigh Irwin:
I asked my husband this question and was surprised by his simple reply. “You have to convince him you want to try again to have a baby for your family and not to try and make up for the loss you just had.” I also know that I had to convince him that I would be okay. I had filled his days and nights with some very colorful displays of my grief and I know he was worried about me.
But I also must say I realized it wasn’t fair to “convince” him to do something he wasn’t ready to do. Communication is the key to see why it is he isn’t ready to try again. Is it because you are focusing on somehow replacing the child you lost? Is it because he doesn’t want to get caught up in the infertility rollercoaster again? Is he worrying how his wife will take another loss if that should happen? Talk to him, but also take a good look into yourself and see what you are telling him with your actions as well as your words.
Leigh experienced infertility and a miscarriage before giving birth to three healthy children.
From Kathy Lazar:
I was the one who first came to the conclusion that I needed to have another child after the deaths of our daughters. My husband was reluctant at first, but I convinced him that there was nothing that could happen to us that could be worse. Something could be as bad, but it could not be worse. We had been to the bottom of the valley and at least we were not dealing with the unknown. If something did go wrong in the subsequent pregnancy, we knew that we would have lots of support and that we would be able to survive another crisis.
You should also try to explore why your husband is reluctant to try again. I think the husband’s role is very difficult because he is dealing with his own grief, and also watching, sometimes what he views as helplessly, as his wife suffers through her grief. If he can be convinced that this subsequent pregnancy may actually help the grieving process, he may be more receptive to try again.
Kathy Lazar gave birth to healthy twin sons. Her second pregnancy was with twin girls who were stillborn at 40 weeks from unknown causes. She delivered a healthy subsequent (and singleton) son.
From Heather Williams:
I really worry about the word “convince” when one is talking about a subsequent pregnancy attempt. The decision is too important, emotional, and central to a marriage to try to sway, cajole or coax a husband or partner into your way of thinking, or into your sense of timing. If we want our partners to be understanding, supportive, sensitive and insightful to our grief, hope and desires, then it stands to reason that we, too, must accept and respect their feelings. Ideally, both parents need to be ready to jump off the cliff again. While there is the possibility of success, there is also the possibility of failure; that is when you REALLY need to call on the strength of your relationship.
My husband and I have experienced (endured?) five subsequent pregnancies; two successes and three failures. After our second subsequent/third loss, in which I nearly died, we chose to seek professional counseling to sort through many issues. It was well worth it. Having an objective third party allowed both of us to express feelings that had previously felt very frightening to voice, and in clarifying our hopes to each other, we saw how similarly we felt about our entire situation.
If he doesn’t feel ready, I don’t feel it’s a healthy or worthwhile thing to push him. Talk, talk, talk, WITH him about EVERYTHING, not just when to try again. Concentrate on being/getting healthy, on the strengths in your marriage, your living children if you have them, and any joy that might be found in your lives. I feel coming to the decision together not only enhances your marriage but your family as a whole, and hopefully, your parenthood.
Heather Williams lost two babies to incompetent cervix and prematurity and experienced two early miscarriages. She has subsequently given birth to two healthy daughters and an abdominal cerclage.