search discussions

glow in the woods

front page
the archives
what is this place?
the contributors
comment policy

Parents of lost babies and potential of all kinds: come here to share the technicolour, the vividness, the despair, the heart-broken-open, the compassion we learn for others, having been through this mess — and see it reflected back at you, acknowledged and understood.

Thanks to photographer Xin Li and to artist Stephanie Sicore for their respective illustrations and photos.

parenting after loss > Gender of Rainbow Baby?

I'm hoping to get some clarity... We lost our baby girl, Y, after she was born on her due date, apparently healthy and then crashed while in the NICU for jaundice and could not be resuscitated in time to survive. Since then, we have been blessed with two amazing boys and I love them with all my heart and really am so grateful for both of them. And... There's a part of me that wants to have another, because I want another girl. I have thought about this enough that I know this is part of my narrative about losing Y, that there's a baby girl soul out there who should be with me and I want to do whatever I can to bring her to me, or something like that. If I knew that a next baby would be another boy, I wouldn't do it. I know another baby, even if it were a girl, would not replace who we lost. And still, I can't stop thinking about it. If everything in our lives stayed the same as it is now, the answer has to be no and I need to grieve that and move on.
But I feel like a missing piece of information for me is what it's like to have 2 children after a loss and see what, if any, differences there are between having a baby who was the same gender as the baby who died and one who's different? It was comforting to me to have my first baby after our loss and they felt very connected. I even had the same due date, just one year later. And all that baby energy finally had somewhere to flow. But I also feel like I have baby girl energy that has been waiting, bins of baby girl clothes, a name picked out.... (we gave Y a different name than the one we had planned for her while I was pregnant). I know it's not rational, but I would love to hear from other parents about what it was like, comparatively, to have a boy and a girl after a loss, and consider the ways in which the experience was similar and different. Thanks, and sorry this was so long-winded...
March 17, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterHannah
Dear Hannah,

I did not have any more children after my daughter died, I did have two older kids, a boy and a girl. So I did not have the experience that you are describing. But you sure have got me thinking!

First off, I am sorry your daughter died. That is terrible and leaves a hole that nothing can ever fill. That's her hole in your heart. You know this, you stated it above. I am agreeing with you.

But I can see where having set your heart and thoughts on mothering a daughter, you would still want to do that. The trouble is, you don't get to pick, unless you abort the unwanted sex. I don't hear you saying that at all.

Mostly what I hear from your writing is an intense longing for: 1. Your daughter; and 2. If you can't have your daughter who died then you want a daughter to love and raise.

Such a hard place to be, Hannah. I wish I had some advice or experience or thoughts to help you. It is such a very understandable emotion, this longing.

I wish you peace as you work through it.

Jill A.
March 19, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterJill A.
Dear Jill,

Thank you so much for your comment. I am sorry that your daughter dies too. I sat on the couch and cried reading and rereading your words and the tears just flowed. I needed that. I think I need to allow myself to really sit more with the grief that still lives in me even though we have other children and life is so busy and I don't think and feel about this as often as I used to. I appreciate the kindness in your taking the time to write, even though your situation is different too.


March 20, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterHannah
Hannah I am sort of in the same boat! We have a living daughter (6) and lost our second daughter at birth. We have since had 2 rainbow boys.

I can't tell whether I want another baby because I want another girl or if the feeling that something/someone is missing is just me missing our Shelby.

I have 2 close real life baby loss friends who both lost girls and both had rainbow girls. They both are absolutely sure they are done with having kids now.

I have no answers for you, just wanted you to know you aren't alone.
March 20, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterShelby's Mum
I wanted to say how much I understand what you are saying. We had 4 older girls when we lost our son at 11 days old. I had never wanted boys but my goodness, I was happy when I knew he was coming. I don't know why, it felt right. And even though my husband had always been very sure daughters were perfect for him, he got excited in a new way too.

And then Freddie died and it took me a year more to get pregnant again. It was a long 17 week until we found out - another boy - and what I feared most was the disappointment I might feel if it was a girl. I'll never know of course, but I suspect I would have done, and that would have just left me with a permanent sadness, one prompted by seeing little boys forever. I was afraid of always being sad when the world showed me boys.

I've learned that it comes with a cost though; 6 years on, Freddie's little brother sometimes feels like the only real boy. My mind can trick me into believing that. And that can be hard, I'll be honest. Freddie's space, first boy, has closed up so very small.
March 21, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterMerry
Shelby's Mum, yes -- we are very much in the same boat with similar stories. Our Y was not our first child, so, like you, it's not that I don't have any girls, but I was all ready for her... I think I remember you from when I frequented Glow all the time back in the spring of 2012... I am so sorry about your precious Shelby. Thank you for writing and sharing your thoughts on this question. It is such a good feeling to know that I am not alone in these feelings, even when there are no clear answers.

Merry, first, I am so sorry about Freddie. What a terrible loss. And you introduce such an interesting dimension here. I started thinking about different ways to view what it would mean to Y's story to have another girl. Would we be honoring her by bringing a little sister in where we would otherwise have stopped having children, and thereby have more life in the world because of her story? Or do we say that we honor her by not trying to have another girl, that she stands in her own place and that's it? I don't know. I can imagine the ways in which having another of the same gender could impact the perception of the baby who died... Thank you for sharing what having Freddie's little brother has been like for you. I am so glad for you and your family that you have him.
March 21, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterHannah
Hannah, thank you for starting this thread and putting your thoughts out there. I am very much in the same boat as you, though of course our story is somewhat different in ways too. Our first was a boy. He was beautiful and perfect and looked like a little He-man to me. I remember finding out he was a boy and I was secretly so thrilled. I just wanted a healthy child either way, but secretly wanted a boy for sure. He never came home with us. He went to the NICU with minor breathing problems and over the course of the next 4 weeks progressively got worse. We went from thinking we'd bring him him in a few days, to weeks, to months, to having a chronically ill child, to realizing he would never be healthy enough to have a good quality of life so we moved him to hospice and spent a beautiful week with him away from the hospital. That was my first experience as a mother. Like you, I suddenly found myself with all the signs I'd had a baby and all the baby gear at home waiting for him, but no baby.

We went on to have 2 wonderful rainbow girls, now 2.5 and 11months. They are a dream realized. I am thankful Every. Single. Day. But I have not let go of having another baby. Part of me thought I might want 3 kids before we even had any. I didn't want to ever be pregnant more than 3 times though, no way. Even 3 sounded pretty terrible. And now I've gone through it 3 times, each time was a bit harder and my body has become a bit more damaged/shows more signs of what it's been through all pretty much back to back. I still have all of Griffin's clothes though. I gave away 1 onesie and a blanket to my very best friend when she was due with a boy. Everything else has stayed in the bins - about 6mo worth of clothes. And I'm not ready to close that door yet.

I too think that if I knew we would have a boy, I would go for it. If I knew we would have a girl, I'm still open to it but consider the toll it will take on me more. I could barely walk for about 18 weeks with both girls. I hobbled around and had to sit or freeze in place many times due to pubic symphisis and nerve pain. I cried over it several times feeling sorry for myself. Doing it the second time while having a toddler running around was even worse. I really hated that my husband couldn't share the load - though he was doing everything for our family that he could including caring for our daughter, but I was missing out. I wonder if having 18mo or more in between pregnancies might help though. I only had 4 months from birth to conception between the first 2 and then 10 months between my daughters.

I also love and loathe the newborn phase though. I really really LOVE the snuggles and the precious time I never got with our son. I remember holding him and crying because he was struggling to just take breaths while hooked up to everything known to man that might help him. other than a ventilator (since that can make them dependent). I remember thinking how I would never take it for granted just holding your child and having the snuggle up to you content and happy, breathing and living easily. So, don't get me wrong, I cherished this with each girl. But, I struggled with the sleep deprivation and the constant breastfeeding. I was not an easy wife for my husband and I was more short tempered with my toddler, and I hate admitting both of those. I think getting older did not help, though I'm only 35. My milk probably would have been more abundant for longer if I was younger and my stamina through those first few months as well. So, if we have another one, it will probably be just as difficult unless I don't try to keep the baby on breastmilk for at least 6mo (I had to pump A LOT keep my supply up and make a stash in the freezer before my supply crashed again at 4months with my second daughter).

So, where does that leave me? Even when Griffin was in the NICU but we thought we would still bring him home at some point, I remember talking to my husband about how to raise him to be the man we want him to be. I thought about all the big moments in his life, girlfriends, sports or hobbies, school, graduations, marriage, etc. and how I could be the best mom for him through these milestones. With my girls, I've struggled to think about the future still. I have a lot of fear. I also just try to live in the moment. But I think some of it is also how different my life is now than I thought it would be. A boy vs 2 girls is still children, but I have this ache for another son. My husband doesn't feel the same way. He aches for Griffin, but is ok being done having kids. I think he's actually scared of having 3 living children :) They are a handful!!! And we live in a very expensive city so there's the practical things to think about too.

Lastly, I worry about having another baby that isn't healthy. Every time I learn about a child struggling with some sort of critical disease or condition, it breaks my heart. I am sad for the family and sad for the child, scared of what might happen one day and seeing how their daily lives are affected as well. Having another baby only increases our chances of something being wrong with another one of our children. I know we don't get a free pass. We've already had 2 healthy children... so would I be pushing our luck, though that's not really the way I think about it.

I have never told anyone this, but I sort of have it in my mind that 37 is my cut-off age. I don't want to be any older than this to have more kids. I don't want a 3rd living child to be too much younger than the older 2 either. It's a very personal thing and doesn't mean I judge anyone else's ideas or wishes. This is just what feels right for me. But that only gives me ~1.5 more years to get pregnant.... and man I don't want to be pregnant any time soon!!

I appreciated reading others' insights. Thank you. Hannah, clearly I'm more long-winded than you. Writing it out is really helpful for me, esp since I haven't really talked about this in detail with anyone else. Do you have any timelines or cut-off points like me?

Oh, one last thing. We actually thought for a couple of weeks that our second daughter was a boy. The nuchal looked possibly like a boy though we couldn't get a perfect shot and it was early. When we went in for the amnio, we found out she was a girl. I was upset, cried some, but was surprised at how quickly that passed. After a few days maybe, the disappointment was gone. We wouldn't be getting another son, but we would be getting a sister for our other daughter, something I'd never had.
March 22, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterJessica - Griffin's mom
Jessica, I am so sorry about Griffin's loss. How heartbreaking. I am imagining what those weeks might have been like for you and your husband, as the news kept getting worse and hope dimmed...
I hear how we both love and appreciate our living children and are torn about the possibility of "just one more..." I am sorry that pregnancy and breastfeeding was physically so hard for you, that is yet another dimension. With two little ones, I can see how that would be significant! I so appreciate your honesty about how the stress of caring for very young children affected your ability to be the wife and mother that you want to be. That is one of my two biggest considerations too; it would be something of a relief to be out of the stage where someone always needs to be attending to the baby and I feel constantly behind. (The other is work and finance).
I don't have any hard cut-offs, though I'll be 40 in the fall, so I'm getting toward the end of my window and, like you, I worry about problems with a possible baby as I get older. I know the odds are still very good that everything would be fine, but I also have that "maybe I should quit while I'm ahead" thought. But I like being pregnant, and part of the draw for me is the opportunity to go through it just once more! I know I've been lucky in that way.
I like how you reframed your discovery about your second child being a girl as the opportunity for your older daughter to have a sister, which you didn't have growing up. A line from "The Blue Poppy and the Mustard Seed" reads, "If things were different, then things would be different." I think about that a lot. What that means to me is, that we can think a lot about how things would be if... But they're not. And sometimes that's something we need to get used to; living what is.
I really dislike being in this space of indecision and hope that as the months pass, the right choice for us will become clearer. I think I need to do more thinking about what it means to me to be a mother and specifically, to have babies. There's something about babies, specifically, that is so open for hope and imagination about a wonderful future -- and I am very resistant to give that up. Sigh.
Thank you for writing out your thoughts -- I hope you find a degree of peace with whatever you and your husband decide.
March 24, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterHannah
I'm late to this. I was on a glow sabbatical.

With my rainbow I was concerned how I'd feel about the gender of my rainbow. After I lost Mira I wanted to parent a girl. I also knew I'd have felt the same way about parenting a boy had we lost a boy. With our infertility our rainbow felt like (maybe) THE rainbow. From experiences I've read about here I decided to not learn the gender, I even had them not announce gender at birth. I just wanted to fall in love with my baby regardless of gender. We had asked for gender neutral baby goods from the beginning, so it wasn't as if I only had pink onesies.

We had a second girl. Yes, I love that I get to parent a girl. In other ways it was f-ing bloody hard, especially since they had many physical similarities. Maybe the comparisons are stronger when they are the same gender? And now the thought of our living daughter only having a dead sister makes me want another girl so she can have a living sister. Gahhhh.....

Any way you shake it we miss our babes. I'm so sorry Y isn't here so that we weren't having these conversations.

Anyone out there wanting a specific gender considering adoption? (Maybe this already came up....I didn't read all of the responses.)
May 8, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterKO
Dear KO,

Thanks for your reply. I remember you from my earlier days here and am happy to think of you with your living daughter. I (surprisingly) had not thought about what it would be like to have them look similar. I imagine I would like it, but that it would also have a dimension of sadness and need to be sorted through. I appreciate very much your sharing what it has been like for you.

Regarding your question about adoption, my husband and I talked about adopting a child when we were still dating and the possibility is still out there. But we would likely take in an older child who has been hard to place, so I don't know that I would feel the same kind of connection with Y as I would with another baby who was genetically mine.

Thanks again for writing about your experience.

May 11, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterHannah
Hey Hannah!

You are sweet to remember me! Your words cheered me!

I thought I would want my girls to look similar too....but then a camera flash would go off, and she'd look pale, too pale. Like her sister. Little things like that....

I have always wanted to adopt. Being pregnant again (now that I'm hitting advanced maternal age this month) sounds less and less appealing!

How are you doing Hannah?
May 13, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterKO