Not ready to have a child unless you're ready to lose a child?

I don’t really know what to say here, except that my wife and I recently had an early miscarriage. It was terrible, and has been such a blow to us. We were so looking forward to having a child, but now realise how naive we were in thinking this would all be joyful.

At the end of the day, as Catholics, we have children to raise up saints, and we both take solace from being parents of a little saint - one who didn’t sin and who is now with God. At the same time, that means being like Mary and saying ‘yes’ to bearing into life one who is born to die.

Knowing how hard this has been for us, I can’t imagine it happening again, or worse a stillbirth or the death of an infant, yet (globally) about 5% of children die in infancy, that’s 1 in 20. In America it’s 1 in 200, but that’s still a lot. I can’t imagine putting my wife at risk of that, it seems such a heartless thing to do.

Is it true to say that a couple isn’t ready to have a child until they are ready to lose a child? If that is the case, I can’t think of many married couples who are ever ready to make that commitment. I certainly don’t feel personally strong enough, emotionally or psychologically, or strong enough in my ability to support my wife through such a loss, even though I love her more than I have ever loved anyone in my life.

Africans have a concept ‘Ubuntu’, that personal value derives from the community. While this is often presented as if it were a philosophical position, I tend to think it is more likely the psychological effect of living with high levels of infant mortality - if you know your child is as likely as not to die before the age of 5, you are going to be scared to attach until it is older, therefore the child grows up without a sense of personal attachment until it is old enough to talk and see its role in the community. You could say similar things about the harsh and cold way older Scots and Irish people were raised - they saw their responsibilities before their rights, because their parents didn’t want to place too much personal value on their lives until they were old enough to be past the major diseases that picked of children in infancy. I can now see why people were so cold - it’s not heartlessness, it’s psychological survival.

To those who are stronger than me - how do you get to the stage where you are ready to lose a child? How do you cope when it happens? When you get there, can you ever really attach to and love the child you have if you know you may lose them?

No one is ready to lose a child, whether that child is pre-born, an infant, or even an adult.

My inlaws watched as their son died as a middle aged adult. A friend of mine had her newly married son killed in an accident leaving behind a wife and a newborn daughter. A family at my elementary school lost their son due to an unknown sickness which caused a fever spike and sudden death. My cousin lost their 4 year old to an infection.

None of these were any easier to handle. Each is a tragedy. None was ready to lose a child. You just put it in God’s hands and pray a lot.

DL, many hugs and prayers for you and your wife. I’m so sorry for your loss. My DH and I went through losing our first baby - a Honeymoon Baby, and then two more (May and August of this year).

I don’t think there’s really a way to “get prepared” to lose a child. Honestly, I’m not ready to lose another child, but we do want to have more children. Everytime we are open to life, we have to accept that we may not get to take this baby home - that this baby may beat us Home, our Heavenly Home. With the most recent miscarriage, the early bloodwork looked great, but the ultrasound showed no heartbeat and a baby stalled at week 6 (when I should have been week 11). It was a major blow to us, and to my doctor as well.

As a dear priest who has been helping me through our losses told me: you are in the midst of the Paschal Mystery. Our Lord, when he encountered those who were sick or passed away, always had pity, always had mercy, and always affirmed that what happens here is not the end. In the end, life will have the last word - as Christ, who is life himself will have the last word.

I don’t know if that helps you any, but I pray it does. I am still trying to make sense of our latest loss. I am never ready to lose a child, but when it does happen, the closest thing I can do is be like Our Lady and tell God “let whatever You want happen.”

God love you and your wife, and your sweet little one, DL. Please take care of yourself and your wife. One day at a time. If you or her are not ready to think in the future (more kids, etc), don’t feel like you have to. Grieve this little baby as long as both of you need, and don’t rush forward into anything.

(also, if you or your wife want to talk or vent, please feel free to PM me).

I am so sorry for your loss. You have gone through the hardest thing in the world, for a parent to lose a child, and in your case, you didn’t even get to know your baby before having to let go. I can’t think of anything harder, it is as if you have been hurt but aren’t supported in your pain by anyone except someone who knows what it is like.

If we all considered that we might lose our children to death, no one would have children! It’s something I think all parents fear, from the moment you find out that you are pregnant, until we draw our own final breath. For myself, I try to put it out of my mind as much as I can. My 20 year son is in the process of getting his private pilot’s license. A couple of weeks ago, he took his younger brother up in the small plane as he did a cross-country flight (with an instructor, thank goodness!). He didn’t let me know until they were ready to depart, or I might have said, “NO WAY!” Even now, I could have backwards anxiety about having both of my sons up in a small plane at the same time, when anything could go wrong. And he has to make a night flight before he gets the license!! :eek:

Life is fraught with danger. Somehow, we have to rely on God to help us through the fear that our children may be taken from us unexpectedly. And not dwell upon that fear as our foundation for how we set up our children’s lives. Because if we live out of the fear of loss, we will limit their lives and constrain them in the way they live.

My other son is 17 and has ADHD. He is learning to drive. ADHD people are known to have more accidents than non-ADHD people. It takes intense concentration and focus in order to drive a vehicle safely. If it were up to me, as his parent and the person who knows him the best, I’d say he absolutely cannot drive, ever, unless he is medicated (he takes a stimulant for school). But eventually, even he will be an adult and then I will not be able to make that decision for him. We can only do so much to protect our children from harm.

Of course my greatest fear for that son is that he would die in a state of mortal sin (he’s had some rough times and doesn’t confess as often as I’d prefer him to).

Anyway, just to let you know that anxiety and fear are part of being a parent all the way through. We just have to say our prayers, rely on God, bring all our cares and concerns to the foot of the Cross and to Mary, and not remain in that dark and scary place. God gives us His love to carry us through the worst times we face. I know you are there right now. :grouphug::bighanky:

p.s. I think when you are ready to have another baby, you will love him or her all the more, not attach less, because of his or her sibling already in Heaven. The children you do meet on this earth will be like precious gems to you because of what you’ve already lost.

DL82, I’m so sorry for your loss. I know how you feel about being terrified of losing another; I just lost my first baby a couple of months ago. My grieving process has been drawn out, because of complications that made me bleed all the way up until now, going in and out of the hospital with anemia and blood transfusions… I have been so exhausted and depleted, both physically and emotionally—sometimes spiritually.

Up until a few days ago, I was dead set against trying for a baby again any time soon… I couldn’t even see myself being ready at any time in the future. I felt the same as you; how could I ever go through that again? How could I ever be happy finding out I’m pregnant again, without just being eaten up by the fear of losing the baby? But that fear is already losing its grip on me. I think that it will for you and your wife, too. Don’t worry that you feel this way right now; it is part of your grieving process. I am willing to bet that when the time is right, those feelings will give way to feelings of hope and a grace from God to be able to move forward.

Have you named your baby? If you don’t already, try talking to your baby in Heaven. It might comfort you in a way and remind you that going through the sadness of loss was worth this precious child who would never have existed without you. From this point on, you will always be a father, and your child will always be so grateful that because of you, your wife, and God, he/she is incredibly happy in Heaven right now. Your child loves you very much.

I will be praying for you and your wife.

First of all, I am so very sorry for your loss and the obvious suffering which it is causing you.

I don’t think anyone can ever be ready to lose a child, it is unnatural. There is no way to prepare yourself for the death of a child. It is a devestating event. Do not feel that you are in some way unusual for being surprised and devestated by this loss. Your fears that you cannot become attached to a child because they might die are a normal result of what you’ve gone through. If we all refused to love someone, because they might die, we would all be lonely and miserable. Give yourself time to adapt to this loss, I would strongly recommend counselling. If someone has said this phrase about not being ready to have a child unless you’re ready to lose them, that is utter rubbish. I have seen parents who lost their child after years of knowing that it would happen, even they couldn’t be “ready” to lose them.

As for your ideas about the how older Scots and Irish were raised (I’m Scottish), I do not think it had anything to do with high levels of child mortality. I think it was due to the religious atmosphere. My grandmother is 95 and lost two of her brothers in childhood, both deaths devestated her mother, the second actually may have hastened my great-grandmother’s death. Life was often harsh for people then, and this probably affected their behaviour too.

I do not think that African tribespeople love their children any less than we do. I think the community value is down to the need to co-operate with others in order for everyone to survive. I am sure that some poor Somali mother, who is watching her child die right now, feels as devestated as you or I would in that situation. I think that in the West we often assume that somehow people in the Third World don’t feel the loss of a child they way we do.

I remember watching a report from East Africa about ten years ago, when there had been another terrible drought and many people were starving. The reporter and camera crew had met a woman collecting food for her two daughters at a relief centre. The woman said that her daughters were almost dead from starvation, the reporter and crew took her home and were going to film the two children. When they entered the house, the mother found that the younger girl had died while she was out. The reporter said that they had been going to stop filming and let her grieve in private, but that this woman asked them to keep filming. She was utterly distraught but said to the reporter that she wanted him to show people in the West her suffering, so that they might understand what was happening and send aid. This woman was every bit as attached to her daughter as a mother in our countries would be.

I will be praying for you and your wife. I hope that God will bless you with another child, to bring some joy into your sorrow.

God bless

I remember that show. I cried and cried right along with her.

I’m so sorry for your loss.

You don’t get ready. In fact, I remember the priest who married us saying quite bluntly that if you knew what married life was going to bring, you probably would never find the courage to do it. If you only did what you thought you were ready to do, you’d never do anything. How much more so if you had to be ready to try your best, only to be met with tragedies beyond your control! Who could marry, if she had to be ready to be a widow before she started? Who could become a physician, if he felt he needed to be ready to lose his license? Who could become a police officer, if she couldn’t start until she was truly ready to be killed, or to watch her partner die right in front of her? Who could take a position of trust, if he had to be prepared to resign in disgrace because of lies told by his enemies? We hope we’d be serene in the face of any of the disasters, because life brings them, but we can’t wait to start until we know we would be.

You plan when planning is your duty, you prepare when preparation is needed, and beyond that you trust that there is nothing that God can’t help you to get through.

Excellent post, EasterJoy.


I can’t say I’m stronger, but here is our story.

Our first and third pregnancies ended in early miscarriages. It was difficult and painful, especially the first one.

One thing we did was to sign up to sponsor a child with the Christian Foundation for Children and Aging ( We realized we needed to transform the tragedy into an opportunity to be better Christians; we dedicated a small part of the resources that would have gone to our own child to a poor child in need.

After the first miscarriage, my wife dedicated herself to praying for another child to be safely delivered. That prayer was answered, but we still had to bear the cross of another miscarriage thereafter. Since then, we have had two more safe deliveries.

I hope that is helpful.

First, I am so sorry for your loss. I know how difficult it is when a couple/family suffers through a miscarriage.

As others have said, I don’t think anyone is every prepared to lose a child. I can imagine what it was like for families in the past when the mortality rate was much higher than it was today. There is an old church cemetery near where I spent most of my childhood in a very rural area which has many graves of little babies or young children. One family on a gravestone lost six of their children, mostly in infancy and a couple when they were toddlers.

I read a lot of historical biographies and history in general. In a few of the books I’ve read, there was mention that the European/American societies (I’ve never read much about other societies) tended to be more fatalistic in general because of the heavy mortality rates of their children and of adults. It wasn’t unusual, for instance, for men to have lost at least one wife during childbirth. I know that even in my own family three of my great-aunts died in childbirth with their newborns and were buried together. As a musician and also a lover of music history, especially of composers and musicians, I know that J.S. Bach fathered 20 children by two wives (first wife died suddenly), only 10 of which survived into adulthood. Mozart fathered 6 children, only two sons survived into adulthood. His letters to family and friends regarding the births of his children were very interesting. For the first couple of births, his letters were very joyous, full of passion, excitement and love for the birth of his children. As time went on and as he and his wife lost their children in infancy or very early childhood, he was much more contained in his letters when announcing his children’s births. In one of the bios I read on him it was done to try to quell the pain of possibly losing them… something that was common during that time - expecting their child’s death before they would die. It didn’t help lessen their grief, but it was a coping mechanism. Mozart’s own parents had 7 children, two of which (Nannerl - also and accomplished musician - and Wolfgang) survived into adulthood.

It didn’t mean that these people didn’t love their children or spouses any less. I don’t know if they didn’t attach themselves to their children prior to age 5. I think they did, because when you read about the grief these parents suffered, no matter how much they tried to be contained, the grief and pain was still palpable. It may not have always been exposed to others, but their journals and letters showed it. Their fatalistic outlook on life allowed them to expect it (death at any age), but also made them a bit depressive, I think, because of it.

Im so sorry for the loss of your precious baby. God really is with you in your grief.

Soon after sin entered the world, a mother and father lost a child. When God saved the world from sin and restored eternal life, another mother and father (God) watched their child die. Its because of His death, that our grief finds a meaning. And a Consoler.

EasterJoy’s post was excellent. Our lives are risk. Fear stops a lot of good people from doing a lot of good things.

Heartbreaking. I’m so sorry for your loss. You and your wife are both in my prayers.

God bless.

I have no words to heal your pain… other than, “I’m sorry”.
We also had one loss - my 3rd pregnancy. Heart wrenching.

I’ve also watched very close friends deal with horrific tragedies… 2-year-olds requiring liver transplants, tragic car accidents that tear away gorgeous 6-year-olds and paralyze the 3-year-old boy of your dreams… horrific stuff that never heals… ever.

Gives us lots of reason to pray… unceasingly…

I’m sorry for your loss. We too have lost a sweet baby and it’s not something you ever get over.
What we try to focus on with our children is that they really are not ours, they are God’s. He loans them to us. Sometimes we get to have them our whole lives, but sometimes it’s just a few weeks while pregnant.

A sweet friend of ours is watching her 6 year old battle Acute lymphoblast leukemia . She is doing it with a grace I can’t even imagine. I look at my 5 year old and I can’t even begin to put myself in her place; the fear, the sadness. Watching your child go through test after test. She is going to have to have chemo for 3 years to make sure they get it all! Our friend is doing all of this while she has MS! And I’m complaining because I don’t have time to read every day! Really!

You are never ready to lose a child. Ever! I think we just need to focus on loving each child as much as we can for as long as we have them! Knowing that each day is special!

I don’t know that anyone is ever “prepared to lose a child.” Until it happens to you, you don’t know what that means.

Thank you all for your kind messages, and for sharing your own difficult experiences with this. I suppose in part it comes down to trusting that love is the one thing you never regret - God forbid anyone should lose a child, but if you do, it would be better to know you loved them all you could while you could. My coldness is really just selfishness.

Thanks again, and please remember us in your prayers.

don’t be so hard on yourself. I don’t think you are a cold, selfish man, but someone who is grieving the loss of a baby. What you are feeling is normal. I am so sorry this has happened to you and your wife. I know it sounds impossible right now but things will get better and you will desire another child. God bless.

I agree with Contra Mundum.

You are not being cold and selfish, you are a man in terrible pain and suffering. You were blaming yourself for feeling that pain, "I should have been prepared to lose a child, look at all these other societies with high infant mortality, they cope! " You were punishing yourself for your grief because you felt it was somehow a defect in you that caused it. It is not a defect, it is the love that I pray will one day allow you to be a wonderful father to a child.

You are in my prayers, God bless.

I am so sorry for your loss.
When my oldest child was born, he was very ill and had to stay in the hospital for several days. That was very difficult . . .during prayer, I was in anguish, telling God that I could not stand it if he ceased to exist. I felt as if the Lord told me, he will never cease to exist, since conception, he has been in my loving arms no matter what happens to him. Since then death has not frightened me so much.

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