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Tuesday, June 20, 2006

How dare I have another?

For at least the first year of Toddler in Chief's life, I couldn't imagine having another baby. We had been through so much. We were still bruised, still reeling from what we'd been through early on. We were still haunted by what was to come. But after his second surgery, we realized that having another baby was like giving ourselves permission to keep living. Our life didn't end when we had a child with life-threatening health problems. It had just become part of who we are. Even though our experience could never be described as normal, it's the only experience we know; it's our normal. There will always be life before and life after. But that doesn't mean we need to be totally defined by where we've been, what we've seen, the sorrow we've felt, the mourning we've done, the uncertainty we face.

When TIC was in the hospital earlier this year--during one of his darkest days in the Pediatric Cardiac Intensive Care Unit--one of the nurses asked me, "So, why did you decide to have another?" The tears fell on cue. Her tone suggested that she couldn't believe that we decided to have another, considering things obviously hadn't worked out so well with the first one. I have often suspected that people have wondered that about us--not that it's anyone's business if we decide to have more kids. But especially as I waddled around the hospital for those six weeks, I often felt like I was being judged. And from the tone of that nurse's voice, I apparently was, even as I hovered over the listless body of my three-year-old son.

But why shouldn't TIC have a sibling? Why shouldn't we have the joy of another baby? The joy of a bigger family? Even with all of TIC's problems, he is amazing and I feel honored to get to know him, to spend time with him--even if he drives me crazy occasionally.

A friend is going though the process of having a second baby with a surrogate. She is 44 years old and the surrogate just went through a failed IVF cycle. My friend and her husband were thinking it was getting to be too late to try again because they are in their 40s. But her fears, her hesitations, her concerns about the future reminded me of why we decided to have another baby. We don't know how much time we have on this earth. All we can do is make choices based on where we are right now and what we want for ourselves. When my son was born, I realized that life doesn't come with any kind of guarantees. But that doesn't mean we shouldn't strive for the best life we can build for ourselves, complete with all the ups and downs. Even with all of our downs--and we've had more than our share--the ups, the joys of being a parent to my special kid, far outweigh all that other stuff. Don't get me wrong, that other stuff is real, it's there everyday. But sometimes we forget about it for a few minutes and we live and we laugh and we just are. And it's all worth it.


  1. Anonymous9:38 PM

    Beautifully written, Suzanne. Do not ever feel you are being judged. Anyone who would judge you for having another baby is not worth even a moment of your thoughts (I personally think the nurse's comments were not judgemental, for the simple reason that I can't believe a sane person could possibly express such a ridiculous sentiment).

    Riley is so lucky to have a little brother on the way! And I'm especially happy for you and Ken, that you will finally get to experience what you missed out on the first time around: the joy of those first few hours with your baby, the incredible peace and wonder you feel the first time you hold him. You were robbed of that time in the chaos after Riley's birth, and I love the fact that you will be able to have that experience this time.

    I'd also like to say, I so admire the strength you've shown over the past few months. What you went through with Riley's surgery was traumatic enough, but to also be going through the rigors of pregnancy... you are truly an amazing person.

  2. it sounds like that nurse was book smart and common sense lacking. I would have knocked her lights out....ok maybe not...anyways

    we are so happy for you and ken and riley to have a new addition to your family. You two are an inspiration. You keep it together and love your child and soon you will have another child to make your family even stronger.

    hugs to you all

    Marisa and Dave

  3. Anonymous12:01 PM

    After all you have been through, you have more parenting experience than anyone. Have as many children as you want-they will all be so very, very lucky to have you as well.

  4. Susan, you look great! I'm so glad everything's going well with this pregnancy.

    If you didn't have another child, you'd probably regret it. But you will never regret having another child. (You'll be too busy, for one thing!) :)

  5. What a great photo! I can't believe anyone would judge you for having another baby. I think it's wonderful that TIC will have himself a younger sibling to hang around with. And you're right... you do have to go on living, despite what you've been through. Congrats again... can't wait to "meet" the new addition!

  6. hey girl
    i tried to post on rileys blog
    but it wont let me

    so here is my CC

    thats awesome
    NOW while baby #2 is right around the corner you can all jump around and celebrate!

    we are thinking of you all

    -marisa and david peckham

  7. Anonymous1:56 PM

    I've missed your blog. Welcome back. My heart kid absolutely ADORES his baby sister and I think it's good for him to be the big brother. Now things are different for us - we had a healthy boy b/4 our heart kid and our baby girl was definitely a surprise - nevertheless - why shouldn't Riley get to be the big brother. I'm sure he'll have a lot to teach his baby brother. Congrats and best of luck

    Rory 6 1/2, Gibson 4 1/2, hlhs post-Fontan and Carly 2

  8. I just stumbled upon your blog and quickly read your son's blog as well. I'm glad he's doing well now, and you have every right to have another child.

    My eldest (4) was diagnosed at 3 years with a heart defect--bicuspid aortic valve--a defect that is not as severe as your son's at this stage of her life, but she'll ultimately most likely requre a valve replacement by the time she's in her 30s.

    I share this because I also have a 2 year old daughter who has a perfectly healthy heart. So, my older daughter's situation is just an anomoly. I hope (and I'm sure that it will be) that's the case with you as well.

    I wish you only the best with your pregnancy and hope that your son continues to heal.

  9. Hello!
    My dear friend just cc'ed this post to me. I want to thank you for writing it. My husband and I are struggling with the decision to have another child or not. Our first time around has been very difficult and we're scared. Thank you for sharing your feelings.

  10. Suzanne,

    I have enjoyed your writing for some time now, and watched anxiously for reports on Riley while he was in the hospital. It's so good to see him doing so well, even if I don't know him!

    I, too, have a child with medical problems, and I have dealt with a lot of the same issues you brought up in this post. I've always wondered if people have judged me for having more children with my oldest sick. Yet, it just seems right to live the life I've always wanted to, which equalled a big family. The only draw back has been being away from my others when we're in the hospital with my firstborn. But the littler ones have never known anything different, and their life revolves and adjusts to the fact that their sister needs me alot.

    As difficult as I've found it to be to juggle "normal" life with the cares of my "abnormal" one, having "un-sick" kids has really balanced things out for us. When the meds aren't working, when the tests look bad, there's still a little one that needs help with homework, or draws me a picture that only he can dicipher. That's nice. It means life will go on.

    I know Carter will bring that kind of beauty to your lives now. You'll be amazed at how you don't have to worry about certain things. You'll see him healthy, and you'll revel in that, literally sit there and stare at him for it. And those hard days with Riley (which we hope are now passing), will be easier in a sense. You'll truly have the best of both worlds: the honor of taking care of a medically fragile child and the strength that instills in you, and the joy of raising one that'll only see the ER for a broken bone.

    Enjoy the "plunge" you took. It's an incredible ride raising children!