My daughter just turned three. She loves babies. For better or for worse, we told her we were pregnant this last time the day I got a positive test. She's always known before, but this was the first time she really got it. She told everyone, "There is a baby in my mommy's tummy" and "I'm a big sister to..." As in, "I'm a big sister to help take out the garbage." And,"I'm a big sister to bring the baby a bottle." (The baby being the little one I nanny.)
Now she says things like, "Why did the baby die?" "I'm NEVER going to be a big sister." "Their baby is going to heaven too?" (Anytime we talk about someone who is pregnant. Which is a lot. Because we're Catholics in our late twenties.) And "Mommy, are we going to get another baby soon?"
I don't know if we'll tell her right away the next time we get pregnant. We told her this time because we wanted her to be able to share in the life of her sibling especially if we miscarried. If we waited to tell her until after the first trimester, she would not have been able to share in the joy of the short lives of her siblings at all. At least this way, she gets to know they existed and be happy about them, if only for a little while.
On the other hand, it's so confusing for her. She has questions that even I can't answer. ("Why didn't God protect our baby?" "Why did God protect their baby?" "Will God give us another baby?") And if we tell her, we have to be prepared for everyone to know we are pregnant. We found out that three-year-olds can't really keep secrets. At all. I'm not sure that we'll willingly share future pregnancies with even the closest of relatives or friends until (if) we reach 14 or 16 weeks. The more times we go through this, the more I want to just keep it to ourselves.
My daughter already notices that our family is different. All of the family friends her age have one or two younger siblings. She constantly hears the same questions and comments, "Is she your only child?" "Where are your other children?" "When are you going to have more?" "Your daughter needs a sibling!" As she gets older, I pray she doesn't let these comments and questions make her feel like she is not enough for us, or that our family is lacking or less than. I pray that she'll be able to have a sibling to love and grow up with.
I often think these losses would be easier on me if I had two or more living children. Not that they would ever be easy. But that one of the hardest things for me is thinking not only of my loss of a child but my child's loss of a sibling relationship. Of course, I would mourn the loss of every child and the unique sibling relationships they would bring to our family, even if we had ten living children, but my daughter has no sibling relationship at all.
My broken body denies her a living sibling over and over and over again. I know being an only child isn't the worst thing in the world. Nor do siblings always have a great relationship. But I want to do what I can to give her someone to face the world with. I don't want her to bear the sole burden of caring for my husband and me as we age. I don't want her to be without family once we are gone.
I know that most likely we'll have at least one more living child. I have so many years of fertility ahead of me and the odds are ever in my favor. But until it actually happens, until I hold that baby in my arms and watch my daughter dote over her new sibling, I can't actually imagine it. After having that image wrenched from me so many times, I just can't go there anymore.