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“I will strengthen my grief muscle—one day and well-meaning question at a time.”

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By Andrea Gillespie

“Is this your first?!”

Now that I’m visibly pregnant with my second baby—a boy—everyone I run into that doesn’t know me asks this question. I had no idea how many strangers or people in the peripherals of your life inquire about the number of children you’ve carried. In the past few weeks, I have had this question posed to me by a receptionist at a dental office, a CVS cashier, an Uber driver, and a table full of people at a professional networking event.

The answer is no. This is not my first. I have a son, too. 

He died shortly before his second birthday, over a year ago. Sometimes I do not tell people about his death. I never lie and say this is my first pregnancy, but I’ll quickly answer that I have a son and leave it at that. Sometimes I feel like these strangers don’t get to know my story. I get caught off guard and become protective of my son’s story, my story, and my grief. Other times, I do share. Just depends on the day.

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Nolan was only 18 months old when he was diagnosed with an extremely rare immune-system deficiency. It took us months of testing with nationally recognized immunologists to learn that my husband and I are both carriers for a rare mutation that affects how the immune system fights viruses. Nolan was afflicted and needed a bone-marrow transplant. Despite having a good donor match, the transplant was too much for his fragile body and he passed away 77 days post-transplant.

I know parenting after loss won’t be easy, but parenting fulfilled my husband and me, and we want that in our lives again.

After working with a fertility and genetics team, I am now expecting another son, who will be free from this mutation. Being pregnant after loss has brought out so many emotions: joy, guilt, anger, sadness, hope, and anxiety. I know parenting after loss won’t be easy, but parenting fulfilled my husband and me, and we want that in our lives again. I think Nolan wants it, too.

Being asked a harmless question like, “is this your first?” reminds me that I will always face these interactions. Strangers will always ask how many kids you have, how old they are, and so on. I am living a life most people can’t imagine. One that includes the terrible loss of my sweet boy and, at the same time, the honor of having him for as long as I did. These questions will be asked a thousand different ways, on a thousand different days. And I will learn to handle them. 

I will strengthen my grief muscle—one day and well-meaning question at a time.

Grief & Loss Building resilience Children Loss of child Post-traumatic growth Women Reproductive challenges
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