By Lara Gillham, Jackson’s Mom
Gender of Your New Baby after Child Loss
Finding out the gender of your new baby after losing your child can be difficult no matter what the results are. I know it certainly took some time for me and my husband to process it. Jackson was the boy my husband longed to have. Did we want another little boy so we didn’t feel like that had been ripped away from us too? Or would it be too hard to have the same gender? Ultimately, we didn’t have a choice in the matter, so we prepared ourselves to accept whatever happened. No matter what, we were having a baby, and we were grateful for that. We just wanted a happy and healthy baby.
Because we opted to do genetic testing when I was only 12 weeks along, we had the option to find out the gender as well. We decided to find out because it gave us more time to process how that child’s gender would affect our grief, and I wanted to be sure that I embraced our baby and didn’t resent him or her for being a specific gender, which she/he had no control over. When I look back, I’m glad we found out. I was able to spend several months preparing myself.
When I was about 12 weeks along, we found out we were having a girl. I remember telling my husband that I wanted to treat this baby the same as Jackson – I wanted her to have all the same affections and attention that we gave him. So just like we did with Jackson, when we found out the gender, we went to the store to buy her first outfit. I didn’t expect it to be as difficult as it was. It was my first time walking into the baby clothing since Jackson was alive, and I found myself drawn to the little boys’ clothes. I wanted to pick out the little dinosaur pajamas and teddy bears playing baseball. But we found a purple outfit with a lacy heart that we liked so we settled on that. We left the store feeling out of place – excited to be having a daughter but also very broken-hearted because we would never pick out clothing for her big brother again. We didn’t know if we would ever get to shop for little boys clothes again. As time went on, I found myself excitedly shopping for little girls clothing and that purple outfit ended up being one of our favorites on her.
At first, we waited to pack up Jackson’s room because we thought we might be able to use the same clothes again for a new baby. Finding out we were having a girl meant we had to pack most of Jackson’s clothes away in hopes that someday we will have another boy. We ended up waiting until we were 6 months pregnant to start going through his room. Seeing the outfits he would never get to wear again and the ones he never got to wear at all was very difficult. We didn’t push ourselves. Instead, we did what we could handle, spreading it out over several weekends and stopping when we became too overwhelmed. We had offers from friends and family to help us go through his room, which was very nice of them, but we decided we wanted to do it alone. I know some parents who wanted help or wanted others to do it all, I know others who waited a long time before touching the room, and I know some who went through the room right after their child died. I don’t think there is any wrong way of going about it. Whatever feels right to you is the right way.
We also had to decide if we were going to use any of the same toys, furniture, and the like for our new baby. While going through Jackson’s things, we made 3 piles:
1. keep for the next baby
2. pack away until/if we have another boy
3. maybe never reuse again and instead keep as a memory of Jackson.
Those piles were helpful to us because it not only kept decisions from becoming overwhelming, but it allowed us to use the unsure pile if we disagreed or something was too difficult to think about at the time. At the time of writing this blog, our unsure pile is still sitting there, 9 months later, which is fine with us. We will eventually revisit it when we are ready.
While it took me some time to get adjusted to the fact that we were having a girl, I’m glad that adjustment period took place while I was pregnant and not when I was becoming acquainted with my new baby, as there were already so many emotions to process. But nobody is the same. You are the bereaved parents so you get to decide what’s best for you – when to find out the gender and what to do with your child’s clothes, toys, and furniture.
We know several bereaved parents who have had both the same and opposite gender for their rainbow baby. And the common theme seems to be that they all love their outcome and wouldn’t change it because they have a beautiful little baby. I have to agree with them.