Deciding To Have A 2nd Kid After Nearly Dying The First Time

This article was originally published on July 17, 2017, but is being republished in honor of #BumpDay, September 13, the only awareness day for maternal healthcare. Follow the link to learn more, and share your own bump pic to keep spreading the word.

Deciding to have a baby is a huge decision for anyone, at any time, but choosing to get pregnant with a second child after nearly dying the first time around takes a certain kind of bravery only some mothers can muster.

From preeclampsia, to hemorrhage and beyond, there are myriad reasons women lose their lives bringing the next generation into the world. And then there are third-degree vaginal tears, severe diastasis recti — a separation in the abdominal muscles, and misplaced epidurals that make childbirth physically damaging, emotionally traumatic, and frankly too terrifying to ever undertake again. And yet, so many of us do.

Pew statistics from 2015 found the average American mother had 2.4 children — of course they didn’t all face death in the delivery room, nor damage thereafter, but it’s impossible to know how many people felt traumatized by what went down. How on Earth do those who’ve been to the brink and back face the possibility of going through it all again?

While many families are happily one-and-done, for others, stopping after the first child isn't the parents' choice, but something made medically necessary when a delivery doesn't go as planned. In rare and tragic cases, the mother doesn't even survive to make that choice.

“It’s an alarming fact that more women in the U.S. die from complications related to pregnancy than in any other developed country. We must address this; pregnancy must become safer,” Eleni Tsigas, executive director of the Preeclampsia Foundation, told Refinery29. And yet, people keep on doing this crazy thing called making babies.

Ahead, five women share their stories. Their key strategies if you're hoping to move past trauma to try for kid two? Feeling confident in your choices, and communicating clearly with your team of medical professionals. And one other thing: simply remembering that females are strong as hell.

Welcome to Mothership: Parenting stories you actually want to read, whether you're thinking about kids or not, from egg-freezing to taking home baby and beyond. Because motherhood is a big if — not when — and it's time we talked about it that way.

You forget a lot of what happened and look at the good.

Elena, 25, Maryland
Overall, Elena’s first pregnancy was a healthy one, until around 28 weeks, when the then 24-year-old’s pre-eclampsia went undiagnosed. At 36 weeks, her blood pressure skyrocketed, and she was admitted to a natural birthing center in Hawaii, where she lived at the time, to be induced. It took four days for her baby to come.

“I was in a lot of pain and started going in and out of consciousness and hyperventilating. I had been awake for so long that everything was just a blur. It was the longest four days of my life,” she told Refinery29. Elena’s little boy, Wills, is now 16 months old, and she is five months pregnant with her second child.

“For the first six months [after giving birth], I was like, There’s no way I can go through all this again. But I did want more kids. I think you forget a lot of what happened and look at the good. So I thought I would try for another one and just pray it’s a much more positive experience.

"I’m definitely delivering in a hospital [this time], where they have access to any intervention necessary, but I am really scared. I told my OB that I’m getting really bad anxiety, but she doesn’t really understand. She doesn’t know what I experienced in Hawaii, and I can only touch the tip of the iceberg with her. She just doesn’t have enough time to listen to everything.”

A friend told me she was pregnant, and I had almost a pang of jealousy. That's when I first thought I might be ready again.

Whitney, 32, Pittsburgh
Whitney, a runner, tried to get in shape before even conceiving her child, and kept running all the way to 20 weeks. But when the healthy 28-year-old’s HELLP syndrome (a life-threatening pregnancy complication thought to be a variant of preeclampsia) went undiagnosed, she had to be rushed to the hospital at 35 weeks. Because of her condition, Whitney wasn’t able to have an epidural and had to be put under general anesthesia and have a C-section.

“I had to leave my husband and I was so scared. I had to do it on my own. I never really entertained the thought that [I could die] because I just had to get through it,” she said. She woke up in horrendous pain and was moved to the ICU. “I remember being in the hospital thinking, There’s no fucking way I’m doing this again. I really truly believed it in my soul. But I always wanted more than one child, [because] I have a brother and a sister.

"It’s hard to know when exactly it was that I was ready to try again, but I remember a friend of mine told me she was pregnant, and I had almost a pang of jealousy, so that was when I first thought I might be ready again.”

This time, Whitney went to a new hospital, and an OB practice specializing in high-risk pregnancies. “I thought, I’m not taking any chances now. I want to be monitored with the best available care. I had a completely normal pregnancy with my daughter [who’s now 5 months old]. But I had a lot of bitterness and anger towards the OB I saw [the first time], because they missed so many of my symptoms. I learned that you really have to be your own advocate. If you know something is wrong, you have to tell them, and sometimes you have to really beat them over the head with it.”

Any child you have, you never know when they might pass away.

Kayla, 27, Maryland
At 22 weeks pregnant, Kayla was told she had to give birth to her baby or risk losing her life. Hospital staff discovered the then-25-year-old’s blood pressure was at a critical level, and she needed to be induced — but was going to lose her baby. When Olivia was born, she breathed for just 40 seconds before passing away, and Kayla was left heartbroken. “When we were in the hospital and had just sent Olivia back [to be cremated], I told my husband, ‘I don’t want to have any more kids.' He said, ‘Let’s just go home and grieve.’ We really wanted kids, and it took us a while to come to grips with how the Lord gave us Olivia and then took her away, but we just had to be okay with it.”

But the couple had a change of heart, and began trying to conceive again soon after. They now have a healthy 7-month-old baby boy, Landon. Kayla participated in a National Institutes of Health study which paid for ultrasounds once a month to analyze bloodflow to the baby, and monitored her blood pressure daily, and her second pregnancy went smoothly. “Even though it’s still painful, any child you have, you never know when they might pass away. So you just have to enjoy every moment that you possibly can.”

There is absolutely no way I would have ever gone on to have more children.

Lisa, 42, Illinois
After the healthy birth of her daughter via scheduled C-section, then-31-year-old professional speaker and author Lisa Goodman-Helfand developed a serious gastric infection. She had to have her colon removed, fought the infection for three months, and spent four weeks in the ICU in Chicago. She spent a further 100 days not able to eat, drink, speak, or move.

Seven months passed until she was able to leave the hospital in a wheelchair, and had intensive occupational, physical, speech, and respiratory therapies. She went on to battle PTSD, anxiety and depression, and has been left with neuropathy and a slight limp. Lisa considered suing the doctors and hospital involved, but instead decided to detail her experience in her memoir.

The mom-of-two told Refinery29: “I was told it was not safe for me to try for a third child. Even if I had been given the green light by doctors, there is absolutely no way I would have ever gone on to have more children. My experience was far too traumatizing for me and my entire family. I want to stay healthy and raise the two children I am lucky enough to have."

My husband and our daughter both were ready to grow our family, and they finally succeeded in convincing me.

Anushay, 37, Washington, D.C.
As a 31-year-old from Bangladesh, Anushay felt fortunate to be giving birth in D.C. at one of the 100 best hospitals in the states — but it, to say the least, didn't go as smoothly as she had hoped.

“Things went awry right from the beginning. The hospital was understaffed when I arrived, and a number of missteps ensued,” she wrote in The New York Times. She had gone through 30 hours of labor, two spent pushing, before her doctors decided on an emergency C-section. Her epidural slipped; she was in extreme pain and running a fever of 104 degrees, and later developed Grave’s Disease, an autoimmune disorder that affects thyroid function.

The hospital fired one of the doctors involved, demoted another, and refunded Anushay’s anesthesia costs (how generous). The freelance writer told Refinery29: “After six wonderful years with our first child, my husband and our daughter both were ready to grow our family, and they finally succeeded in convincing me to have another baby.

"I gave birth last month, and things could not have been more different. It was such a wonderful experience. [However] I was very scared making the decision after such a traumatic and terrible experience with my first child. We changed doctors, hospitals, and even neighborhoods. We were more informed about our choices, and we communicated exactly what we did not like about our first childbirth experience and were clear about specific things we wanted to experience.”

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