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I stared at the pregnancy test, my heart racing with anxiety. As I waited for what felt like hours, two pink lines became noticeably visible. Right then, the tears began flooding down my face, but what I felt wasn’t joy.

As a parent who has lost two children, fear and panic consumed me. At that moment, I faced something I’ve known for a long time.

I’m scared to have another baby.

It’s a question I’ve received countless times over the years: “Are you going to have more children?” I don’t fault people for this awkward conversation. When you look at my family, we appear to be a happy-go-lucky couple, proud of our only child. But what most people don’t realize is that our daughter is our lone survivor.

Six years ago, my husband and I embarked on our last ditch effort to have a family of our own. Years of infertility lead us to various specialists, weekly doctor visits and several surgeries on my end. Our last hope was in vitro fertilization, a process that’s not only physically demanding but also mentally and emotionally draining. On that fateful day in February, we sat in the exam room holding hands, nervously waiting to find out if either of our embryos were successful. Just moments later, we were in for the shock of our lives. One embryo split, making us pregnant with triplets, two identical girls and a boy.

The initial shock gave way to sheer excitement. Our family would finally be complete. As the weeks passed by, my pregnancy glow was on full display while my belly grew at a rapid rate. We knew I faced a high-risk pregnancy, yet my husband and I chose to stay positive. We have always been the couple with the glass “half full” approach.

But at 18 weeks gestation, our lives took a drastic turn. Doctors performed emergency surgery in order to save my triplets. For several weeks, I found myself on bed rest, no movement except to use the restroom. The hospital became our home away from home; flowers and cards quickly filled up my room. And even though we knew we could lose our children at any moment, my husband and I stayed optimistic.

But less than five weeks later, our hopes and dreams were shattered. My body failed me as I went into labor more than 17 weeks premature. At 22 weeks gestation, many hospitals won’t even consider a baby viable, yet a team of doctors and neonatologists were prepared to take every life-saving measure possible.

Our first daughter, Abigail, arrived with a kick and a squeak. Her body was frail and her skin translucent, her eyes fused shut due to her early arrival. Doctors tried to save her, yet her lungs were just too weak. She passed away in our arms nearly two hours later.

Our remaining two triplets arrived more than 17 hours later. In the chaos of grief and shock, I didn’t even realize my children were born alive. Peyton and Parker were whisked off to the neonatal intensive care unit. Weighing just over a pound, they were the youngest and weakest babies to call the NICU home.

Those initial hours turned into days and those days into weeks. We found ourselves grieving the loss of one child while trying to remain strong for our other two.

Just one month after holding a funeral for our firstborn baby, we were dealt tragic news no parent ever wants to hear. Our dreams were once again shattered as we learned that our son was gravely ill. After 55 days of life, Parker passed away in our arms. It’s a club no parent ever wants to be part of.

As I quickly learned, grief is a marathon, not a sprint.

You never get over the loss of a child, you learn how to live with that hole in your heart forever.

In the early days, I felt hopeless, my heart broken into a million little pieces. There were days I physically couldn’t get out of bed, yet I had to find a way because we had one survivor depending on her parents.

As the years passed, we slowly found our new normal. The tears would arrive at random moments as I pictured what life would be like if all three of our children had survived. But through it all, we found a glimmer of hope. Our lone triplet overcame endless obstacles, her strength and over-the-top personality showing the world why she is alive today.

For a long time, friends would dance around the question of us having more children. It’s a sensitive topic for a grieving mother. And when strangers approached, my answer was always the same: we were perfectly happy with one child on earth and two children in Heaven. Maybe it was meant to be.

Sure, I thought a lot about children. I always thought I would have more than one in our arms. My husband and I talked about it often but he knew what I was afraid to admit for so long: I was scared to have another child.

Even the thought of being pregnant again made my heart beat a mile a minute. And while doctors had told me I could go on to have a perfectly normal pregnancy, I couldn’t fathom the heartache of losing another child. I pictured myself worrying every waking moment, wondering if I would deliver prematurely or lose a baby in the womb. The fear of loss was too large, and my husband and I agreed we were perfectly content with our miracle child.

Because of infertility, we never thought about getting pregnant again. We signed off with our fertility clinic and closed that chapter. Life was good. We found the perfect balance of being parents to children both on earth and in Heaven. But little did we know, our lives were about to change.

Exactly six years to the day after we started IVF, I sat in the bathroom staring at a pregnancy test. No longer were we filled with hopes and dreams of having that picture-perfect family. I was older, more jaded, and being pregnant at close to 40-years-old was the furthest thing from my mind.

As the initial shock has subsided, I am now finding moments of excitement within the fear.

And while we know every little thing that can go wrong, my husband and I try to stay cautiously optimistic. Yes, as a grieving parent, I’m scared to have another child. And that’s OK.

We thought our life story was complete, but it turns out, we still have one more chapter to go. As baby bottles and diapers will once again fill our home, our hearts are full knowing this rainbow baby is appearing after a dark, difficult storm.

Stacey Skrysak

Stacey Skrysak is a local television news anchor in Illinois, but her proudest role is becoming a mom after years of infertility. Stacey is mother to a 22-weeker surviving triplet and two angels. Even though two of her children were only alive for a short time, her triplets have touched thousands of people around the world. Through her blog, Stacey has become a voice for infertility, premature birth and child loss. These days, she sprinkles in the trials and tribulations of raising a daughter, who was once nicknamed “The Diva of the Nicu.”

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