Several months ago, I wrote an article about the struggle my husband and I have had for years regarding the decision of whether or not to have a third child. The con list is long beginning with expense, ending with our age and a million other reasons filling in the middle. The pro list is short but inarguable—we feel, and have felt, the undeniable ache of a missing child.

In the years since of the birth of my second son who recently turned five, my husband and I have considered and discussed this decision from every angle at great length. We acknowledged the blessing of two healthy children and the risk of testing fate. We admitted our reluctance to turn away from the light at the end of the tunnel—the one filled with bottles, diapers, and sleepless nights-of babydom. We agreed that another child could pose a disruption to our carefully balanced family.

We also, however, confessed to one another that the feeling that there was another soul waiting for us was undeniable and impossible to ignore. I felt it. He felt it. The unseen nudge, push, pull at our shoulder, in our heart. Mature rational reasoning made for a long list of why not to have another child. Boundless love made for the only list that mattered. And so, we began.

As with all journeys of great importance, the path set forth isn’t easy to tread. Acupuncture appointments met, herbs taken, prayers made, and too many months to count have passed and this child, our child, is still missing.

I feel it—the empty space, the heavy ache—every day. I feel it when my little boys and husband encircle me in a hug and there is space for one more. I feel it when I set the table and absentmindedly place an extra plate. And I feel it every time I see the white, empty space where no line appears on every pregnancy test stick.

Time is slipping past and our window to have another child is closing quickly. Age—our children and ours’—have made for only the smallest of portholes in our effort to conceive another. I am anxious, frustrated and a bit confused as I remain in limbo caught between moving forward with our family of four or remaining in my effort for another child.

I have stood for the last few years at a proverbial fork in which one road leads to a child and the other to meeting my set personal and career goals, which have been temporarily suspended. It is not by the day but by the hour that I review my mental checklist of which path is the right one.

A few mornings ago, I took a pregnancy test. As I sat on the couch waiting for my husband—I was too nervous– to check the results, I thought of all I could do if I didn’t have another child. Re-launch my first book, publish my second, train for a fitness show. I was excited as I formed my plans. This path made sense; it seemed right until my husband walked into the room.

Looking disappointed, he said simply, “It’s negative.” In an instant my grand plans fell flat, as all I felt was empty and sad. Yes, I could now move forward but how could I when I was leaving someone behind?

Tears shed, reality set in and once again, my husband and I stand at the divide of whether to keep trying for another child or simply take stock and move on.

Although tentative, we’ve decided to give it another month or two. I would be glossing the truth if I didn’t admit that I’m discouraged to once again put my life on hold, held captive by uncertainty. But I will because I can’t imagine living the rest of my life feeling the pain and loss of never bringing home our missing child.

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Sherry Parnell

A full-time writer, personal trainer, and professor, I am the author of Let the Willows Weep and Daughter of the Mountain. An alumnus of Dickinson College and West Chester University, I live with my husband and sons in Glenmoore, Pennsylvania. I am currently working on my third novel entitled The Secrets Mother Told.

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