The 5 Phases of Deciding To Have a Baby After Losing One

Melanie McKinnon Baby

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On August 1, 2007, my life was dramatically altered. My 5 week old son Gus died from SIDS. It was sudden, it was unexplained, and it was excruciating. The fact that I survived the ordeal at all is nothing short of a miracle.

After that immense loss, I never thought I would have another child. The issues I was dealing with at the time seemed insurmountable and I was sure it wasn’t in me. But I eventually overcame my insecurities and had my Rainbow Baby (the first baby born after a loss).

Deciding to have another baby after losing one is difficult. I have broken down the process I went through, before finally coming to the realization that I needed another child, into phases.

Empty Arms Syndrome

I’m here to tell you that Empty Arms Syndrome is real. This was the worst and most crippling part of losing my son. The pain induced body-wracking sobs that haunt me to this day. There is a feeling in your chest and arms that’s like a phantom sensation, exactly as if something was missing from right there. There is really no information on Empty Arms Syndrome as a real thing, but, just from my experience, it’s got to be similar to those who have lost limbs.

The torturous feeling lasted for years and was agonizing. I just will never forget that pain. And that feeling goes hand-in-hand with the next phase.

The Fog

This period of time is, aptly so, the most vague for me. And it lasted for a long time. What I can recall are fragments of my life in our old apartment, sobbing for hours on end, taking long, hot, contemplative showers, and reading book after book to keep my mind off things. But that’s about it.

I don’t remember making meals for my family, I don’t remember laundry, I only remember the extreme, raw emotions and how they dictated my life. I was in survival mode and remained that way for about 3 years. It was, however ridiculous, my way of coping.


At this point, I’d emerged from the fog and began to realize that I had to move on with my life. Whether that meant more children or not, I needed to be able to function at a “Real Person” level because what I was doing was not working.

This was a terrifying point to get to because it meant I would have to actually deal with what had happened and facing something like that head on was really difficult. But with some help from a book, that concluded by having me write a letter to my son, I was able to get to a point where facing it on a daily basis was not as scary.

Opening Up

After being in the real world for some time, I began to come out of my shell. I was able to open myself up to new friendships, new ideas and new opportunities. It was during this time that I thought I may, one day, be able to have another child. My mind only needed 6 months to work on that thought before I finally felt like I was ready.


After 5 long years, I was finally ready to have another child. I felt like it was the right time for me and for my family. I even began to get excited about what adding another personality to our 3-person-routine would be like for us. I was, at last, functioning at a normal, for me, level and was ready to open myself up to another baby.

It turned out to be the best thing I ever did because as soon as the doctor handed me my Pearl, the Empty Arms feeling simply melted out of my body. I thought to myself as I stared at my perfect daughter, “THIS was what I needed all those years.”


About the Author

Melanie McKinnon

Melanie McKinnon is a wife, writer, mother of 3 plus 1 in heaven, and a barre fitness instructor. On her blog, , you will find subscription box reviews, her experience with anxiety, depression and loss, stories about her life as a mother, and some tips for maintaining sanity. She hopes to inspire anyone fighting a daily battle.

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