Thursday, August 29, 2013

Death + New Life

My son and I are jetting away for Labor Day weekend. We are going back to my home state in order to see extended family and meet my new niece. The little guy is the star of the show now, as I am just the remote king bringing the crown prince for an official duties visit (I'll be godfather for my niece). Everyone is pumped as he has not seen that side of the family since last August. We have news ourselves, as our family shall expand by one. That arrival is scheduled for January of 2014. We will be watching the clock because it will mark a very full previous year.

Last fall we decided to start the family expansion process up again. Fortunately, we are a fertile duo and very quickly the stick said 'pregnant'. It is a cool rush when that happens. Holy crap, the spark of life! We were pumped because it would be an August baby, which after having a winter baby sounded great. We discussed boy names since we have a girl name ready. I was talking to my wife's stomach, giving the kid orders. We were becoming emotionally invested and attached. It's k-selection behavior in real life. We waited a couple of weeks to tell our parents on Christmas. I called my grandfather on Christmas Eve. He has been depressed since my grandmother died. He said, "now there can be two Notre Dame linebackers in the family" (my son is going to be a linebacker per gramps). The pregnancy was going well, and my folks came out in January for my son's birthday and baptism. My wife had a momentary odd thing happen during that joyous weekend of events, and to play it safe, she called the doctor. They scheduled a sonogram for the following Monday. After my relatives left, we went to the doctor's office on Monday. Immediately, we knew. No heartbeat, no movement. Baby did not make it.

Nothing prepares you in life for that. It's a sledgehammer deep to the gut. It floored my wife. During the drive home, I reminded her that when we got home a 2 year old would be ecstatic to see us. He was. It helped. Still, it was awful. As the dad, pregnancy does not feel real until that first sonogram. Your body isn't carrying the child. When you see that kid, it hits you that it is real. If the sonogram is week 10, you'll see fully formed fingers and toes. It's wild, and you might switch to pro-life right there. To have a sonogram reveal a miscarriage is an on the spot life lesson. Don't take anything for granted. Love what you are given. They say these cliches for a reason. It's true and can center you in awful moments like a miscarriage. It will cause you to blame yourself or evaluate what you've been doing. You go over everything, looking for the mistake. It's horrible. I'm a believer and was I pissed. Anger's a part of dealing with the pain, but it wouldn't shake my faith. January was cold, and winter was incredibly long this year.

As the husband, you have to be mentally and emotionally strong because it's your wife who has to physically deal with everything. If marriage is a Cirque du Soleil of two performers propping up each other, that is one of your moments to carry the emotional weight in an awkward fashion. Don't be afraid to talk to friends about it when you're ready. When my wife did, the stories came out of the woodworks. When I did, my friends reminded me of what I have with my son. You don't feel like a failure as much, and learn that miscarriages are common. You learn why families have a five year gap between siblings or why some families had just one kid. You may discover you might have had a brother or sister if not for nature. You also can think with a clearer mind about what the doctor told you in a small room when your emotions were raging (or you were shell shocked) and your one thought was to get the hell home as fast as possible. The doctor said, "This is common. You had a perfect pregnancy the first time. It was not your body, but this baby that didn't make it." You process it.

I stuck to work, writing, reading and going to the gym. I was patient. I told my wife we could try again when she was ready. My brain had done the math on how many more kids we could have. What if that lost child was our girl? Once my wife was physically ready, we got back to it. We started trying on a Monday, and she was pregnant on Friday. God finds a way to get you back. This time is different. All that blissful ignorance is gone. Every slight oddity made us nervous. Did things feel normal or sick and tired enough? My wife and I won't be relaxed until that baby is delivered, and then the normal parenting worries will begin just like everyone else. This week we had the halfway or "spot the gender" sonogram. This baby was more chill that our son was at this point. This baby was a bit more coy. This baby is also a girl. God willing, next January, my choreographing ballerina wife will get an assistant. Just when I thought I was out, I'm sucked back into the annual dance recital. That's why I had the son first. Watch out for little sis at school and joke along with dad at recitals. I live a blessed life. It gets me through the dark moments because they are only moments.


Anonymous said...

It's difficult to be a father in that situation because (not to trivialize) it's inherently more awkward. I struggled to avoid uttering platitudes -- as you say, some cliches are repeated because they're true. But when you say them aloud, they can ring false and empty.

A miscarriage can be a very lonely thing. You are right to be grateful for the son you have and cautiously excited about the daughter-to-be.

Portlander said...

Congratulations! Though this January thing is some really bad planning. Versus December, you're looking at an extra grand or so in taxes.

Callowman said...

Congrats and good luck! Life is precious. Glad you have weathered the miscarriage.

One of my wife's friends' first baby was born dead after going full term, apparently strangled by the umbilical cord. They were devastated. On the advice of their ob/gyn, when the dead baby was born, they dressed it, named it, and spent an hour or two holding and talking to it. The theory was that acknowledging the baby's life and mourning its loss in real time would make it easier to deal with the mourning process in the longer term. I suspect this is right. They called us while they were doing it. We had had our first child a year earlier and had spent quite a bit of time with them while she was pregnant.

I fielded the call. Jesus H. Christ. I have never taken a heavier, more fateful phone call. Couldn't hand it off to the wife fast enough. Glad we were there to fumble along with them, however. It ended up bringing us all closer.

Anonymous said...


I see you occasionally in the comments sections of other blogs that I read, and I checked out your blog for the first time today.

This entry was moving. I'm sorry for your loss and glad to hear that you'll soon be having a baby girl.

My wife and I are having our first (and probably only) child right after the New Year. It's hard for me to describe how exciting this is, although I'm sure you understand.

Sweating Through Fog said...

I'm sorry you and your wife suffered such a hard loss. I admire the nobility you showed in being a supportive husband. God Bless you and family, and your new baby girl

Son of Brock Landers said...

Thanks for the kind words. So much has happened since January that finding out we'd have a daughter after fearing that our daughter was the one we lost felt joyous enough to share but also to share the full loss and recovery for those who may have had similar losses.