Left behind as doctors sprinted me down the hall into my emergency C-section, he worried he could lose both of us. Alone he waited, and alone he was told that although I made it, our first child, Matthew, did not. Shattered and heartbroken, and still alone, he waited for me to wake up, waited to share the worst, most soul-crushing news imaginable.
He was at my bedside when I came to. And he gently, through tears, informed me that Matthew had died. He witnessed my gut wrenching reaction – the reaction of a mother who’s just learned her child is dead, a reaction that I, coming out of my anesthesia coma, can barely remember, but a reaction I’m certain he’ll never forget.
He informed our parents and our pastors and our bosses and some of our friends, and I’m not sure who else, of the horrible news.
He brought me Matthew to hold for the first time, and he took him away from me for the last.
He filled out a birth certificate and a death certificate and an autopsy consent form – all in the same day.
He curled up next to me in my small hospital bed, never once leaving my side. He held me each night as I sobbed, shaking so violently I thought I might die too.
He held me up as we made the devastating journey from the hospital to our car without our baby. He drove us home and tucked me into bed, where, for the better part of two months I’d stay, googling things like “most painless ways to die.”
He helped plan Matthew’s memorial service and burial service, things I knew Matthew deserved, but things I did not have the strength to do for him.
He drove me to and from follow-up appointments with doctors and therapists. He dragged me to trails and walked with me for hours, helped me practice, literally, putting one foot in front of the other, over and over again. He kept me fed and hydrated and hired me a personal trainer when he thought exercise might help me.
Still worried I might kill myself, he reluctantly returned to work, somehow functioning in the face of fear over my well being and his own grief over Matthew.
He contacted Dr. Collins to gather all of the information he could about Matthew’s death and about umbilical cord accidents and about what could possibly be done to prevent a future recurrence. He requested hospital records and paid bills and scheduled and cancelled appointments – things too painful for me to face.
He was so excited to become a father and loved Matthew from the day he knew he was coming. He completed his baby registry, bought him things, readied his room, talked to him, read to him, played music for him, and planned an entire future with him. He attended all of our prenatal appointments, often sharing Matthew’s ultrasound pictures with our family afterwards.
Even in death, he is still so proud of Matthew, showing his love for him through the many ways in which he honors his memory.
He lost 70 pounds in three months after swearing to adopt a healthier, more active lifestyle, all for the little boy who never got a chance.
He proudly sports the girly pink and blue tie-dye pregnancy/infant loss awareness bracelet, because the manly black one isn’t as easily associated with the cause. He does this partially because he welcomes the opportunity to talk about Matthew and show off his pictures.
He printed me pictures of Matthew and framed them so I could take them to my office. He emailed a baby loss mom who I was too shy to contact to share Matthew’s story and to ask whether she might be willing to talk to me. He supports my writing and lets me make fun of him on my blog.
To this day, he often cooks and cleans and pays bills and schedules and cancels doctor appointments when I’m finding it difficult to get through life, which is probably far too often. He does all of this without complaint.
He attends every appointment for Jay, even though there are at least ten times more of them this time around. He often paces nervously, staring at the ultrasound screen, asking as many, if not more, questions than I do. He sends images and fetal heart rate monitor strips to Dr. Collins and frequently communicates with him about his conclusions on them – he wants to fully understand every aspect of our care and be able to help advocate for Jay if/when necessary.
He emails throughout the day to ask if Jay is okay, but not in an annoying way.
He’s kind and patient and strong, yet also the most gentle of souls. I probably don’t even deserve him – sometimes I wonder if this would have happened to him if he’d married someone else. Would he have had such a brutal introduction to fatherhood? In a way I feel responsible for his suffering, despite me intellectually knowing this is an illogical thought.
Last year I gave him a Father’s Day card, his first one, and signed it with my name, and with Matthew’s. About three weeks later, Matthew died, and, upon our return home from the hospital this card was one of the first things we saw sitting on Mark’s chest of drawers, a reminder of what would never be. This year, a physical card is too painful, so I’ll just say it here…
You’re the best husband to me and the best father to both Matthew and to Jay. We are all beyond lucky to have you. I’m sure that, during his short life, Matthew felt all of your love, just as I’m sure he feels it now. And, though Jay isn’t on the outside yet, I’m certain he feels it too… It is currently my only hope that, pretty soon, Jay will be here safely, so that he can experience all of your love here on earth.
Sometimes after the loss of a baby all of the focus is placed on a mother. But we’ll never, ever forget your importance as a father.
I know today isn’t the Father’s Day you’d imagined… Nor will you ever experience the Father’s Day you’d imagined… But I hope that next year things will look very different, much brighter, compared to this year. And I hope that from here forward each successive Father’s Day will be better than the last.