When a couple goes through the tragedy of losing a baby, the focus is usually on the mom. But how does the dad feel during this awful time? His feelings oftentimes go unnoticed. Our thanks go out to Brian for sharing his story, and his honest feelings, good and bad.
Three years ago, our phone rang at five in the morning. We jumped out of bed, quickly got dressed, and raced to Grand View Hospital in Sellersville, Pennsylvania. The hospital was nearly three hours away, so we were just hoping she could hang on until we arrived.
And sure enough, she did. After keeping our little miracles warm and safe for nearly 7 ½ months, our amazing surrogate was able to keep them in a little while longer and delivered our twin girls later that afternoon. Reagan was first to arrive, weighing 4 lbs 1 oz. Her little sister Sierra followed about forty five minutes later weighing 3 lbs. 8oz. They were small, but they were healthy. And they were perfect.
That’s the happily ever after of a long story that is far from a fairy tale.
Flashback to the summer of 2008. My wife was pregnant with our fist child, and we couldn’t have been more excited. She was considered a high risk pregnancy due to an underlying autoimmune condition, but we figured she would be monitored closely and everything would be fine. About eighteen weeks in, everything began to unravel. The level 2 sonogram revealed that the baby was not measuring the proper size and was falling behind in her development. A week later, she had fallen even further behind. A few weeks after that, our world came crumbling down. We were forced to make a gut wrenching decision; we had to terminate the pregnancy or continue forward against the advice of our doctors who said the baby would not survive more than another week or two in utero. We terminated the pregnancy, and before she even arrived, Emily Rose was gone.
Flashback to the summer of 2009. My wife was pregnant again. This time we knew what we were up against, we knew what to expect. The first pregnancy was derailed by a clotting problem, so my wife would take blood thinner shots throughout the duration. Sadly, the duration was not long, as she miscarried just eight weeks in. Devastated yet again, we were told this was a molar pregnancy – a freak thing totally unrelated to her medical condition and any issues from the prior pregnancy. My remarkable wife decided to give it one more shot.
Flashback to the summer of 2010. My wife was pregnant yet again. Third time’s the charm, right? This time would be different we thought. It had to be. Everything was going well. We were doing the shots daily, and the baby was developing normally. We had reached the 32 week mark and decided it was time to go furniture shopping. We picked out a beautiful crib with a matching dresser and changing table. It was finally going to happen for us. Our long, fruitless journey would finally end in happiness. Just a few days later, my wife started to have contractions. Not ideal, we thought, but at 32 weeks, our baby would likely be okay. We raced to her doctor, only to be told the unthinkable. The baby had no heartbeat. A few hours later, my wife delivered our lifeless little girl and we held our precious Rachel Olivia. I cried to her saying “wake up, wake up”, but of course she did not. I held her for a few minutes and then knew I had to say goodbye.
I can’t imagine how hard this was for my wife, as only she really knows. By no means do I think I suffered nearly as much as she did. Impossible. I can just share my feelings and the gamut of emotions I went through.
Saying that I was sad doesn’t even begin to describe what I felt. It’s so much more than that. It’s a pain that you wake up to and go to bed with. It’s an emptiness you deal with in your heart and in your home as you see that empty bedroom you knew was destined to be a nursery. But who am I going to cry to? My grieving wife who has it much worse than me? I’m supposed to be strong for her, to be there for her when she needs a shoulder to cry on or just needs a hug. Sure, friends would always ask me how I was doing, but the conversation always ended up the same way. “I know this is hard for you, but how’s your wife? This must be so hard for her.” Understandably, my emotional well being was more of an afterthought and never for a second did I expect others to worry more about me when she was going through such hell. I felt helpless and alone.
And that helplessness was felt in another way. How could I help my wife get through this? How could I fix this? As a husband, that was supposed to be job – to fix things for my wife. Only this situation was not fixable. Sure, I could have tried to sue the doctor for malpractice, but deep down I knew he had done nothing wrong. Even if he had, what difference would that have made? No amount of money could replace what we lost. There wasn’t a damn thing anyone could do about it, and that feeling of utter helplessness was a difficult pill to swallow.
Then there was anger and jealousy. I coupled these together because they go hand in hand. You see all your friends getting pregnant and delivering healthy babies. You congratulate them and shower them with present s, even though you’re insanely jealous and almost angry that they had it so easy. You put on your best phony smile, all the while thinking “Why couldn’t this happen to them so they can feel my pain? It isn’t fair.” Was I a bastard for having these thoughts? Perhaps. Deep down, I wasn’t hoping they would lose their baby, but in some sick way just wanted them to feel the pain of a loss, just so I wasn’t alone. Sick, I know.
On February 10, 2012, my wife and I welcomed two beautiful baby girls thanks to an amazing woman who gave so much of herself to complete our family. I am finally a father and a better person for it. I will always have the sadness over the loss of our babies. I think that’s normal. I think that’s good. But I am finally free of harboring the other feelings that had tormented me for so many years.
This post was written for Long Island Parent Source by Brian Siskin – here is a little bit about him, in his own words.
As a new member of the 40 club, I recently took stock of my life and realized it’s exactly where I expected it to be. As a native Long Islander, I graduated from Plainview JFK in 1992 and went on to receive my bachelor’s degree from SUNY Albany. I now find myself living back in Plainview (and yes, that Morton Village parking lot is still a zoo!) If you had asked me growing up what would my life by like when I turned 40, I probably would have said I’d be married, have two children and a house in the ‘burbs. I’m not driving around in a Mercedes or living on a sprawling estate, and you know what, that’s just fine with me. My family is everything to me. It just took me a little longer to realize that than most.