I've been reading Art of Manliness for awhile now, and just recently signed up for the community. This is the first thing I've ever posted in the forum, but I figure this is as good a place as any to share and ask the questions I have.
My wife and I lost our newborn son on March 26, 2013. He was stillborn to us in the 39th week of pregnancy, less than a week before his due date. After 8 years of trying, and 2 miscarriages, we had finally made it to the point where we thought we were about to be blessed with a child. Then, just 12 hours before he was born, my wife noticed that he wasn't moving around as much as usual (not at all, really). We weren't as alarmed as we should have been -- he had taken to sleeping for longer stretches, and she felt that his delivery was coming soon. I thought maybe he was "getting ready" and that's why he wasn't moving as much. We had just been to a regular checkup and everything was normal. We'd even had a recent ultrasound and everything was fine.
Early on the morning that our son was born, my wife's water broke. At first, we just thought the time had come, but we knew quickly something wasn't right. We went immediately to the hospital, only a 5-minute drive from our house. After getting checked in with the labor & delivery department, the nurses began trying to find a heartbeat. They couldn't. Then, they brought in more equipment and kept looking. Finally, around 7AM, the on-call obstetrics doctor told us she couldn't find the heartbeat, and our son was gone. My wife, already in labor, labored for about 9 more hours before giving birth. Our son was born around 3:01pm in the afternoon. We were allowed to spend some time with him, and both mine & my wife's mother flew in from out of state (we live halfway across the country from our families) to be with us. They arrived around 10:30pm. At midnight, we surrendered our little boy to the nurses, never to see his face or hold him again.
Two days later, I accompanied my son's body from the hospital morgue to the local funeral home we had chosen. The following Monday, I returned to retrieve my son ashes. I brought my little boy home for the first time, not in the newly-installed carseat that vexes most young fathers, but in a 5-inch square brass urn. My wife was simply too distraught to accompany me on these errands, and I really didn't want to make her go. I felt like, she had carried him for 9 months inside of her, and these last few trips were the only thing I would ever be able to do that would, in some small way, compliment her effort and sacrifice.
After giving my wife a few more days to heal, we made the 1,500 mile drive back to our home state with our baby's remains. We held a memorial service with our family, friends and community this past Monday.
I read most of the articles on AoM about "fatherhood," "family," and all the other advice and insight written about being a good dad. As you might imagine, I had already filled my head with all of the fun activities and experiences my son and I would have together. Where I had once been terrified at the prospect of being responsible for his life, I had come to embrace the responsibility and waited anxiously for his arrival. I'm not sure that even my own level of devastation could compare to that of my wife, but I certainly never even contemplated a result such as this. I have tried to remain strong, put on a brave face, make all the arrangements, and generally keep my composure. I've lost it a few times, mostly in private. But now that all the activity surrounding the event has started to calm down, and all that is left is myself, my wife, and the grief we share and must confront, I began looking for insight on what to do next.
I've looked on the internet for other fathers who have experienced similar loss, to see what they did. Surprisingly, I've found very little written from the father's perspective. I find a lot of things mothers have written about such a loss. I don't think I've found anything on AoM about losing a child -- obviously, it's not a popular topic. So, I guess I'm asking if anyone can point me toward something, anything, that could give me some insight into what happens now. I certainly appreciate your own advice, condolences, or anything you have to offer. But what I really want is the words of someone who has stood where I now stand... and came out the other side.
Otherwise, I guess I'll have to write an article myself in due time.
There aren't any words that could be said, that would help. There isn't any greater pain than the loss of a child. My wife and I lost a child through miscarriage, but we already had 2 boys. We also now have a daughter. All my children are adults. Not sure I can help. I don't feel able to offer any wisdom. But I do offer myself, in whatever way I can, to be there, if you need someone.
Some of my friends - who, unfortunately, do know what it is to walk where you now are - say that one of the hardest things they had to handle, were the well-meaning but utterly stupid things, like, "God needed another angel for His choir!" or, "It was God's will!" or "You can always have more children!"
Do not try to "get over" this. If possible, clear your calendar for the one-year anniversary of your son's birth. Ask your wife to do the same. Decide together how you will spend that day. Tell no one what you'll do, or where you'll go. Turn off your cell phones. Allow the grief to run its course. Don't smile when you can't, and make no excuses for it.
I hurt so much for you. But I wouldn't make the pain go away, even if I could, because I can't tell you how to grieve.
I do know, by experience in other situations, that God is merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in lovingkindness. If you get to where you need to cuss at God, He will listen, and will comfort you. I'm 56. When I was 15, I was once so angry at God, I yelled at the sky and waved a middle-finger salute. I'm still here.
I am truly sorry for the pain and loss you and your wife are experiencing.
There was an article recently on this topic;
Other than that, please remember to not withdraw into yourself in your pain, but draw into your wife.
I'm so sorry to hear about the loss of your son. I have no personal experience of the loss of a child, but in my work in Neonatal Intensive Care, have had many dealings with parents who have lost a baby. No one will ever know how you both feel, and you will miss your little boy for the rest of your lives.
One thing that happens here, is that the parents are seen by the obstetrician at about six weeks after the delivery to see how the mother is faring, physically (this is very important), and to review exactly what happened during the pregnancy and delivery. Hopefully there will be some placental pathology results, which may help understand exactly what went wrong. They will, hopefully, offer some grief counselling, which you both should access.
Larry has written some great advice, draw together, don't forget your son. Remember, you are a great mum and dad, and, please, write your story for AoM.
I remember how my wife and I felt when she miscarried. I suspect a stillbirth is more emotionally devastating, and it breaks my heart to learn that you went through that.
"Making the decision to have a child -- it's momentous. It is to decide forever to have your heart go walking around outside your body."
-- Elizabeth Stone
This is true from before they're born until one of you returns to the Source. And if it's the offspring who goes first, that's a heartbreak for the parent.
Surprisingly, I've found very little written from the father's perspective.
It might seem surprising because fathers do grieve, but the truth is that most men are highly emotionally repressive. We have emotions, but we try not to express them, because we've been conditioned not to. Unfortunately, repression is NOT emotional management and is not the ideal way of handling them.
Whatever you are feeling, you must accept that it's OK for you to feel that way. It's OK, Bud.
So, I guess I'm asking if anyone can point me toward something, anything, that could give me some insight into what happens now.
You grieve for as long as you need to, then the healthy thing to do is to release your grief when it has served its purpose. Remember that it's for YOUR sake not his; no amount of grief or suffering on your account will do him or anyone else any good. You can love and honor his life without falling apart. You can love without attachments.
Love is a healing emotion. Embrace love, not grief. Embrace love and compassion for your son, your grieving wife, and let love's embrace heal.
If you do find yourself sinking into depression, or you just feel you can't handle your grief, then talk it through with a friend or relative, and avoid spending too much time alone with your thoughts. It does no one any good, not him or you or anyone else.
You know that you're on the right track when you can think about him with feelings that bring warmth, love, and appreciation to your heart for what almost was.
I am so sorry to hear about your son. The closest I have been to this is losing a child through miscarriage; I can't imagine how painful this is for you and your wife. I have family members who have lost children and they say it is the most unnatural thing to experience. Men often feel the pressure to pick right back up after something so devastating and carry on like nothing has happened. Allow yourself to grieve. I don't have wisdom or advice, but wanted to offer my support.
Larry wrote well. I am posting just to let you know another has heard your pain but can not find words better to console you.
I am sorry for your loss.
I think everyone who has posted so far has had some good things to say. I've never been in your position, but my mother has. I'm the eldest of 3 boys, but I was going to have an older brother. He ended up being stillborn. 50 years later, my mother has never forgotten him. The pain is still there in some manifestation or another. I can't feel it, but I can see it on her.
I know that Ralph Waldo Emerson is supposed to have written that "" But I don't really think that's all there is to it. God can help us, and we can help each other. I think it would be great if you could--at some point--write about your experience. It could help the next guy.
Tyler, I know something of what you and your wife are feeling. My wife and I lost a daughter who was stillborn in her 38th week, just like your son. As if it couldn't be any worse, she was delivered on my wife's birthday!
It had been a difficult pregnancy (as well as an unexpected one), and we knew that our daughter had physical problems (and possibly Downs syndrome) that would need immediate surgery after birth; but by the end, we were really looking forward to her birth, and I had taken to writing letters to my daughter (for her to read when she was grown up, now never to be). That turned out to be something of a blessing, as we could look over those later and see our own thoughts and emotions leading up to the event.
The loss of a child is one of the hardest things for a couple to go through, and some couples don't make it through. My only advice, as a father who has been down that path, is to be the friend, confidant and lover your wife needs. I remember one night when my wife woke up, really wracked with sobs, crying out for her baby. There's nothing to do then but hold someone.
I think it is good you held the memorial service. We also had a funeral Mass, and then buried her at a nearby cemetery, and eventually put a stone there. We visit every so often, clean it, say a prayer.
I don't know if it would be of any help, but here are the notes I wrote to my daughter before and after her birth:
Oh, Tyler....what a HORRIBLE, tragic thing to have to go through. I feel your pain and grief as I read your post. While I've never gone through the grief of losing a child (pre-born or otherwise), I do know about grief and loss, having lost family members and loved ones, and I just want to offer you a few words of wisdom, if I may:
1. You and your wife are going to be happy again. We go through seasons of life, and this is a particularly bitter, hard one for you and your wife. And while the disappointment and sense of loss will never completely go away, the sun really is going to shine again.
2. You've been strong and been there for your wife---and that's as it should be---now go off somewhere in private and go ahead and fall apart. You owe it to yourself. Go ahead and cry, go ahead and pound the floor or the mattress, even yell if you need to. You're entitled to. And if you've still got tears left to cry a week from now, a month from now, or even longer, be good to yourself and be patient with yourself--you really don't have to "get over it" any time soon.
3. Remind your wife that she is not going crazy (and remind yourself as well). There are stages to grief--you may feel an unreasoning sense of anger--don't feel guilty for that. You may have bouts of depression--that's okay, too. It will pass. Be extra patient and gentle with both your wife and yourself at this time---if all the housework doesn't get done, so what? If you end up sleeping in a little more or running off together--who cares? Right now, you're entitled to taking some liberties.
4. Go ahead and ask God why. This side of eternity, you may never know fully, but it's okay to pour it all out before God--all the anger, grief, disappointment, fears about the future...healing often starts only after letting out the venom.
Remember this, Tyler---your baby was someone you loved. While you didn't have a chance to raise him, he was still your son. He mattered to you. And I'm sure that you would have done anything and you would have given anything for your little boy. Find a way for you and your wife to honor his memory. As seasons of life change and time and circumstances bring healing to you and your wife (and it will---trust me), you'll look back on this as an enriching time that, while being difficult, brought the two of you together.
I do not believe I can compose any words better than those that were written before mine. You have been offered some good advice and thoughtful words. As I read your post I am truly saddened by your family’s loss…
I am sorry for you and your wife may you each heal in your own time. I pray to God you will receive this comfort soon.
Thank you, Tyler, for such a heartfelt and well stated posting. I felt very touched by how you related your experience, and I hope that you have been able to find something of what you need from this site. -- Jay