Father’s Day

Well, here we are again, another holiday coming up to celebrate parenthood, this time it’s Father’s Day! There are the TV ads, the cards at the store, the media prompting us to buy dad golf clubs, ties, grills, and fishing gear. Quite a stereo-typical representation of fatherhood (although I suppose Mother’s Day is not any better). But again I find myself thinking about all of the dads missed by mainstream media. There are the children who have lost their own father and miss him on this day. There are the children who experienced abuse and/or neglect at the hands of their father. There are the children who never knew their father and were raised by a single mother, there are the children raised by two dads… As with Mother’s Day, there is a whole host of possibilities that are not represented by a card at the store.

And of course, there are the babylost dads. The ones who never felt their baby move due to miscarriage. The ones who caught a glimpse of sheer perfection when their infant was stillborn – a perfect little baby – but already dead. The ones who had the chance to hold their baby alive, warm and breathing in their arms, only to have him/her die soon after. All of these, a life ended too soon. All of these, a child that made a man a father. All of these children, lost. All of these fathers, feeling lost too.

Our culture is somewhat supportive of a mother who experiences the death of her baby. But our culture often fails men terribly. I’m sure there are many reasons for this, and yet I just don’t care. We can explain it away all we want, and make sense of why men receive such little support, but that doesn’t change the fact that their loss often goes unrecognized. When babyloss happens, most people are quick to check on the mother, and to even ask the father how she’s doing, and completely forget to ask about him. So who takes care of the father?

This father’s day, for the babylost dad, how do celebrate him? Remember him? Many babylost dads do like to receive recognition – a card, an email, a phone call. Becoming a father is so important for many men, and to be called “dad” or “daddy” is an amazing gift. This Father’s Day, while the babylost dad may not be speaking about his baby, or asking for recognition, you can bet he’s aware of the day. Just as with babylost mamas, I encourage all babylost fathers to reach out for the support you need. Most friends and family will not know what to do to support you, or if they should do anything at all. But a kind, caring friend or family member might be happy to take direction from you. Or if you can’t do it, ask your partner to reach out on your behalf. I remember on our Father’s Day without our baby, I emailed family to ask them to reach out to my husband on that day. I knew he wouldn’t say anything, but I knew from our own conversations, that he was very aware of the day.

How do you celebrate the babylost dad? How has fatherhood been thus far? How do we honor such a silent sorrow?

Namaste,

Shelly

Unknown & Unseen Loss

Babyloss is a unique loss. It is different than losing one’s partner, parent, or even older child. Of course all loss is unique to some degree. Every person’s life and death is different. I don’t want to appear to overlook that or seem insensitive to that. But of course, as a babylost parent, babyloss is near and dear to my heart – personally and professionally.

To outsiders, babyloss can be an unknown and unseen loss. If a woman has an early miscarriage, and she hasn’t told many people about her pregnancy yet, no one knows a life was lost and that a mother’s life was changed. In the case of stillbirth, most outsiders don’t think through or understand that a mother still has to birth her baby. There is no magic button to push that gets a dead baby out of his/her mother’s body without heartache and pain. Birth still happens. In the case of medical termination, a mother may be even more hesitant to share her experience because of the cultural taboo and shame surrounding this difficult decision. And in the case of neonatal death, while the baby might feel more “real” because there was life outside the womb before death occurred, it’s still likely that very few people were able or allowed to meet the baby before he/she died.

So if someone is both unknown and unseen, does he/she exist? This can be the very essence of the confusion for the babylost parent. Who died? What was lost? Anything? Everything? It’s hard enough to wrap our hearts and minds around death, and it’s that much harder when it seems the person who died was intangible. For this (and other reasons) babyloss can feel crazy making. Others don’t know the baby who died, and you too might feel like you didn’t know your own baby, so who and how do we mourn? There aren’t memories to share that join us together. There aren’t funny stories to tell. There aren’t sad moments to remember.

How does babyloss feel unique to you? What binds you to others who grieve a loss? What separates you? How do you see and know your baby?

Namaste,

Shelly