Father’s Day and Baby Loss – Remembering Dad

Another family holiday upon us.  Father’s Day.  If you identify with the commercialized version of this holiday, the man or men in your life will be grilling, playing golf, fishing and being lazy and unhelpful.  I don’t know about you, but those aren’t the fathers I know.  Sure they may like these hobbies, but the fathers I know are anything but bumbling idiots as they have often been portrayed in our media.  And a babyloss father, well, he’s a special breed.  He has to be.

Many babyloss fathers find themselves in the unique position of caring for the mother after their baby has died, being asked about her welfare by others while his grief is overlooked.  Due to cultural norms he is expected to be strong and not show emotion.  Logistically he may need to return back to work sooner than the mother because physically he is able to, perhaps he only gets 3 days for bereavement leave, perhaps time no longer qualifies for paternity leave as there doesn’t seem to be a baby, and the family is depending on him to earn money.  Depending on the loss situation, the medical bills can be enormous.

But it would be wrong to assume he is not grieving.  Stereotypically speaking, women tend to emote and externalize their grief by crying, talking, and wanting to connect with others while men tend to internalize their grief.  This means they may not talk about it, know how they feel, and they may dive into action by working more, or picking up a new hobby.  In my family, my husband to began to thoroughly explore and research building a cabin after our daughter died.  This is a life long dream of his before our loss, and it became something to focus on after our loss.  Both of us were left reeling, and neither of us knew what to “do.”  In my own pain, I was not there for him.  And it was rare that anyone asked him how he was doing.

So what can you “do” to honor the babyloss father you know this Father’s Day?  It’s simple, really.  But it may not be easy.  Reach out to him – call him, text him, send him an email or a card.  Let him know you remember HIM and his baby.  While his experience of fatherhood may scare you to death, imagine what it might be like for him.  The silence of those around him can be deafening.  Tell him you remember he’s a father too.  Ask him how he’s doing.  Pause, and allow him to respond.

To all the babyloss dads out there, including my own husband, my thoughts and love are with you.  Parenthood is hard.  And parenting a dead baby is also hard.  There is no road map, no right or wrong way to do this, and as a father – you are often called upon to steer this ship in uncharted waters.  You have my deepest respect and gratitude.

Much love,

Shelly

boat father's day

Sometimes I Just Miss Her

Hi dear reader.  I wonder where this blog post finds you today?  I’d say I hope you’re doing well, and sincerely I do, AND, if you’re not doing well – I welcome any and all emotional states!  When you’ve lost your baby, whether it’s through miscarriage, termination, stillbirth and/or newborn loss, you are entitled to feel however you are feeling – in this moment!

The other day I found myself driving home from an appointment.  And it hit me.  Sometimes I just miss her – my firstborn daughter, Acacia.  Really miss her.  And I miss so many things.  One of the first and foremost issues is that I never *knew* her.  She was never really real.  Yet in so many ways she was.  Of course she was real, I know this!  I gave birth to her, she lived for 2 1/2 days.  I drank her in.  Sat with her, held her, rocked her.  Observed my family and two close friends with her.  She was so real.  So alive, even in her trisomy 18 body, and there was so much LOVE in that little NICU room.  She weighed just under 4 pounds, and I have yet to meet anyone with as big as presence as her (okay, I got to hear the Dalai Lama speak in India once, that was pretty amazing too, but it still wasn’t this).  And while I am grateful for my short time with her, of course it will never be enough.  When I think of her, and miss her, it’s the plan I had for a lifetime with a healthy child that I’m mourning.  Who she “should have been” is who I miss.

So I miss her.  And I’ve done a lot of “work” around my grief.  I saw my individual therapist from a few weeks after Acacia died up until the day I gave my birth to my second daughter.  Literally, I saw my therapist on the day I went into labor as I felt some early contractions that morning that progressed into full on labor that evening.  So lots of therapy.  I don’t know how I would have gotten through that time without my nearly weekly sessions that provided a safe place to land.  My place to cry without judgment or fear.  No need to take care of anyone else or worry about scaring someone with my grief.  As I felt messy, crazy, and broken – all parts of me were safe there.  Then over the years I’ve met with some different energy healers, did some intuitive work, was trained as a Hospice volunteer, read a lot of books and websites and blogs about grief and babyloss…  And ya know what??  Sometimes I just miss her.  This gaping hole in our family.  Two kids.  One living.  My point being, no matter how hard we “work” with our grief; whether or not we let it come and go; at the end of the day, we miss our child(ren).

I attended a butterfly release years ago for baby loss after Acacia died.  As the founder of the nonprofit spoke to the group, she shared this Zen story with us:

A rich man asked a Zen master to write something down that could encourage the prosperity of his family for years to come. It would be something that the family could cherish for generations. On a large piece of paper, the master wrote, “Father dies, son dies, grandson dies.”

The rich man became angry when he saw the master’s work. “I asked you to write something down that could bring happiness and prosperity to my family. Why do you give me something depressing like this?”

“If your son should die before you,” the master answered, “this would bring unbearable grief to your family. If your grandson should die before your son, this also would bring great sorrow. If your family, generation after generation, disappears in the order I have described, it will be the natural course of life. This is true happiness and prosperity.”

If you are a babyloss parent reading this, you know full well the unbearable grief and great sorrow this story speaks to.  Know that I hold space for each and every one of our babies.  There are so many.  And know that it’s okay to miss your child.  Anytime, anywhere.  Sometimes it just creeps up on us.  And of course other times we’re knocked down by a tidal wave.

With much love,

Shelly

baby loss, miscarriage, termination, stillbirth, newborn loss, pregnancy loss, grief, miss my baby