Fathers are often overlooked when it comes to addressing grief associated with pregnancy and infant loss. Terry shared a first hand account of his experience as a grieving father from an era where discussing the loss of a child was a taboo subject. We thank him for his contribution to our day of remembrance.
Only God knows the reason for taking them but still it hurts.
I don’t have the experience of carrying a baby since I’m the dad. I would guess that women have a different feeling about it because they have a physical connection with the baby, even before it’s born. There’s a lot of time, energy and sacrifices that they make when pregnant.
We knew ahead of time that Anthony would be stillborn. We went to a doctor and he couldn’t find a heartbeat. He kept saying “It’s fine. It’s fine.” I finally convinced my wife to go to a new doctor and he said, “I’ll tell you, it may not be, but expect it to be dead.” When Anthony was stillborn, I passed out, right there in the labor room. I just kept thinking “It’s a lie.”
With my other child, Terry, that hurt was different. It was deeper, I think. I had time with him. I got to hold him. I bonded with him. He died of SIDS at 6 weeks. I wasn’t home but I got a phone call from my wife. At that time, I don’t think people really understood SIDS. My aunt drove back with me after I got that phone call and she kept saying “Your wife had to have done something to that baby for it to die.” That was so upsetting. They said if they could ever figure out anything about SIDS, they would get ahold of me. That was over 30 years ago and no one has ever cared to tell me more.
I wanted to put something in Terry’s coffin. I found a little teddy bear that said “I love you.” When I went to put it in the coffin, my mother-in-law at the time stopped me. She said it wasn’t right to put things in the coffin, that the baby wouldn’t care if it was there. I wish I wouldn’t have backed down. I should have just done what I wanted. I thought God would let me son have the teddy bear in Heaven, that maybe Terry would be more comforted knowing that he had something from his father that said “I love you.”
It hurt that my wife wouldn’t talk about either of the deaths. She’d tell me to “Shut up. I don’t want to hear anything about it.” I think that’s why I take it harder even after all these years. I feel like it built up in me. We had a lot of fights over it, lots of anger. As a father, I was angry. I think it was people saying things like “You can have another one.” We did have kids afterwards, but it’s not the same. Those children cannot replace the ones that you lost. You can’t do that. Each baby is its own special person and gift.
You always think of them on their birthday. And what do you do for them? Would they even know if you put something on the grave? I find myself wondering about what they’d be like. Would they like sports? Hunting? Fishing? I just don’t know. I just wish they could be here. Around the holidays and their birthdays bugs me the worst. I just hope they’re in Heaven and looking down so they know my feelings and so I can see them someday.
My grief has changed over the years. I wanted to jump into my 6-week-old’s grave at that time. Now my grief is still intense and far from ever being gone but it’s easier to cope now. I’ve learned to cope with it. People say “You’re supposed to go before your kids, that’s the way of life.” Well, they can’t imagine what it’s like when life doesn’t happen that way, when your kids go before you and you’re left to deal with that pain. My grief hasn’t disappeared. And I never want to “get over it.” That’s not going to happen until I join them in Heaven.
I really didn’t have any resources. People don’t talk about this subject and there were no resources 30 years ago. I don’t know if it would have been better if my wife would have talked about it with me. I felt like she was the only one who could relate and she wouldn’t even talk to me. I just found out that October is dedicated to these kinds of losses. It’s extra important to me because Terry’s birthday is October 25th people can get it out. To honor those parents who’ve had to deal with something like this. It gives us voice because it’s so hard.