And if you have a minute why don’t we go
Talk about it somewhere only we know?
This could be the end of everything
So why don’t we go
Somewhere only we know?
Father’s Day weekend. Mother’s Day was such a mixed assortment of emotions. Happiness, sadness, and recognition of all stages and types of motherhood. Women who had lost a child poured out support for each other that day. Father’s Day is always quieter. Fewer greeting cards and flowers and bustle from the retail industry. Less talking. Far less acknowledgment for that fathers that have lost children, of which there is an equal number.
Ger and I are equally on edge headed into the final weeks. There is nothing to do but wait and cling to each other. I think we both fear what will happen to the solid footing we have managed to find if something were to happen. How would we survive now that it is so real, so close, and so tangible?
We’ve been watching tv together every night, followed by talking; a ritual we haven’t followed since pre-kids. I always do my kick counts during this time. Movement is now easily visible from the outside, which Ger has always found unnerving. But one night a few weeks ago, he leaned forward and kissed my abdomen, resting his hand there for just a moment. Knowing how much he is usually weirded out by the kicks and jabs, I know what those few seconds of connection meant. The other night, he commented on how active the baby is after observing the rigorous kicks and I agreed, much more than I remember with Theo or Quentin. I joked that active on the inside means active on the outside, to which he rolled his eyes in mock exasperation.
We went out to lunch yesterday and upon arriving home and heading to our separate work spaces, he sent me a series of texts: “THIS is the baby’s name right? I meant to ask you at lunch. Text back to confirm.” I was amused. We had picked out the name months ago and it hasn’t changed, but we haven’t really discussed it either. I replied back CONFIRM.
I woke up during the night, a completely usual occurrence. I can never fall back asleep until I feel the baby move, so I waited. And waited. Days where I am busy are always harder because I cannot be as attentive to movement during the day, though my kick counts right before bed had been normal. I gave my stomach a hard press. I drank some lemonade. Usually with pressure and a sugary drink I’m able to coax wakefulness. Nothing. Panicking slightly, I pulled out my heart rate monitor, which I haven’t used in weeks. Found the heartbeat quickly, but knew I still needed to feel movement. I turned on my kick counting app and another ten minutes passed. At this point I was physically ill with worry. It was 11:45 and Ger was still at his computer so I didn’t want to bother him until I was sure there was a problem. Part of me desperately wanted him by my side, sharing my anxiety, but the stronger part wanted to spare him the stress. In my head I was already driving to the hospital, alone, because he would need to stay with the kids. Finally I felt a kick. Followed by another and increasingly stronger. Baby must have been sleeping soundly. The final count was right within my normal range. Ger wouldn’t even know until I told him the next day.
Losing a baby is so inherently tied to the mother. The physical connection is interwoven. There is a large tribe of support for grieving mothers, should they choose to seek it out. I spent quite a bit of time searching for resources for dads, only to find very little. Dads seem to be routinely brushed aside, both due to societal expectations around being “tough” when handling emotions, and because of the inherent separation; it just isn’t physically the same experience. Still, I found myself a bit saddened that I could not find one quote or one article that spoke to me about the experience of a baby loss grieving father that I wanted to share with Ger.
A few weeks ago, I was walking up the stairs and Ger was getting the Quentin ready for the day. I heard him say to our son “Quentin, I love your mother so much.” He didn’t see me at the top of the stairs, didn’t know that I had overheard. But I see him. I’ve been watching since we cried together in the hospital after losing Nelle, then again after losing Iris. How he held my hand. Held me tight at home when I couldn’t stop sobbing. Gave me space when I needed to just get through the day. Came closer when we needed the strength of each other to survive these final few months. We have been drawing into our own world, because we are the only two who can possibly understand the effect of these last 7 weeks. Doctors, friends, family, and therapists aside – at the end of the day, it is just us. We are the two that have to continue living with the losses that we have had and whatever the future holds for us. We know this.