Thursday, December 31, 2009

10 months later

I feel really bad not updating this blog in the last 8 months. I just had a really hard time putting feelings into words, and couldn't really find inspiration to write.
I've had some ups and downs since April. The 6 month mark was very hard for both me and my wife. I don't really know why that is, but apparently it's common. The holidays have been busy, which helps take the edge off the pain, but I had some real rough moments.
I work at a Sears store, and seeing the Baby's First Christmas outfits really hurt. The same kind or ornaments hurt even worse. The worst part was we had a Baby's First Christmas ornament right next to an In Memory picture ornament. It was really unnerving when I realized that I would need the In Memory ornament when I was supposed to have the First Christmas one.
This was supposed to be Sydney's first Christmas with cute Christmas dresses and outfits and Christmas pictures and her first Christmas presents. Instead, all we could do was decorate her grave.
I don't feel necessarily that depressed lately. Just angry. I keep trying to focus on the rest of my life and try to find something positive there, but lately it just isn't working. For the most part, my life is pretty good. I have a steady job. I have two wonderful living children. I have an amazing wife. But something like this can kill you on the inside.
I miss her so much.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Doctors are stupid

I wanted to write about this while it was still fresh in my mind. My wife's ob/gyn is a bit of a spaz. He frequently changes his mind about stuff and forgets some of the things he's said. For instance, ever since my first daughter was born, he has gone back and forth repeatedly on whether my wife should get pregnant again.
After Sydney was born, her doctor was talking about when we were getting pregnant again and was reluctant to put her on birth control. Tonight, my wife went to see her doctor again and said he wasn't really comfortable with the idea of her having another baby ever. Um. What??
Something I've come to realize is that I really do want another baby. I don't want one to replace Sydney because that just flat out isn't possible. I want another baby because I want another baby. Period. And now my wife's schizo doctor is toying with our emotions by going back and forth on this. We weren't planning on having another baby yet anyway. But we WERE planning on having one. Chances are he'll probably flip flop back again next time she goes to see him. It's ridiculous.
That's all I've got for now. Just wanted to vent about that nonsense.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Life Sucks And Then It Sucks Some More

I'm not sure if I'm going through an angry phase or a depressed phase or both. Probably both.
Right now it just seems like everything sucks and it's not gonna get better. It seems like all I'm ever going to feel is anger or depression. I'm starting to realize that no matter what, it is always going to feel like something is missing from now on.

Easter, for instance. I got my son and daughter's Easter baskets together, but as I did it, I realized that I was making the baskets for my kids...but I have 3 kids and 2 baskets. Sydney will never get an Easter basket. She'll never open a Christmas present or have a birthday party. I'll never get to see her in a Halloween costume or take her to see fireworks on the Fourth of July. She's gone. And my only hope of ever seeing her again is a desperate belief in heaven. And to all the atheists out there, if you ever dare to argue with me about heaven's existence, I will fucking destroy you. There, I said it. The belief that my daughter is safe and with Jesus is the only thing that gives me a chance of getting up in the morning.

Speaking of which, doing so has become exceedingly difficult in the last two months. Today my boss came to me complaining that I hadn't worked enough hours and that if I kept going like that, I would be demoted to part time. Now, we're not talking about me working only 15 hours a week or something, but I usually miss the minimum requirement by less than an hour to at worst 2 or 3 hours. I barely get scheduled the minimum as it is, and if something comes up or I accidentally take a long lunch (yes, that can be done on accident), then I slip below.

However, upon further review, I realized that this has only been a problem since Sydney died. So I'm gonna pull out the psycho babble here and suggest that my subconscious is telling me to leave early or take a long lunch or go home when there isn't anything to do. I guess. I don't know. I'm so depressed and confused I can't even figure myself out.

Either way, I have to learn to leave my suffering at the door, if it's even possible. It's a lead brick at work for me and it just feeds the anxiety I already feel there. I'm going to have to force myself to be enthusiastic and to take my job more seriously. At this point, apathy could easily destroy everything for me.

Why does everything have to be so hard?

Friday, March 20, 2009

The strong one

There is a certain expectation of men in society regarding emotion. Crying is certainly not allowed, and showing sadness is a sign of weakness. Growing up, I was told that it was okay to show emotion, yet it was not particularly well demonstrated by the male role model in my family, my dad. When things went well, sure, he was great at displaying positive emotion, but I can't really remember seeing him sad. He does admit now that he was a bit emotionally distant during my childhood. Apparently it has something to do with being in an alcoholic family. It's not particularly relevant right now though. Society in general expects the man to be the strong one for his family during tragedy, so it's not like I was raised with any unusual values.

When it became obvious that our baby was going to die, I started trying to build up my strength to  be able to get through this situation as the strong one. Believe me when I say I am not known for holding up well during stressful or awful situations. Inability to handle day to day stress has plagued me for many years, and only last fall did I finally start taking anxiety medication to make life seem less overwhelming. Knowing how poorly I handle bad situations made me believe that if I ever lost a child I would pretty much go completely insane. My kids are my purpose in life. I never thought I could survive without one of them. It never occurred to me that this form of tragedy would strike with a new baby. So when Sydney's death became imminent, I resolved that I would not fall apart. I would be the man I needed to be and keep my family going for my wife and my other two children's sake.

This was a monumental error on my part. By trying to remain "strong" and force a sense of normalcy on my family, I both created the illusion that I was an uncaring bastard to my wife and robbed myself of precious grieving time. It occurs to me now that in my greatest intentions to help my family, I flopped miserably. Don't get me wrong. I did what I set out to do. I made myself normal for the most part. I held it all in and kept things going, sort of. I was able to tell my children myself that Sydney had died without breaking down too badly. I was actually proud of myself for being able to do it myself. I never thought I could be strong enough to handle that kind of responsibility. What I didn't realize was that it wasn't strength. I was merely holding back the emotions. I was stuffing a blue whale-sized amount of pain into a hat box. This has serious repercussions that I'm paying for right now.

Once we left the hospital for the last time, I felt like a different person, like a bucket of water had been thrown onto the fire of my emotions. At the hospital I was very emotional. Every time I saw my poor Sydney I couldn't help but break down knowing there was no life left in that little body. And knowing that I would never get the chance to do all the great and not so great fatherly tasks just made it worse. Yet the change when we left the hospital was instant. I almost thought I had left my suffering behind. Not even close.

The first signs of my "strength" waning were actually physical. My mother says great amounts of stress and depression can take its toll on your immune system. Well, now I believe her because a week and a half after Sydney died I got pneumonia in my right lung. I've never had it before, and it pretty came out of nowhere. It also had the wonderful timing of hitting me right as I was supposed to go back to work on Sunday. As unpleasant as having pneumonia was, part of me was relieved. I couldn't go back to work until Wednesday. I could stay home another couple days. Part of me was also annoyed. Work was just the distraction I had been hoping for, even though I wasn't thrilled at the thought of not being at home for my wife.

More signs of the emotional wall cracking were more crying fits, more angry outbursts, a greater desire to be alone, and deeper depression. My grief had built up inside me and was shooting out of the cracks in my "strong man" illusion. Unfortunately, by this time I had gone back to work. Day to day life had picked back up. I didn't have time to mourn now. I had work, and taking care of the kids, and trying to tidy up the house a bit. My wife had gone back to work, and she puts in way more hours than I do as well as go to school, so most of the domestic stuff falls to me. So when I wanted to be alone, I couldn't because I had to make dinner. When I wanted to have a crying fit, I couldn't because I was at work and they don't really like that kind of thing there oddly enough. When my depression wanted to take over and I just wanted to sleep, I had to get some laundry done or pick my wife up from work. So again, I had to either keep my grieving limited, or just stuff it back down again.

And that's where I am now. This blog is one way I've decided to start releasing those feelings. And trust me, the wall of text above is helping quite a bit. However, I still feel rather limited in when I can tackle my feelings head on. Working at a major department store like Sears means I have to deal with people with new babies quite a bit, not to mention my own "danger zone," the baby department. I want to run and hide when I have to deal with these things, but I can't. And if I do, I have to have a good reason, like looking for stuff in the stock rooms or going on lunch break. Overall, though, a lot of my emotions have had to stay bottled up inside. If only I had two more weeks to do nothing but feel.

My wife was pretty much convinced that I was "over it" and just didn't care anymore. She didn't think I still felt pain. When it started coming out, she was skeptical. I don't blame her. I did a lousy job of sharing our sorrow. I thought it would help her. I didn't want to burden her with my misery too. I've learned since then that my misery actually helps her not feel quite so alone. Now I feel like a moron.

If any dads in this situation actually made it to the end of this post, my advice to you is grieve your baby. Let the feelings out. They won't go away, and they'll eat you alive. They will threaten to destroy your life if you let them. Your wife or girlfriend wants to know how you feel, and wants to share your pain. It will make her sad, but it will also comfort her more than you could understand. It will also make returning to your "normal" life a smoother process. Trust someone who botched it up good doing the opposite.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

I can't wake up

I guess I should start with a little background. My name is Eric. I'm a 30-year-old married man living near St. Louis. I have a full time job working for Sears. I have 3 children. My first child is a smart, funny, sweet boy named Christian. My second is a beautiful, smart, fiery little girl named Hailey. My third child is the reason for this blog.

We found out my wife was pregnant with Sydney in late October. We were a bit stunned at first because we weren't expecting to have another baby. In fact, I had a vasectomy scheduled for December. Despite some early uneasiness about it, we ended up loving the idea of having another baby. In the beginning of February, we had her ultrasound and learned she was a girl. We weren't really particular on which one we wanted, so we would have been excited either way. We already had a named picked out: Sydney. At this point my wife was at 20 weeks. Right about the halfway mark of her pregnancy.

Less than a week later tragedy struck.

It was Sunday, and like every Sunday I was at work when I got a text message from my wife saying she was bleeding a little and she was calling the doctor. Then she called me to say her doctor wanted her to go to the hospital and she was on her way to pick me up. My mom met us at the hospital and took the kids. We were nervous, but didn't really think that much about it. Probably a uti or something. When the resident examined my wife, she gave us the news so casually it took a minute for the gravity of her words to settle in. My wife was 4 cm dilated and a good portion of her water sac was coming through her cervix. In other words, she was pretty much having the baby.

In case you don't know, the earliest preemie to ever survive was only 22 weeks. My daughter wasn't even to 21 weeks yet. This was a death sentence for her. My wife started bawling while shock washed over me from head to toe. It didn't seem real. This was impossible. My wife had had a perfect pregnancy up until this point. This happened to other people. Losing our baby didn't even seem like an option. I hadn't even considered it, at least not seriously. Suddenly I felt immersed in a nightmare that I couldn't wake up from.

That nightmare has lasted 1 month and 9 days at the point I'm writing this. I still can't wake up.

To make matters even worse, Hailey's birthday was on Monday, and we had concluded that our baby would be born and die on our other daughter's birthday, ruining it forever. A very small measure of comfort was that my wife didn't have the baby until early Tuesday morning, thus saving Hailey's birthday, although it will still hold a great deal of suffering for my wife and me from now on. Hopefully it won't ruin my daughter's birthdays from here on out. Anyway, Sydney was born at 4:30 a.m. on February 10, 2009. She lived bravely for 2 hours (about 1 hour 57 minutes longer than expected), then passed lying on her mother's chest. There was nothing that could have been done to save her. She was far too premature to be able to breathe, and was too tiny for anything that could have saved her.

At about 6:45 the nurse said she couldn't hear the baby's heartbeat anymore. My daughter was gone. Sydney had gone to heaven. And my wife and I are now in hell without her.

Many fathers hold in how they feel about losing a child, whether that child be a premature baby or a 10-year-old or even an adult offspring. I tried that to be the man I was told to be. I had to be strong for my family, they said. I had to create a sense of normalcy for the kids, they said. "They" were wrong, and I missed my chance to grieve openly. I was off work for two weeks, and never took the opportunity to let loose. And I'm paying for it now. Now it's starting to let loose, and I don't have much control. So I'm writing this blog about my grief and my story to try reach out to other fathers who feel as I do. And to hopefully inspire a little healing of my own. If there is such a thing.