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.

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