being carried on daddy's shoulders

 photo by  H.C.

photo by H.C.

For the month of June, Glow in the Woods will be featuring guest writing by babylost fathers, and fathers who have experienced the loss of a child—a  sort of month-long Father’s Day to give voice to the dads we often don’t get to hear from. We had many excellent submissions, and have chosen 5 writers, one for each Monday in June.

 Our first guest writer this month is Mark. Mark is daddy to Owen Benjamin, “a little guy who made us parents and taught us how much love is possible. After a healthy, happy pregnancy, Owen made his arrival a few hours after his due date. Unfortunately, he experienced a traumatic birth, and suffered a lack of oxygen, which caused irreparable damage to his brain. After 5 beautiful days together, we took our little Owen Benjamin outside to listen to the wind in the trees and feel the Vancouver raindrops. He took off on his journey peacefully in our arms under a big, strong oak tree. We are now learning how to parent our son in ways we never anticipated, living life in his honour.” Mark and Robyn, Owen’s mother, blog at The Heart Sees Clearly.

I fully anticipated the balance of adding the role of Dad to my repertoire to be a lot of work; a shuffle of work commitments, less time spent reading tech blogs, maybe even leaving an email without a response for a whole day.

Reality isn’t far from those expectations, but instead of those somewhat mundane realities being replaced by the intense joy and laughter of becoming a new father, they were replaced with alien roles, jobs, and work I had never even imagined.

As a husband, I support my perpetually tearful wife. Drawing the last ounce of energy I have from the day to come home to such intense sadness, countlessly repeating the only words I have in me to try and offer support and comfort, while hoping to convince myself that one day we’ll laugh, smile and love again together without guilt as we did on our wedding day.

As a human, I grieve the loss of having had a piece of my heart and soul ripped away from me and torn up in front of my eyes. I work through the trauma of being alone in the NICU watching half a dozen people trying their hardest to save my child’s life.

As a father, memorializing the life of my son, ensuring that his short time here wasn’t for nothing, that it gives me a new constructive perspective on life and in return I use the life, that I would so desperately trade, to make sure he gets to experience the beauty and wonder of the world through my actions and feelings.

As a friend, socializing and finding the effort to put into those relationships worth holding onto so that the people on the other side don’t feel like abandoning us as a lost cause, despite the fact that we’re intensely grateful for those that have stuck out being around our misery when even I don’t like being around us.

As an employer, convincing myself to give direction and opinion to colleagues because while I find no joy in my job now, one day I hope to find that drive and ambition again and don’t want to find disappointment when I get there.

Instead of where there should be a quickly sprouting little Daddy clone, this is the load I carry. It’s much heavier than you would think. I had bad posture before, but this burden forces my shoulders to round more and sinks my head deeper. There’s nobody there to help carry it or offer a hand, indeed, as time goes on and people’s expectations of my capabilities increase, so does the weight.

Sometimes I collapse. It feels good to let it all go, but soon enough I remember I have responsibilities in these roles and they taunt me into picking it all back up.

A grieving father’s strength is not carrying or accepting this load, it’s resigning to it as part of your new life, taking the shaky first step with it, then another and another. It’s bending down when every part of your being aches, and re-stacking the pieces that you drop when your heart shatters once more and causes you to trip and fall.

There’s a 7lb 9.34oz weight that I’d love to have straddling my neck, pulling hair, using my chin as a rein and laughing giddily as we bounce along, that’s the sort of weight that makes you stand up straight and hold your head up high.

Do you have a strong image of yourself with your baby(ies) before your loss? How did you imagine that parenting the baby(ies) you lost would change your life? How has your loss redefined the roles you have in your life?