This is dedicated to the Dads who understand this feeling.
This year would have been your twenty first birthday! Where have all those years gone? Hardly a day goes by without me thinking of you.
I remember the day you were born and the first time I held you, never realising that in five and a half weeks you would be gone forever but never forgotten.
This is our story.
You were born premature so your first weeks were spent in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit and we spent many days visiting you and eagerly waiting for the day you would come home. That day finally came and we took you home and you joined the rest of your immediate family in our home. You had only been home a few days when you became sick and you had to be rushed back to hospital. As I was working the afternoon shift I had to ring the hospital to see how you were going and they told me you were in a separate room and were doing fine so I went to bed. The next thing I remember is getting a phone call from the hospital to get there as fast as possible.
I sped to the hospital saying to myself stuff the speed limit and got to the hospital. In next to no time after parking in the doctor’s car park we rushed to your room. When we got there the doctors said we should ring our immediate family and get them here as well. When they got there you weren’t doing so well and had been placed on a ventilator. All that I was feeling at that time was frustration because I couldn’t do anything to help you.Read more
When the doctors came into your room and came up to us, they said you have a decision to make. It was the hardest one in my life! You were dying and there was nothing they could do. They said they could turn off the ventilator and you could die on the bed or I could hold you and you could die in my arms.
So I held you in my arms and felt the life drain out of your little body, not believing this was happening. It felt like a bad dream that I couldn’t wake up from so when the doctors came over and pronounced you dead I just sat there feeling nothing. The doctor came up to me and said I needed to make another decision, they wanted to do an autopsy. When I asked why they said they don’t know why you died and they wanted to find out why so I said yes.
The next few weeks went by and everyone was asking how your mother was going. I kept saying she was ok but everyone seemed to forget that I was hurting just as much but had to stay strong for the family. The autopsy results finally came in and the results showed that you had died from pneumonia that had been brought on by Whooping Cough.
As I had been coughing for several weeks I thought I had it and had given it to you. I spoke to the doctor and voiced my concerns so I had a blood test done and for the next weeks I felt so guilty that I might have killed you. I couldn’t talk to anyone about this because back then men didn’t talk about their feelings and there were very few support groups for men.
The results finally came in and all I had was a bad cough. Still, the feeling of anger inside me wouldn’t go away as I felt so helpless that I couldn’t help you as I was the male and I could fix anything. I had to remain strong as the funeral had to be arranged and a viewing as most of the family hadn’t met you yet. My life felt like it was running on autopilot.
I still had to work as the bills didn’t stop. Your mother still needed support from people and I still had to carry on, thinking to myself what about me. The day of your funeral finally came and I couldn’t think any more as there was one more thing I had to do. With the help of friends and family we carried your little coffin into the Chapel. We walked past people and I didn’t even notice them as my mind was so heavy.
As the funeral progressed I suddenly start crying as I realised that this hadn’t been a bad dream and had really happened. I also suddenly realised I could let my feelings out and nobody would think I was any less of a man. For years I had been told men don’t cry.
About ten years later after my children’s mother and I had split I had a nervous breakdown. That was when I started seeing a female shrink and after a few sessions we started talking about my son and his death. She told me she had done a lot of grief counselling with women about their loss.
I then explained that for me his death was a bit of a struggle for me and she asked why? I explained that for me he was the first born male in my family. The family name would continue, I would have taken him fishing and hunting like my father did with me, and do all the things that a male is meant to do to become a man, a good husband and a father.
After the session she thanked me and when I asked why she told me she had never thought about the death of a child from a fathers point of view and when she next does grief counselling and training she will think of my response and be sure to talk to the dads about their feelings.
So to all of the dads going through this be sure to talk to people about what you are feeling and remember these days there are support groups just for men. It doesn’t make you less of a man to show your feelings.