I am sorry for dumping all of this stuff about the loss of our baby into a baseball card blog. The cards in this post are just from a standard retail rack pack of 2017 Topps Series 1, so if you don't want to read about grief and loss, feel free to skip this post. I needed to write this stuff down while it's still fresh, and this is my most accessible forum. I will probably eventually want to remember and revisit this account.
When I wrote my last post, describing my journey home from Oregon to be with my wife after finding out that our baby had died in the womb, I had no idea what I was in for through the rest of the week. I had done a little research about what happens and how other fathers had felt in similar situations, but I really had no idea what to expect or how I would react. My supervisor went through this process a couple of years ago and must have known what I was in for, so he made sure I went home from Oregon right away and he has kept me away from the office all week.
When an unborn child dies, it still has to be born, so on Wednesday morning we went into the hospital so that the doctors and nurses could induce labor. We spent most of Wednesday waiting, and trying to make decisions we hadn't considered before, like coming up with a name, whether we wanted pictures, whether our other kids should be allowed to visit after the baby arrived, and how to deal with the remains when the time came. My wife and I discussed some of those things while we waited. The name thing really stumped us for a minute. Our tradition has been to name all of our children after comic book characters, but we hadn't really settled on one. We didn't even know the gender of the baby.
In the evening the baby was born, and we learned that it was a boy. He was so small that he could fit entirely in one hand. He looked like a tiny, very soft person. Previously I had worried that I would be disgusted or that he would look too weird, but I immediately felt such a strong connection with that little guy. I felt so bad that I would miss out on watching him grow up alongside his older brothers. My wife and I spent some time with him, and decided to name him Kurt Wagner, the real name of Marvel superhero Nightcrawler. While we were waiting for the delivery, my wife had been given pain medication that made her sleep, so I took a nap, too. During the nap I dreamed that we'd had a boy and named him that, and the name felt right after we held him. My sister brought our three older boys to the hospital, and they spent some time with us and with the baby. They asked a few questions, held him briefly, and had the opportunity to touch him and bond with him a little. I was apprehensive about it, but ultimately I think it was a good experience for them. It made their brother a little more concrete in their minds, as an actual being rather than just an idea that lived in their mother's tummy. After that, there was still doctor stuff to do and it was getting late, so we had the kids say goodbye to the baby and I took them to my other sister's house to stay the night while I went back and slept at the hospital.
On Thursday morning my wife had recovered physically enough to be released from the hospital. We asked to see Kurt again so that we could properly say goodbye, although it took us a while for us to ask because I think we were both reluctant to face the finality of it. Saying goodbye to him might have been the hardest half-hour of my adult life. We held him in our hands and said a prayer for him, releasing his body to the care of the hospital and mortuary workers and accepting the release of his spirit to heaven. We also asked for comfort and understanding for ourselves. The hospital photographer took some pictures for us, and the nurse brought back a box with his blanket, his hat, and some footprints and handprints. You don't get an official birth certificate in these situations, but they gave us a couple of stand-in certificates that are nice to have. The hospital staff were very respectful of Kurt's dignity, and attentive to our needs and wishes, and we were very grateful for that. There wasn't much reason to stay at the hospital, so we gathered up our stuff and headed home. It felt pretty bad to leave the maternity ward with a box instead of a baby.
After we got home, a florist delivered some flowers ordered by the people I work with, it wasn't long after that before our kids needed to be picked up from school. We both decided to go for the ride, and once we picked them up, we decided to visit the cemetery where the hospital places babies. After walking around a bit, we found the spot and pretty much instantly we both felt that it wasn't going to work for us. It is at a busy intersection, so it was very noisy, with traffic sounds and car radios blaring. That really bothered me for some reason. The quote on the marker seemed all wrong for a resting place for babies. The whole place was pretty run-down, and the flags on the flagpole were torn and tattered. Before we got back through the gates, we decided that we needed to call funeral homes and make other arrangements. There is a funeral home right outside of our neighborhood, and we were able to work with them and the hospital to change our plans and give ourselves a little more control over finding a better resting place for Kurt.
We are still reeling from all the events of this week. I hope that time will wear the edges off of the pain and loss that we feel right now. I just know that as our other children grow up and continue to hit milestones, there will be a part of me that mourns my baby that never got the chance to do those things. It's not a constant pain, but it hits me in waves and often at strange moments. With it all being so new, it hits me pretty hard and I find myself unable to speak or fighting back tears. I will probably go back to work starting next week. I hope that I am able to do the things I need to do there. I am very lucky that my wife and I have put so much work into building our relationship, and that our many years of counseling have prepared us to acknowledge and process our feelings. It is all very painful, but at least we are able to be open with each other and our kids about our pain without feeling guilty or ashamed. I hope that getting back into a routine will at least help me to feel a bit more useful.
Like I said, I did some reading about this online and some men said they didn't feel much after their partner miscarried, while others felt devastated by it. I imagine there is a lot at play there, with circumstances, upbringing, and natural temperament playing a role. Maybe some weren't afforded the opportunity to see or hold the baby, or maybe the baby wasn't developed enough to trigger an attachment. I was worried that Kurt would look odd and that I would be repulsed by seeing him, but holding him and seeing him just really brought home my feeling that he was my son. I feel a little guilty about having such strong feelings over this, like I am lacking in manhood or something. My parents lost a baby when I was a kid, and I think they mostly sheltered us other kids from it. I don't really know how my dad felt about it, or if he felt a lot. He and I are different in a lot of ways, and I think that is one of them. He kind of comes from the school of thought that men are analytical and don't show or feel a lot of things. I am pretty private and reserved about my feelings, but I am pretty emotional about many things, a lot more than I let on. It's a conflict, and not really something that you just talk about out in the open in 'man spaces.' I know that I am uncomfortable talking about my feelings around other men, and it's hard to know if other men have these sorts of feelings and bury them, or if I am an emotional outlier.
Here are some of the cards I pulled from a rack pack of 2017 Topps Series 1. These were the most interesting pictures in the bunch, according to me.
These were the parallel and inserts I pulled. I guess I probably bought this pack at Wal-Mart. I don't think I've been to Target recently. It's hard to remember, though.