The following was sent to me by a fellow grieving dad who thought that sharing his story could help others dealing with the aftermath of losing a child. It’s been 10 years since his loss and he still struggles with pain that he never dealt with. He has since taken steps to help himself and others in his life. I applaud him for taking this step in telling others his heartbreaking story. It takes courage to sit down and write your story and to share it with the world.
The message of his story is “You can close the door on grief (and PTSD) but it will peek in through the window at some point in time.” There is a lot of truth in that statement.
My story is an odd one, mostly due to the fact that even though I was married to my son’s mother, I was a lone parent grieving. One who took 10 years to finally seek help and learn how to grieve properly.
December 20, 2004 was supposed to be a normal doctor visit for my now ex -wife. Next thing we knew, she was being admitted for pre-eclampsia aka toxemia. Months before, we had learned that our baby would be born with complications, and being the loving parents we were, decided to continue the pregnancy, not knowing what the next 4 months would hold.
On January 7, 2005 after a blood pressure spike and an emergency caesarean section, we welcomed Kyle into the world, a world that would change my life completely. Born 2 months premature, weighing 3 lbs. 7 oz., but 19 inches long, we found our son had a lot of issues. In the womb, his right leg managed to get tangled around his umbilical cord, resulting in no bone to be formed between the bottom of his knee and the top of his foot. As the leg grew, it pulled on the cord, causing his spine to curve, and resulting in scoliosis so severe that he could lay on his side, arch, and place his good foot on top of his head. Worst of all, the strain on the cord being pulled caused a severe external hernia called a omphalocele that left him with every internal organ except his heart and lungs on the outside of his body. Teams of surgeons were able to repair that as best as possible as time progressed. The first prognosis we were given was Kyle had a 30% mortality rate and they only had 10 days to get his organs back in place before more complications would arise.
Countless nights we, mostly me, watched him lay there, Bed 13, motionless, drugged, like a frog in biology class. Twenty-one days later, we were finally able to hold him and see his eyes open. But no matter how calm he looked we knew he was in tremendous pain. Over the course of several months, more surgeries would occur. Stents in his kidney being one of them (and I say kidney because he only had one, because both of his developed together like conjoined twins). Finally a tracheostomy was performed to add a stoma that could be attached to his ventilator so he could finally use his mouth to eat some, even if he did have a GI tube in place. During this time I changed my life and made it about my son, my pride and joy, while my ex-wife decided to embrace postpartum depression full force and distance herself. After several attempts and jumping through many hoops, we were able to take our little angel home, after 107 days in a NICU. We had no forewarning that within 3 days’ time we would no longer have him with us on Earth.
I could elaborate more and go on to praise the NICU and much more, but as hard as it is to type the opening, the middle and closing will be much worse.
Home healthcare was set up. We would have nurses there 12 hours a day, from 9 AM to 9 PM, and we would cover the other shift. After all, we were both medically trained and his mother was a LPN at the time.
This is the part I will probably go off into a tangent, and make statements that will make my current wife have a migraine after she edits this. But this is pure emotion. I was at work and had worked all night. I even stopped and got my little buddy some new toys, and a new outfit (that he ended up being buried in). I had bragged to the cashier in Walmart about how well he was doing, not knowing that 35 miles away, she was snoring. After waking up and seeing him crying, (seeing, because we NEVER heard him cry) instead of tending to him, she had cranked up his oxygen and went back to sleep. While she slept, Kyle slowly and helplessly drowned, and suffered a major cardiac arrest.
I was within 11 miles when I received the call, her voice frantic, saying he was unresponsive, and that I need to get my “fucking ass” home now. I arrived, very quickly, and rushed in to see him laying on our kitchen table, while she stood there talking to her parents on the phone, calmly saying to them I think Kyle is dead now. I put on the stethoscope and with tears in my eyes listened to his last 2 heartbeats. The ambulance arrived, and I was told by her to go with him because she needed to walk our dogs, get ready, and would meet me at the hospital.
The ride, even going 115 mph took forever, even with us stopping on the highway so a critical care medic could hop out of one ambulance and into ours, even though it didn’t do any good. And at that moment, I started to emotionally and mentally shut down. The first thing I did at the ER when they pronounced him DOA was call my brother, who was a medic in the town. He actually got up, took a company ambulance and came to the hospital to be with me. Slowly family came in, and cried, gave us condolences and tried their damnedest to relate, saying things like “Oh loss is terrible…” Bullshit, a loss of a child is not a normal loss. No one should ever have to bury their own children…EVER.
When his mother finally decided to show up, she was distraught and told me what happened. Keep in mind at this time I still loved her, and didn’t think saying ‘Hey she basically killed him in his sleep’ would be a good idea. I didn’t say a thing, and that still haunts me. We were able to waive getting an autopsy, and instead of waiting for the funeral home to come pick him up, my brother took him via ambulance out of their service area to deliver him to the funeral home.
The ride to plan the funeral was quiet, and one that I still cannot remember, due to mental blocking. At the funeral home I sat as quiet as a church mouse while she and her entire family planned the whole ordeal. We went home, she went to the TV, and I went to the bed. While she watched sitcoms and giggled, I wept, I moaned, and I slept for 19 hours. I never got up, no bathroom, no food, no care really. A couple of days later, while at the service and standing in front looking down at my firstborn, who looked like a porcelain doll, I heard her say under her breath, “I should have just had an abortion.” Shocking as it was supposed to be, it flowed off me because I was still numb. At graveside, I played guitar while my sister-in-law sang Will the Circle Be Unbroken. Afterwards, my ex told me in private that I embarrassed her by doing that. Again, it flowed right off, the numbness killed the sting.
Two years….I stayed for two more years. I don’t remember much because I found condolence and comfort in alcohol and recreational drug use, mainly marijuana. Being stoned and drunk helped me tolerate her. Waiting to go to bed after she woke up was only way I could get my measly 2 hours of sleep. Nightmares? Hell I have had the same damn nightmare for over 10 years now. Nightmares that I probably won’t share here but one day will.
August 2007 I found myself in the hospital, this time I was on deaths door. After I lost my heart, I decided to at least live my dream, and I became a professional wrestler. Days prior, in a freak accident, a very large individual accidentally landed on me hard, and basically caused my gallbladder to explode. So here I was, toxic, sick, and alone and she decided to leave me there because the damn dogs needed fed and she was tired. I vowed then that I would be leave by the end of the year. And I did. I won’t lie, I mainly left after meeting my current wife, hopefully my last wife and my soulmate. And I was happy, not completely repaired, but somewhat. Within a few months, we learned that she was pregnant and I would soon be the proud daddy of a little girl. Yeah proud… And scared shitless. Scared to the point that one time during her pregnancy, I was constantly on her ass not letting her do anything out of fear of having to relive my past hell.
March 29, 2009 we welcomed our daughter into the world, and she was big, and healthy. But again complications caused an infection and our child, my 2nd and her 1st was hospitalized, as what was considered to be a boarder baby. That lasted close to a week and then we were able to finally take her home.
Fast-forward over the course of the past 6 years, a lot has happened. I have seen a little girl grow up, suffer some serious illnesses and always persevere, but I feel I have shunned her until recently. I mean I have always loved her, but I was always afraid to get too close out of fear of losing her like I lost Kyle.
The beginning of this year, 2015, marked 10 years since my son was brought into the world, and taken out in an instant and my subsequent plunge to rock bottom. Plummeting to the point that I felt like the only solution for me was indeed suicide. One night on my old job as a transport driver, I devised a plan, and that was to say fuck my work plan, I was going to detour. I planned to go to my son’s grave (which we will get to in the close) and take whatever medicine I had in my bag and take an eternal nap. I felt like a worthless husband, horrible person and a failure as a father. While these thoughts ran through my head I passed the exit. Oh well, I thought. I had to pass it on my way back, and I needed a drink, I can’t swallow pills without one. Unbeknownst to me, the cashier selling me the drink was a parent who had also suffered a loss like mine. She has since become someone who I have a bond with. I got to the counter and as I was paying, she noticed my tattoo on my wrist that had the date of birth and date of death and I explained it was for my son. We started talking, and she told me about her loss. We both talked about our second child, both girls, and I told her about how I have taught my girl all about her big brother. She asked how I did it, in which I explained that we never hid it from her. After around 90 minutes of conversation, we hugged and I went my separate way. Again on the way back I missed the exit, but this time on purpose, because I knew then that I wanted to live and seek help.
In the past few months I’ve gotten help, met many wonderful helpful people (you all know who you are, especially if I shared this with you) and am currently in a good place. I do have my good days, and I have my bad days. I still make time to go at least once a month to decorate his headstone and see him. Mostly my wife does the decorating, as she has claimed him as hers and she is constantly making his site look beautiful. She is my rock and my closest confidant. It is pathetic that we live almost 100 miles away and go once or twice a month, while his birth mother lives 3/4 of a mile away and hasn’t been there in 8 years. But enough bitterness, she will answer for her actions one day. I can’t forget her but I can forgive her, even if I have to do it every day.
In the past I blamed the doctors, the experts, and even God. Now I just blame myself for letting it go this long. If not for my encounters with my new friends, and my wife taking me to task to finally get pictures printed off, obtain his birth and death certificates and face all my fears, and anxiety, I wouldn’t be typing this. I also must acknowledge if not for the group therapy, my counselor, and being suggested to not only read Kelly’s book, “Grieving Dads: to brink and back” but also Paul Young’s “The Shack”, I wouldn’t be typing this. But most importantly, if not for the growing bond between my daughter and me, things would not be as they are now. I will never stop grieving, and may never fully accept it all, but I’m trying, and that should count for something. Maybe one day.