It’s his little blue and white striped blanket that breaks my heart. Every time I see her fold it, adjust it, and gently lay it upon her pillow, I crumble inside. Every excruciating memory comes rushing back, each time she presses her face against its soft fibers; or clenches it in her hands, with a grip brought on by the most unimaginable pain. The longer we go on without Lincoln here, the more I adjust to seeing it, and her need for it. Some days I can’t stand the sight of it, and all that it brings with it; but most days I just admire her love for Link, as I watch her prepare it for another painful and sleepless night.
Most people forget about the Father. We experience the pain of loss in different ways than our wives, and for that, we can be overlooked. I didn’t grow a life inside me. I didn’t have the opportunity to bond with his kicks or movements, take belly pictures in the mirror, or watch his progress as he got closer to being here. Every experience I got to have with my son was secondhand, and the realization that I’ll never get a true moment with him, crushes me with defeat. My memories of Lincoln are from every doctor’s visit, and every ultrasound, from our baby shower, and his gender reveal; and seeing all the people who shared in the anticipation of him. Most special to me are the quiet moments, like preparing his room, building his toys, and assembling his crib. The reality of his approaching arrival turned me into a Father, and unfortunately, those are the only memories I’ll have with him. A Father’s pain, through neonatal death, stems from the moments we’ll never share with our children. I’ll never watch my favorite movies with my son, I’ll never get to toss a ball in the yard with him, I’ll never be able to talk to my son about girls, teach him to shave, or watch him grow into a Man.
For a very long period after losing Link, I struggled to understand what I was feeling. The fact that I was in pain was obvious to me, but it wasn’t always as draining as it was for my Wife. It took some self-discovery, and even seeking online writings by other grieving Fathers, but I finally came to terms with where I am in my grief: I am lost. In our daily life, my Wife and I communicate very well, and solve problems as a team. When one of us feels beaten down, the other is always there for reassurance. When the love of my life longs for our son, and falls apart, there’s nothing I can truly do to fix her; and this terrifies me. Immediately after returning from the hospital, I shifted into “fix it” mode. I would take care of any obstacle that got in our way. I tended to her needs while she recovered from surgery, I kept the house clean, I ran errands, paid bills, and preoccupied myself with anything that I could fix. The reality is, I don’t know how to fix her, because she cannot be fixed. So, while I feel lost, it’s important for me to remember: My job is not to fix her, it’s to help her carry on the memory of our beautiful son, and love him as deeply as I love her. To share in this grief, so that neither one of us will ever have to face it alone.