Dropping mellisa off at the birth center… so hard to find parking.
Midwife’s concern: no heartbeat found. She heard the heartbeat earlier that day clear as a bell. The fact it’s hard to find is troublesome. We need to go to the hospital.
Running to go get the car to go to the hospital… Thinking to myself, who is this kid? I don’t know him. He lives inside my wife. She feels every move and hiccup. I don’t know him.
The machines at the hospital not working. Trying this chord and that. The rush and seemingly mindless bustle of the nurses. This machine doesn’t work, that chord is faulty. Is there really no response from the child on this internal monitor or is it the chord? Mellisa’s face as they prod and bumble and yell for someone to get a second ultrasound. “but where from, i don’t want to go all the way down there.” Our son…
The doctor finally pulled up the ultrasound, found him in my bride, and held it still for a second… my gut when I looked and saw nothing moving… there’s always a flutter. There is nothing moving.
The doctor’s face and voice when she told us, I’m so sorry, there is no movement.
My wife’s wails, “my son my son.”
The battery acid in my guts started and didn’t stop for the next 8 hours.
He was alive earlier that morning. Healthy as he’s ever been during the doctor’s checkup at 10am. Only 2 hours ago Mellisa could feel he had the hiccups. Were they hiccups?
We still needed to get him out… get his body out. Deciding between c section and vaginal birth. I wanted to just get it, get him out, let’s move on. Then thought of the depression + recovery/drugs from c section and the fact that her body was laboring well… Thought of what it would mean to my bride to deliver him, how exerting and spending herself for Rowan is a kind of relationship, a kind of fighting and suffering with. The doctor told me laboring with a still birth is typically much harder and more painful, but we decided to try. I wanted it to be over, but we knew it would not be for so long.
Her mom reaching through the nurses and doctors and praying for a miracle.
Crying with my wife. “I don’t know what this means but we still have work to do.” Our son…
Calling my mom. She had been watching our 4yo son aiden and putting stickers on bottles, preparing for Rowan. She goes hysterical.
My dad wanting to come to the hospital. telling him not to.
The bumbling nurse taking a million samples of blood. My guts tightening as I watch her try to find the vein.
Putting my face close to my bride’s through each contraction. Locking eyes. Breathing through it calmly with her. Battery acid in my veins. Several hours, but there’s progress. It’s time to push.
When Sara (our midwife) and the doc would say “that’s it” during a push and M and i thought it meant more than it really did… 2 hour later were still pushing. Each piece of encouragement just meant to get her through to the next clench and surge.
Pushing on her side and getting butt cramps. We massage her ass. The light outside the window starts to change from dark to dawn.
Laying on her back holding both her ankles, knees out, pushing and making great progress (according to doc and Sara feedback).
Pushing on Squat bar. Bending over the bed so she could lean back on me between pushes. Holding her up with my neck as she leans back. It’s on fire. I chastise myself before saying anything. My wife is making great progress pushing out the body of our second son who will never take a breath.
Watching the sun come up. Grey and cloudy in Oakland. Dirty ass skyline of west oakland. Fuck this place.
During contractions we provide counter pressure on her back sides. We all trade off because it’s hard work. It’s my turn. I start and she yells out, “OH! Chase is the strongest!” That’s my girl.
I see his little head crowning all scrunched like a raisin. I see this clearly looking back, this is the image of what could have been. It’s my first glance at my son. No face, no ears, just the very top of his head. What if it all ends up being ok? What if we’ll get to hear his cry and hold him and snuggle his soft hair and watch him grow and make legos and fall in love too soon… All that could be. I ping pong between this and my wife in her primal surges and powers and her childlike fear and need. She looks at me from a far distance between contractions.
Mirroring her sounds to her in the final pushes. Coaching her to grunt a little longer and breathe a little deeper.
Pulling the baby out “my son my son” wailing. The high, horrible vibrato of her cries. In the rooms next door mothers are delivering healthy babies. I can only imagine the way this sound echoed through that wing of the hospital.
The way the energy in the whole room changed when he came out. I could have ran a marathon (though 20 min earlier I didn’t think I was gonna make it, let alone Mellisa).
“I want my son I want my son.” Putting his poopy orange body on mellisa. The way it looked like he was moving when she breathed. Our tears and sweat mingling as we huddle and sob. My mind flicks between impossibly deep longing and logistics. The sun is fully up now.
Holding her face in my hands, “you did it. i’m so proud of you i’m so proud of you.”
A long time in this sweet purgatory with him. Soon we’ll clean him. But not yet.
Investigating the placenta for any signs of why. It will be analyzed.
Carrying him from bed to cleaning station. Mellisa wanted me to. I didn’t want to, but I did. The way his body moved along the joints as I walked. So alive in some ways. So dead in others. Reminded me of carrying my dog Lucy on a blanket when she passed, her head slowly leaning over to one side, tongue lolling out. Rowan’s little head in my fingers, no resistance.
Watching them clean. The way his body jiggled and moved. His weirdly big feet, the little crinkles of skin on the bottoms of his feet. So much detail.
The nurse from Florida cleaning him who meant well but got real pithy and trite with a “good will come from this” sort of sentiment. I don’t blame her. Mellisa’s response “can I have my baby back please?”
Wanting so badly to hear his cry. Wanting to kiss his lips. I loved kissing aiden so much. Rubbing my nose on his soft head. He should be crying and we should be planning our day around bringing him home and feeding and sleeping and waking when he does and napping with him on my belly. He should be here.
The way his color started to turn blue and grey. I said, “I liked him better when he was covered in shit.” Surprisingly, mellisa smiles and almost giggles. This was the first joke.
His hands became very grey and rigormortis-y. Crinkling up like an old arthritic hand.
Taking pictures. I didn’t like it. I didn’t want to remember it all in this kind of resolution. Too many fucking megapixels. It’s not human to be able to see this with such resolution. It doesn’t fit to have so much clarity about something that swallows you whole.
Putting his arms and legs in a nighty we brought for him. Felt like a chicken, loose flesh around wiry, breakable bones. His feet were so big. His hand crumpled up.
Cutting a lock of his hair. Grammy didn’t think I did it very well. She did it again. I didn’t mind.
Hilarious uncontrollable farts from Mellisa while we ate pb&j’s. Her weary smile, a little bit of embarrassment and shamelessness all in one. This was the second joke.
Meeting the social worker. Making arrangements for his little body.
The pediatrician who needed to inspect the baby before we could be discharged. The way he moved in her hands.
After surviving labor mellisa can’t handle the pain of the tape being removed from the IV in her arm.
Texting a few close friends, “I have very bad news. I’d like to call you. Are you up?” I can only imagine how they received them. With each call I made, i can’t get the words out. I’m so glad for my friend on the other side. So far away. But such big love. I feel for these people. They feel powerless, they want to labor us. I try to help them understand that just knowing they know is all the help we need right now.
Wondering what I’ll say to internet about this. I want to say something. It’s in my nature. These people so far away are still friends of mine and there is care and love and life-long friendships in these toots and bytes.
Going to get the car. Realizing the world just moves on. An hundred crazy Oakland people hanging out outside with their own lives and struggles. This fact heals and scars. All this pain at the center of our world, just one little family in one neighborhood of one city on one planet, etc., etc.
Saying goodbye to our son Rowan. Wrapping him in a blanket and placing him in the bed. Weeping sobbing uncontrollably. Mellisa says, “we’ll never see you again my son.” We never will. My heart was sad before this, now it is broken so deep. I remember the line from Lincoln, “I wanted to crawl into the earth, into the vault with his body and never come out.” I took his hat. We weep and weep and I have no idea what any of this means or what it will look like or how long we should stay or if I should get her out of there.
We wait for 4 minutes for an elevator… feels like an eternity. We ride in the elevator down from the 9th floor with a few other people.
Saying goodbye to our incredible midwife Sara. The way she helped us through every detail and hospital beaurocracy. The way the nurses made room for her (she’s also a nurse), the way the doctor really welcomed her and seemed to be inspired by her. She loved us so well.
Coming home. Without him. Taking some vitamins, aspirin and a miller high life and passing out.
Waking up to aiden, “dad, look at my batman.” My mom and dad brought food and him for a few hours. Eating dinner and talking through it with them. Listening to Bon Iver sing “at once I knew I was not magnificent,” and surging with the sadness again. It comes in waves, my eyes fill up.
Swinging from infinite and overwhelming sadness to regular everyday life. Aiden needs his ass wiped. We need more toilet paper. My son is dead. “Tickle me daddy.” Have some cornbread. I want him so bad. Do you want tea? Let’s watch a movie. Aiden was going to be such a good brother. I think the way the world moves on and ping ponging like this will save us. it will be so rough.
Telling Aiden (our 4 year old.): “Mommy and daddy are so sad because we wanted to bring baby Rowan home but he died.” him: “Why? Lets play cars.”
Carrying Aiden upstairs the next day at bed time. “Carry me daddy. I really am sad about baby rowan, just so sad.” I love my sons so fucking much I could explode.
Putting a picture and a few words up for my friends. I wonder if the picture is too much. But it carries everything in it to me. Mom’s praying hand, distant gloved nurses, my beautiful bride in the throws of the most tragic human moment of her life.
The messages flood in. There’s nothing anyone can do. But the sentiment adds a little wind to our sails. Old, old relationships, all the bullshit cut through, washed out in the intense light. New friends, from just weeks ago, but with that weird special connection the internet affords… now life-long friends. Friends I don’t hear from, but I know. I wish no one would ever need to hear this news. But i’m glad now that it’ll be harder for bullshit to live here, too much gravity for a while. We love these friends. We love you. I’m looking forward to foggy morning coffees with you.
I get a voicemail from David. His soul is so big with years of practice. He’s weeping. I cry in bed listening. Then he gets all pastoral and I start to laugh. He didn’t mean it to be funny. I love him for that.
Sleeping with my wife without the fucking body pillow for the first time in 8 months. (Pregnant women sleep with whole-body pillows because they are crazy people with crazy pains.) Feeling like we got each other back through this somehow. Seeing a second chance. Feeling myself moving on too fast. Knowing this is my nature. Knowing she needs me in the muck with her still. Knowing I must manage this as well.
Taking (weirdly effective) sleep herbs and crying to sleep, “I just want him. I want him.” I want him.
The sleep herbs make me have very sexy dreams. Can’t say they aren’t interesting. I keep waking up trying not to make a mess. What is in these things?
Waking up well rested. Planning for the milk to come in (to mellisa’s boobs, boob milk for babies). Getting tea and cabbage, knowing it will be so painful. “I was going to have such great milk for him.” This and the healing of her body are the final crutches to lean on. After this there is no more body pain to focus on. Just ourselves and our feelings and thoughts.
Writing notes to neighbors. Sliding them under doors. Telling them what happened. Telling through writing is much easier. In a few hours our next-door neighbor comes by. A couple years ago the same thing happened to them. She leaned in to mellisa and it meant the world. She’s pregnant again.
Thinking about the pictures. I show them to my mom and dad. I talk about them with Mellisa. She loves having them. I hate having most. She says, “he looked different to me than he does here in the pictures.” Soon we won’t remember what we saw, we’ll only remember the pictures. Because they are the new truth, the megapixels are too much for the scenes in our guts and hearts and minds. My favorite pictures are the blurry ones from the iphone. It’s unhuman to have this kind of resolution. It’s not natural. He was who he was. He is who he is in us. These pictures are a sledgehammer. they are fact and not truth. They tear stitches every time.
I try to think of a heaven situation. It doesn’t feel right. I think of the nothingness. I’m not sure I know how to. I have always imagined my role is to help my sons develop into themselves. I provide boundaries and rails and curiosity to see what’s inside and where they’ll go. In this sense, Rowan has taken his own path and that feels right to me. Mellisa has a different disposition. He was HER son and he wasn’t going to eat high fructose corn syrup. Both are true.
Asking myself, “what is the desired outcome of this list?” It’s just for me to remember and to share with those who look. We are very open door people (or, at least I am). We are not afraid of anyone knowing this. I know that if I could have found this it would have helped. So I write it and share it because it is us and who we are and where we are and it will connect us to those who love us and who we love.
Mellisa’s mom packing to leave after being with us through it all. Putting all the clothes the kids got for Rowan back into the bag.
Seeing pictures of the baby shower.
Hospital blankets. Those stripe infant blankets. Make me think of him.
Some more thoughts on grief and Rowan
36 Things To Do For Those In Grief
Hopeful Perspectives 1 Year After My Son’s Birth/Death
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Miscarriage from the father’s perspective