Make It Stop

When MJ called me yesterday she was sobbing so hard I couldn’t understand what she was trying to say.

“Honey are you OK? What’s wrong? Why are you crying?? What’s going on??”

“Baby…ask me…can’t do it,” was all I could make out through her tears and grief.

I was in my office with my two co-workers and made quite the scene as I bolted from my chair to go into the empty room in our building. I didn’t know what was wrong or if my wife was safe. She was supposed to be picking up Will around that time so I also feared for him too. But because MJ couldn’t contain her sobs and wails of pure agony, I was left feeling more helpless than ever as I begged her to compose herself to the point that she could tell me what was wrong.

My heart racing with fear and my legs feeling like jelly, I dropped down on my knees and started crying silent tears as I awaited her response. Finally, after what seemed like an hour, she was able to tell me what was wrong.

“The doctors called about my surgery next week,” she said. “And they asked me if I wanted to bury the baby.”

This time we both sobbed uncontrollably.

MJ is so strong. Always has been. And although I didn’t think it was possible after 4-1/2 years of marriage, my admiration of her has grown exponentially over these past two weeks. She’s handled herself with as much class and dignity as any human being can muster under the circumstances.

But in the end she’s a mother. And in a just world no mother should ever have to decide how she wants to dispose of her child’s lifeless little body.

This whole ordeal has been like an earthquake. The initial quake hits you and it takes you by surprise with it’s strength and how fast it came on. The devastation it causes is immediate, widespread and apparent. You can plainly see the wreckage and the path of destruction it has left in its wake. Although you’re floored by the tragedy of it all, deep down you know you can someday move on and rebuild. But while you’re at your lowest point, the aftershocks come. Technically they’re not as powerful as the original quake, but their effect may be even more devastating. Because you’re being kicked when you’re down and you can’t readily determine the damage from the aftershocks because it’s hidden underneath all the preexisting carnage. And the aftershocks come when you’re at your most vulnerable and teetering on the brink of an abyss so dark and terrifying it’s unimaginable.

We’ve gone through the big one, and now the aftershocks are coming. Do we want to bury the baby? Should we allow doctors to autopsy the kid in the hope some kind of medical advancement can be gleaned by examining his/her condition? Do we find out if we were having a boy or a girl?

I’ll have to think about these things very soon. But not right now. Right now MJ and I just need to survive.

We have no more defenses. Right now we don’t have the ability to put up walls or deflect things that hurt us. Everything that comes our way is felt. Deeply. The wounds are so fresh and so raw, and they just hurt. I can put a lot of things out of my mind, focus on something else, dull the pain for awhile. But not with this. The pain comes and it strips us bare. It lodges into our souls and it fragments into a million little pieces that tear through our bodies with shrieking agony.

I’ve never understood how anyone can suffer from depression. Hell, in the beginning of my marriage I was critical of MJ and I flat out told her I didn’t think depression was real and that she should just snap out of it. I wasn’t saying it to be mean, I was just speaking out of ignorance because that’s what I truly believed. But now? Now I see how it could happen. I can see how someone could just give up and wave the white flag in the face of something so horrendous. I no longer judge, I sympathize.

Perhaps the only thing stopping me from surrendering is Will.

I feel bad for the poor kid because I’ve been smothering him. Last night we all cuddled in our bed and he fell asleep in between me and MJ. When MJ tried to pick him up and take him to bed I wouldn’t let her. In fact I slapped her hand away and shielded him from her with my body. As a rather vocal opponent of co-sleeping I even surprised myself with my actions. But in that moment I couldn’t let him go. I couldn’t let him out of my sight.  Eventually I brought him to bed, but even then I couldn’t leave him. I laid down next to him and fell asleep, feeling his breath on my cheek and enjoying him curled up next to me as I put my arm around him.

I just felt I had to protect him.

Because a dad is supposed to protect his kids at all costs, yet my son or daughter is dying. What kind of daddy lets his baby die? For Will I’m a changer of diapers, a security blanket, a safe haven and a kisser of boo-boos. But for this baby I’m just the useless piece of shit sitting in a doctor’s office watching an ultrasound machine and crying. Dads are all-powerful, yet I can do NOTHING.  I can’t even get my shit together to the point where I can decide what to do with my kid’s dead body.

Everyone keeps telling me this is happening for a reason. That there’s a lesson in here somewhere. That God never dishes out more than any one person can handle. Maybe. It’s possible when things calm down and I can think about this rationally there will be a silver lining. Some kind of valuable insight I employ later on in life.

But that day isn’t coming any time soon. And I have funeral arrangements to make for a child I’ll never know.

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27 thoughts on “Make It Stop

  1. Oh Aaron, I’m so sorry for what you and MJ are going through. The shock and sadness of the whole situation is overwhelming. My sister went through something similar this past winter – she was expecting twins and everything was perfect until the 28th week when she had an ultasound and they discovered that one of the babies had died. No reason, he was just gone. She ended up delivering both babies 2 mos. early and had to make the same decision you are facing now. They had a small, family only funeral for the lost twin. I believe it has brought her much comfort that he was treated like someone who was loved and lost, not someone who never existed. You may find you own peace going that route as well. Cling to your loved ones…they will be your life raft.

  2. I am so sorry that you did not get your miracle. Honestly. I’ve never been in your position and don’t envy you. But I admire the way you are there for MJ and Will.

    And silver lining? Something you can learn later? I think you have already learned at least one bit. You already said it. Sympathy for people with depression. It’s a lesson I’ve learned lately as well. And the teacher was a real bitch.

    I wish I had advice to give. Or a magic wand to make it all go away.

  3. Sometimes there is just so little or nothing you can do to help your children when they are in pain. It’s the worst feeling ever. It consumes you. My pain is nothing in comparison to yours and MJ’s, but it is still awful. We are here for you always, and our hearts are breaking for you. We won’t insult you by saying we understand what you are going through, but just know that if we could take more of the pain for you we would. We love you all so much. Whatever decisions you have to make, we support you and will do whatever we can to help.

  4. I am so sorry – I cannot imagine the pain you and MJ are going through. I agree with Lisa that you have already learned from this with your own acknowledgment of new found sympathy for people with depression rather than judging. Personal growth is never easy and this baby has worked a small miracle all on its own. Honor and thank him/her for helping you to become a better person. Prayers for all the family for comfort and peace during this difficult time.

  5. Aaron,
    I am keeping you and your family in my thoughts and prayers. I had very close friends have to make a similar decision only hours after delivering their son. I know the funeral was extremely difficult on everyone, but gave them a sense of support. I know I have hugged and held my boy tightly since reading your story. I pray for you and your family and I’m so, so sorry for your loss.

  6. I’m like you Aaron, I don’t really think there is some higher power that means to make a lesson out of all this madness.

    Life is unfair. Sometimes it’s unfair in your favor, sometimes it isn’t. This time, you’re gonna have to feel bad for a while. But you’ve also gotten the wonderful end of things, over and over: supportive parents; fun friends; an amazing wife; and one hell of a kid. Maybe two awesome kids, on the next role of the dice.

    Meanwhile, we’ll all be standing by too blow on those dice for good luck when you’re ready for it.

  7. I really wish I could wave a magic wand and make the pain go away. But I dont, and I think that a funeral would be good for your healing process, as hard as it will be. This isnt a blob, its your baby. Again, so sorry.

  8. Fuck that. There’s no lesson to learn. It’s all bullshit about God not giving you more than you can handle. It’s a terribly, awful, horrible tragedy and my heart aches for you in the loss of your unborn child and for me in the loss of my ability to have children. And, for what it’s worth, I identify very much as Christian but I’m sick and tired of pat answers and the whole “you’ll learn something from the experience” bullcrap people dish out. God I’m so so sorry you have to go through this.

  9. my heart goes out to you, being a childless mother myself i know what you are going through. it sucks, it sucks hairy, fat hairy sweaty balls… yeah nice visual. i am so sorry that you two are going through this. i had to make the same decision. same decision. i never thought that i would type that out, same decision. please know that many men and women are praying for you and your wife.

  10. I’m so very sorry. I wish I had more words of comfort to tell you, but I do have resources. Lots of resources. I know many, many who have lost children and babies and many are my good friends. Please, when you are ready, let me know.

    Much love to you, MJ, Will, and your sweet one.

  11. I should have warned you that this question was coming. I’m sorry. I don’t think it will help to say this, but, You can’t do this wrong. You can only do what feels right to the both of you, and move forward in that knowledge. Of course nothing about this is right. Love to you all

  12. People get more than they can handle all the time. We don’t all bounce, and you’re right: pain on top of pain on top of pain compounds itself, like a twisted and terrible interest.

    Try to ignore the platitudes; people say those things because it makes them feel better to believe them. Yes, someday there will be silver linings, and lots of them, but none of them will even begin to compare to the loss you’ve suffered. All of my children are alive, but as the mother of a child who is seriously mental ill, I’m on the receiving end of plenty of platitudes. I suppose it’s natural; people are uncomfortable around raw emotions and they try to force some meaning on them. It’s not always possible. Sometimes I hurt in huge ways that are far, far beyond words. If you find someone who can just be in that with you, just accompany you into that terrible place, keep that person close.

    This just hurts. It hurts so fucking bad and it’s going to for awhile. Don’t let people make it worse for you because you can’t be philosophical about it. You don’t need to be. The universe doesn’t require it of you; your wife, Will, and your baby don’t need that from you. Do what feels right for you and your family, whatever that means. Grief is going to have its way with you and you ARE going to survive.

    I left a response to your comment on my blog. I feel like everyone else; I wish down to my toenails there there was something I could say or do to make it easier, but I know there’s not. The most I can do is say that I’m over here, caring about how you feel.

  13. I also didn’t believe in depression until it hit me. I still think it’s a symptom, not the issue itself. I think that just like physical pain is a warning sign from your body, depression is the way your brain tells you to make a change.

    That’s how I saw it in my case, anyway, which doesn’t help you at all, because for you there’s nothing to change–only to overcome. When the time comes.

    Maybe life will never be the same, but at least the depression will gradually decline.

    Just my uninformed opinion. I hope I didn’t make things worse.

  14. My god that question is harsh. I don’t have words for you that will make it better, all I can offer is a virtual hug for you and yours.

  15. My heart is breaking for you and the loss of your child. At 28 weeks my dr talked to me about late term termination due to an abnormality in my daughters brain. She said I know you love this child and you’ve bonded with her but you can always try again. I felt as though someone has ripped my heart out, I was physically ill and nearly fainted as I lay there with the ultrasound gel still wet on my belly. I couldn’t see my husbands face through my tears and I felt like my whole world was falling apart in a moment all the hopes, planning and dreams can be taken away. We chose not to terminate and are lucky our daughter is well. I can not begin to imagine the reality of what you two are feeling, as my small glimpse into that devastated me. I will keep your family in my thoughts and prayers. I hope you do what you need to do for closure if that can even exist in such a painful situation. I pray your pain lessens with each day.

  16. I am so sorry. I can’t imagine the pain you and your wife feel. I can’t. I hope you are strong when the other crumbles, and that your precious Will keeps you going.

  17. have i noticed your tone on God softening a bit? i could be mistaken, but you mention near the end that God doesn’t give people more than they can handle–that there will be a reason for it. i expected you to remind your readers where you stand on all matters religious. but you didn’t.

    i personally believe that what people are telling you is true. as you know, my family is currently dealing with tragedy as well. whatever purpose this tragic time may serve in my life might be totally different from the purpose another affected person might come away with. and that’s part of the beauty. there’s no right answer. it’s all part of our ongoing walk.

    i’m so sorry this has happened to you and am continuing to hold your entire family close, both in thought and prayer.

  18. JCO: No, my tone on God isn’t changing at all. I don’t believe. I was simply relaying what many other people are saying to me right now. Honestly I did have a whole paragraph in my first draft that said anyone who believes “God” could do such a thing is absolutely crazy. But then I remembered how many people — many of whom are religious — were sending out prayers and thoughts my way and I deleted it because there’s no need to trample on their goodwill simply because we disagree religiously.

    When someone says they’re praying for me I don’t take offense. I don’t believe one lick in prayer but I simply translate that into people are thinking about us and wishing for the best. And that is a very comforting thought.

    We’re thinking of you, your sister and your family as well.

  19. DF, know this, my good man…you could have kept that paragraph in a million times over and i wouldn’t have taken offense, nor would i have offered up some sanctimonious brand of condemnation. remember, i’ve been on your side of the coin. and i’d be lying if i told you i never have any doubts. i do.

    besides, there’s an old saying which always makes me smile…Christianity wouldn’t be that bad…if it weren’t for all the Christians! people who say it’s not their spot to judge, yet turn around and do just that? they don’t have a place in my book. regardless of what their beliefs are.

    i respect you. and i respect your beliefs. you and i understand who the other is. we have many similarities, and some differences, too. which is a good thing. that’s what makes the world go ’round, no?

    thanks for your thoughts, my friend. support feels good. i know i have it from you, just, i’m certain, as you know you have it from me.

  20. I’m so sorry. I don’t know you, but wish I could hug you and MJ. I cannot imagine going through this. And I don’t believe things happen for a reason, as others have been telling you. I do believe that sometimes, bad things happen to good people. I wish I could say something to you that mattered, but the truth is, no matter how sincere and comforting my words could possible be, it does not change the fact that you are going through this hell. I can only hope that at some point, you will find solace and peace with what has happened. I wish parents never had to experience the loss of a child, born or unborn. I am thinking of your family and I wish you all the best.

  21. I only came across this blog recently and…
    For some reason, a Clan of Ninjas moved into my apartment the very same day, and for some obscure reason they keep cutting up onions right under my nose. *sniffle*

    Anyway… knowing that this event is a few years in the past know, I’d like to ask a simple question:
    Did you find the silver lining in this?
    Because I really can’t see how someone might find anything good to say about this kind of experience…

  22. Atlessa: I’d love to say I learned a lesson, but I didn’t. And the only silver lining is feeling that much more lucky and grateful for the son we already had, and the son we had in the future.

    But other than that it was hell and I wouldn’t wish it on my worst enemy. Screw that “whatever doesn’t kill you makes you stronger” crap. Whatever doesn’t kill you just hurts. A lot.
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