I envisioned a truly special night. I had a little room booked for me and the wife. Nothing fancy and we weren’t going to travel far, just a few towns over to Hyannis. Some of our friends would’ve come with us but there would have been plenty of other people around too who would devote themselves to us, take care of us and cater to our every need. All the anticipation would’ve built up and then just after the stroke of midnight, a new year and a new life would have begun.
Alex was scheduled to be born on New Year’s Eve.
Usually I love celebrations. Christmas, New Year’s, anniversaries, birthdays—if there was a reason to party I was going to be first in line. But since we lost Alex, I just don’t feel it anymore. Christmas was fun, but subdued. I didn’t even go out and get a tree. I’m going out for New Year’s, but mainly it’s to be around good friends who I know can put up with me when I’m drunk. Which I most definitely will be. And as an added kick to the testicles, MJ and I have our fifth wedding anniversary coming up on Jan. 13.
Normally I’m the one who makes a big deal out of birthdays and anniversaries. I remember the exact day I first kissed MJ and the day we first made love. MJ, on the other hand, has forgotten my birthday on more than one occasion and simply isn’t one to celebrate sentimental milestones. Usually I just ignore her and plan something fun anyway, but this year I didn’t plan anything because I don’t feel like celebrating and I figured she wouldn’t mind.
Well, she does mind. She’s really upset we’re not making a big deal out of our anniversary. She misses me and wants to spend time with me. I miss her too and I really do love her more than ever.
But I physically ache when I look at her.
She should be HUGE right now. Her gigantic belly should be just about to explode. I’m supposed to be massaging her swollen feet and making midnight runs to get her weird food combinations. We’re supposed to have a bag packed for the hospital and I should be at work, checking my cell phone every four seconds, waiting for the “IT’S TIME!” phone call.
The crib is supposed to be ready and decked out with bright new pink sheets. Girl clothes and all that cute shit should be overflowing from the nursery as relatives call everyday to get progress reports so they can be the first to show up at the hospital. Will is supposed to be ridiculously excited (and slightly pissed off and jealous) to become a big brother. I would have purchased a newborn-sized Patriots cheerleader outfit she could wear on Sundays.
And if she held on until New Year’s Day, maybe she would’ve been the Cape’s first baby of 2011. A reporter’s kid as the New Year’s baby with a front page spread. It would’ve been perfect.
But things are not perfect.
MJ doesn’t think Alex was a person. She thinks we lost a fetus, nothing more than a damaged collection of cells that failed to survive. I don’t hold that against her at all, and in fact I’m rather envious she can reconcile things like that. I wish I could convince myself to feel that way but I can’t.
I admit I didn’t know how to feel when we lost Alex. On one hand we’re talking about a 16-week-old fetus I never met. Technically we don’t even know it was a girl (although in my mind she was). So how do you grieve someone who you’re not even sure counts as an actual person? I don’t know the answer to that, but I think it’s at the heart of my struggle. MJ and I talked recently and because she’s much smarter than I am, she made me realize my heart has been treating this like the death of a loved one, but my brain is constantly trying to convince me that’s not the case. Therefore I never really dealt with it. Each time I tried to I’d get about halfway and then pull myself back because I’d tell myself this wasn’t a “real” loss.
But it was real for me. Whether I’m right or wrong, I see what happened as the death of a child. I know it doesn’t compare to the actual death of a living child several years old (a horror I selfishly hope I never encounter), but at times it feels that way to me. And instead of repressing that thought I need to deal with it so I can move on and be a better husband and father.
I’ve always viewed therapists and counselors as helpful people who are great options—for other people. Never me. You’d sooner see me in a Yankees hat than talking to some quack and admitting I couldn’t handle my own problems. Despite the fact I’ve seen it work for MJ with wonderful results, the thought of me on that couch is one of the most terrifying and embarrassing things I can imagine.
But the only thing worse is spiraling to the point that nothing makes me happy, my wife feels lonely and my son constantly tells me to cheer up. I don’t want that and won’t have it. I’m better than that and my family deserves better as well.
I’ve never made a New Year’s resolution in earnest. But for 2011, I’m hoping I can conjure up enough testicular fortitude to admit to my shortcomings and do something about it.
Happy New Year.