Tag Archives: #2

Gone Viral

The last 48 hours have been nothing short of mind-blowing.

I posted a recap of Alexandra’s story on the Good Men Project site on Saturday. By Monday morning, it exploded all over the Internet. It landed on Salon, Jezebel, BoingBoing, Rachel Maddow’s blog and Slate to name a few. The You Tube video of my confrontation with the protesters is currently around 370,000 hits. And my amazement and incredulity at how many people have taken an interest in our story is clear off the charts.

First of all, in perusing all the chatter about our story I’ve noticed a few people making misstatements and others have had questions. So here goes:

  • This video is not made up. Our lost baby was not made up. The pain we felt from losing a child is not made up. All of it is real. Very, very real. Anyone who would fake this kind of thing is the lowest form of life, and I’m certainly not in that category.
  • I am not just doing this for the money. In fact, I’m not making ANY money off of this. Look around this site. Do you see any advertising? No. Sure my blog is getting more hits but that doesn’t translate into dollars for me. I’m set to make a few media appearances in the next couple of days, and none of them are paid. I’m just happy our story has jump-started the discussion.
  • The protesters. There is a 35-foot buffer zone in Massachusetts by law, and these protesters were obeying it at the time. So while we didn’t have to pass right next to them, they were across the street shouting things at us. So while I never felt physically threatened by any of them, it was their incredibly cruel words I was protesting. And yes, even though I didn’t get it on tape, they absolutely shouted things at us at we entered the clinic.

Now, having addressed these issues from the haters out there, I want to take this opportunity to thank the overwhelming majority of you who embraced me and enveloped me with so much unmitigated love and support it made my head spin. The thousands of e-mails, comments and tweets you’ve left me have restored my faith in, well, everything.

From the 20-year-old college student who had to navigate protesters by herself last week to the woman who is now a grandmother but still recalls the horror of having to deal with anti-choice zealots decades ago, your stories were intensely personal. And the fact that you shared them with me means more than you’ll ever know.

But I have to admit, it’s all made me pretty uncomfortable.

MJ wants to kill me because I cannot take a compliment and I certainly won’t admit I’ve done anything extraordinary.  So when people started using the word “hero” to describe me I freaked out a little. Soldiers are heroes. Teachers are heroes. Firefighters, police officers and doctors are heroes. Me? I’m an overweight knucklehead who could barely operate the camera on his cell phone after getting pissed off at a couple of ignorant old ladies for yelling at his wife.

And honestly, I didn’t really have a benevolent agenda. I wasn’t thinking about the greater good when I shot that video. I was being selfish, because it felt good to fight back against ignorance and shame the people who tried to shame my wife on the worst day of her life. My two goals were 1) Showcase their stupidity and 2) Not get arrested. I can say with 100% certainty that “Make a passionate but nonviolent argument in favor of women’s reproductive rights and basic human decency that will be viewed by nearly half a million people on You Tube” was not in my brain.

But my wife — who is much smarter than I will ever be — told me that whether it was inadvertent or not, I had done something worthwhile. Something unique. Something most people don’t talk about. And she told me it would resonate with people, especially those who have been negatively affected by similar protesters in similar situations.

I still maintain I’ve done nothing special. But I hope, at the very least, I’ve started a discussion. I hope a few people think about standing up to these people in nonviolent ways. I hope a few of the protesters conceivably take a look at what they’re doing and at least tone down the rhetoric. And while I understand the minds of ultra-religious fanatics are so set in their respective dogmas that they might not ever change, I hope people realize that doesn’t preclude the rest of us from fighting back and speaking up.

But while so many of you have thanked me for doing good, I am the one who should be doling out the thank yous.

Thank you. Thank all of you. I’m just a putz of a newspaper reporter who will never be famous. Tomorrow there will be some other viral video burning up the Internet and I’ll be an afterthought. And I’m OK with that. I’m not in this for fame and I gave up on fortune a long time ago.

But some things will remain permanent for all time.

I will keep all of your e-mails. All of your messages. All of your personal stories. It’s the most amazing feeling to open yourself up and leave yourself vulnerable to the world, and then have the world reach right back to you with open arms. There is nothing that can be done to erase the pain of what we went through losing Alex in July, but your words and gestures took as much of the sting away as possible. And for that I will be eternally grateful.

I have no idea where things will go from here, but I hope as many of you as possible stick around. Thank you all.

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Hanging On Too Tight?

“When are you gonna get rid of this thing?”

MJ was on the computer when she growled the previous sentence at me. I had no idea what she was talking about, but I assumed it was something of little consequence or just a mild annoyance that was eating at her. But when she turned the laptop toward me and pointed to what was bugging her, I was blown away.

With a scowl on her face and genuine pissiness in her voice, she pointed to this:

I was shocked.

I explained that a very thoughtful blogging friend made that specifically for us in remembrance of Alex. And from there, dozens of other bloggers put it on their sites in support of what we went through. But all of that aside, I told her I like it. Sure it makes me a little sad sometimes, but I told MJ I also think it’s important for us to always remember Alex. And this button helps with that.

She disagreed. Big time.

She wants it gone. In fact she wants all traces of that incident erased. She told me remembering it just makes things more difficult. She told me hanging on makes me unable to move on. And it didn’t stop with Alex. She also took the opportunity to tell me it’s ridiculous that I’m still upset about my friend’s suicide 10 years ago. Just for good measure, she said she thinks it’s stupid to visit graveyards at all.

OK. First of all, I will admit I do dwell in the past somewhat. I know I come across as an insensitive prick most of the time, but I’m actually very sentimental.  I have ticket stubs from meaningful sporting events littering the recesses of my house. The Patriots bottle opener on my keychain is 9 years old and I keep it because I found it on the ground after the St. Louis Rams game, after which the Patriots didn’t lose another game on their way to the Super Bowl. I even kept the shirt I was wearing the day I lost my virginity. So yeah, I get it. Sometimes I cling to things from the past.

But I will not take that badge down. Ever.

MJ has the uncanny ability to turn off all emotion and move on. Quickly. And good for her. Sometimes I wish I could be more like that. But what caused the real argument between is is that she’s mad at me for naming Alex. For turning her into a real person, because MJ doesn’t think she was one.  I disagree. I am moving on from what happened, but unlike my wife I don’t want to forget. In fact, I refuse to forget. That whole ordeal changed me, for better or worse, and to pretend it didn’t happen or that it wasn’t real is not a viable option for me.

I find the whole thing ironic because MJ is a history major. And from what I remember in those classes, future success hinges largely on recalling past events. As long as people don’t get so bogged down in ancient history that they can’t function in the present, I see nothing wrong with remembering something/someone worthy of being remembered.

I would never do anything to intentionally hurt my wife or cause her pain. But that badge is staying there. And I refuse to apologize or feel guilty about that.

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Thanks Dad

It’s been more than two weeks since I detailed our ordeal with little Alex, and I’m still getting crap from anti-choice zealots. Like these gems:

I am confused. Why is the couple supposed to feel better about having an abortion and cutting the obviously living baby’s life short? Why is that supposed to be better than letting nature take its course and delivering the stillborn baby? Is it because it’s less trouble for the parents? So they can get the baby’s death over and start the grieving process sooner? Wouldn’t it be harder to be the cause of my baby’s death after seeing an ultrasound, as they did? It seems to me there IS only one choice, to let this baby live as long as possible.

Here is the problem with the logic of this video. This guy is upset because he put great value in the 16 week old fetus that he calls “our baby”, but his lack of understanding for what these protesters are trying to do seems to give no value in the other “babies” that are killed at this location. He says it was one of the most difficult days of their lives, but has NO EMPATHY for the other babies murdered there and those trying to prevent their deaths.

The pro life lady was not yelling at anybody, you were yelling at her. Abortion is on demand worldwide, the killing of innocent human life is not rare but has become way too common. You should take a look in the mirror because you need to Repent.

Nice huh? Some real Mensa candidates in that bunch.

Thankfully, they’ve been the minority and all of you have been fantastic. As in spectacularly fucking supportive. I thought the best way to fight back was to send vitriolic responses to each and every one of them. But now I see the error of my ways. Instead, I’m going to be noticed. By as many people as possible. As difficult as it is to talk about this at times, I want to be heard. I want every protester possible to know our story so they realize exactly who they’re hurting when they stand outside shouting at people like gutless cowards. And you all have helped make that happen.

And now it’s my dad’s turn. Although he works for a stainless steel company, he used to be a journalist too. And even now he’s a columnist for the local newspaper in our hometown. So he wrote something and now I’m posting it here because I thought it was great and I wanted to share it with as many people as possible.

Thanks dad. I love you.

Abortion – it’s an ugly term.  It has a deservedly harsh connotation to it, conveying an untimely ending and something gone horribly wrong.

My son and daughter-in-law had to make a decision to terminate their pregnancy recently, a pregnancy nearly four months along.  They chose to do it, although in reality there was no choice.  But it was still incredibly difficult.

Their baby – my grandchild – had a rare and fatal congenital birth defect called Sirenomelia, otherwise known as Mermaid Syndrome.  Due to a vascular malfunction, the baby’s legs were fused together.  The baby had no bladder, no kidneys, and no chance of surviving.  The defect occurs once in about every 100,000 births.

The pain this caused my son and his wife, who very much wanted this second child, is indescribable.  You cannot possibly fathom the depths of their despair unless you have been in a similar position.  And while nowhere near as bad, the pain of having to watch our children go through this is something my wife and I pray we never have to experience again.

Our kids handled their situation with all the class, dignity and responsibility human beings can be expected to muster.  We are so proud, even as our hearts break for them.  Their strength and devotion to one another and their two-year-old son is the stuff of legends.

But their ordeal was made even more unnecessarily awful by the politics and social controversy surrounding the abortion issue.  On one of the worst days of their lives, they became victims again – this time at the hands of those trying to do God’s work while in fact doing just the opposite.

Although my daughter-in-law was treated at a major Boston hospital, the time-sensitive nature of the procedure necessitated it be done at an affiliated establishment.  After she and my son mustered the necessary courage and emotional strength to get where they had to go, they were met by something they had not considered in their grief – abortion protestors.

Two women were picketing outside the establishment, carrying signs and “communicating” with women walking in the door.  One carried a sign of religious symbolism.  As my son and his wife tried to enter the building where they would lose the baby they already loved so much, they were approached by the women.

“You’re killing your unborn baby!’ was the remark they would remember most as they walked past.  They were both furious and devastated, but held their tempers and concentrated on what needed to be done.  But once my daughter-in-law was in surgery, my son decided to take on the protestors.

In a calm but firm tone, he told them of his wife’s condition.  How they had accosted her at the most vulnerable point in her life.  How they had hurled accusations when they had no idea of the circumstances.  How they claimed to be protecting, yet seemed more intent on hurting.  And better yet, he recorded the entire conversation on his cell phone and posted it on his internet blog.

These particular protestors care about the unborn, but apparently are not concerned with those who have already come into the world.  They made no attempt to discover the circumstances and just assumed this was a couple ending an unwanted pregnancy.  To them, my kids were simply collateral damage in an ongoing war – the price to be paid for later success.

This column is not about a woman’s right to choose, although I have my own opinions on that matter.  It is about the culture of hatred and disrespect that people today foster when they single-mindedly focus on one goal to the exclusion of nearly all else.  It is about allowing the end to justify the means.

I am so proud of my son, and perhaps even more proud of his wife.  At a time of great personal turmoil, they did not just retreat inside their own grief – though no one would have blamed them.

Rather, they cared enough to take the time to explain to these people how their actions can destroy others.  How their words can scar forever.  How nothing is ever as clear or as simple as it seems.

I love them dearly, and I will never forget the lessons they have taught us all.

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My Joker

How does a parent even begin to move past the trauma of losing an unborn child? Well, it helps when you already have a lunatic 2-year-old who has you shaking your head and cracking up at every turn.

This is what MJ and I saw when we checked on him last night, an hour after he went to bed. At first I thought he was monkeying around. Sometimes he likes to just chill in his room, jump on the bed or sing to himself. But as I got closer I realized he was dead asleep. Out like a light. Yet both of his feet were on the ground and half his body was off the bed. But that didn’t stop him from slumbering away. MJ and I just stood there, dumbfounded. When I went to move him he opened his eyes, looked at me and said “Grapes, dada.” Then his head hit the pillow and he was out again.

And then we cracked up laughing. Deep, genuine belly laughs. I was laughing so hard I had tears streaming down my face.

I know it doesn’t seem that funny, and it probably wasn’t. But laughs and smiles in general have been few and far between in these parts recently, and it was nice to see MJ’s return. To be honest I didn’t know what it was going to take to bring joy back into this house. Now I realize it’s going to be all Will.

The boy who, in the last month, has learned to say “OH MY GOD!” and “CALM DOWN!” The kid who constantly requests The Dropkick Murphys song “Shippin’ Up to Boston” by screaming “Ship up Boston, whoa whoa whoa!!” while pumping his arm in the air. Our baby, who has suddenly morphed into our little man, who may not possess the complete vocabulary to communicate with us, yet knows everything we’re saying to him.

This morning, while we were all in bed together before work, there was an incident. It was the thing I’d been fearing since we knew we’d lose the baby. Will was cuddling up to MJ and he started tickling her. He started tickling her stomach but then stopped suddenly, dead in his tracks.

“Oh sorry baby,” he said, talking into MJ’s stomach, apologizing to the baby he still thought was inside.

My heart sank and I started to panic. I looked at MJ with a “what the hell do we do?” glance. She shrugged her shoulders. I didn’t know whether to ignore it and hope he forgets, or to try to explain to him in simplistic terms what had happened.

“Buddy,” I began slowly. “I’m sorry but there’s no more baby in Mama’s belly.”

“What??” he said in his high pitched, surprised voice, with a heavy emphasis on the “t” sound.

“Your sister went bye-bye. No more baby in mama’s tummy. She’s gone buddy.”

He looked confused for a few seconds, glancing back and forth from me to MJ. But then, with the kind of acceptance and finality only a toddler possesses, he seemed to get it. Just like that.

“OK. Bye baby,” he said, as he planted one last gargantuan kiss on her belly.

I know that sounds sad, but strangely enough it wasn’t. It was endearing and cute and completely sweet. Will is a handful and sure he might demand to watch Toy Story 2 roughly 4,972 times a day, but he’s also going to be the one who pulls me and MJ out of this abyss.

One goofy, cute, adorable, ridiculous stunt at a time.

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Goodbye Princess. And Thank You.

Life has been cloudy and gray. Let’s take the bad memories and put them away. The sun has come out oh we’ve waited so long. All of the hard days are gone.”

Alexandra Christine Gouveia.

MJ and I don’t know for sure if we were having a boy or a girl. It was still kind of early to tell, not to mention the legs were fused together which made it hard to determine the sex. But we both agreed we were having a girl this time around. After all, I figure only a girl could be this much trouble!

We liked the idea of a boy’s name for a girl. We would’ve called you Alex for short. And as an added bonus you would’ve been named after one of our best friends, Alex (aka TheBear on these forums). Your initials, ACG, would’ve been the same as mine. And I have no doubt you would’ve been smarter than me and more beautiful than your mother.

A few people have asked why we don’t just save the name if we like it so much, and use it if we have another daughter in the future. But that sentiment right there epitomizes all my fears.

My biggest worry through all of this is that no one will remember Alex.

After all, she wasn’t born. She has no birth certificate. There was no funeral. Although MJ and I will always remember her, the rest of the world will surely forget. And to me, there isn’t much worse in the world than irrelevance. People tried to comfort us by saying there had to be a silver lining, or that somehow some good would come of this. But those words carried no weight in my mind. How could they? My baby and our dreams were dying right in front of our eyes. How do you possibly find any good in that?

Well, I found the answer.

The response I received after posting my encounter with the protesters was nothing short of overwhelming. It was viewed by thousands of people all over the world. It was on the front page of Twitter. And of those thousands, hundreds left comments and sent e-mails that made me laugh, made me cry and just plain moved me.

I did not have a master plan when I decided to turn my camera phone on and give them a piece of my mind. I just knew they had hurt my wife, and I will confront anyone who injures her in any way. I had no intentions of making a political statement or becoming a lightning rod in an already contentious and deeply personal issue. I simply knew I wanted to show their hypocrisy and hopefully show other people the hurt protesters indiscriminately spew at women who all have different backgrounds and different stories.

I had no idea the kind of chord it would strike with people around the world.

Shortly after I posted it, the e-mails and comments started trickling in. And then the flood gates opened. I was bombarded with notes of thanks and atta-boys. And I was appreciative of that. But then the testimonials came in and those changed my life forever.

Some of you shared deeply personal stories with me. Some of you were in the same position as we were, with a fetal abnormality deemed terminal. And like us, your problems were unnecessarily and cruelly compounded by these people who say they’re “only trying to help.” And then there were those of you who made me openly weep, telling me stories of how you were impregnated after a rape. After suffering the indescribable atrocity of being sexually violated like that, the thought of hostile zealots shouting at you all because you didn’t want to carry a rapist’s baby made me sick to my stomach. I can’t even imagine. One by one, on and on the e-mails kept coming. And I read each and every one of them, committing them to memory and keeping them close to my heart.

And that’s when I realized Alexandra’s brief life absolutely meant something. Something very important actually.

Alex may never have seen the light of day, but it’s because of her I was able to shine a light on the bullying and fear-mongering being performed on “God’s behalf.” And limited although my resources may be, I was able to share our story with thousands of others. Even people who consider themselves pro-life, who e-mailed me and told me our saga had changed the way they look at the issue. Sure we still don’t agree on the issue, but that’s OK. I’m not looking for everyone to have the same viewpoint here. What I am seeking is respect. Basic human decency. Something those pro-life (an misleading characterization if ever there was one) protesters are severely lacking.

And I can say without hesitation that our 16-week-old Alex changed a handful of opinions.

She also did something equally important. Little Alex made me a better man, father and husband. Life is never more precious than when you lose it. As pained as I was by losing Alex, she made me love my wife and son even more. When those people cut down my wife at her weakest point I felt the very core of my male DNA power up to prehistoric levels. I went into Protector Mode. At that point the only difference between me and my caveman descendants was my cell phone camera. Not that I didn’t love my wife before, but this reminded me just how much I love her. How strong and beautiful and wonderful she is. And it also renewed my appreciation for Will, who is happy and healthy. I will never take that for granted ever again.

So we will think of another name if we have a daughter in the future, because we already had a daughter named Alex. And while we never got to meet her, we will love and remember her forever. And hopefully so will some of you.

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