We lost Alexandra a year ago. We miscarried again in February. Since then I think every single person on the planet has gotten pregnant. Seriously, it’s insane. My best friend and his wife, my wife’s best friend and her husband, two good female friends from high school, my neighbor and countless other acquaintances out there on the periphery. All with the proverbial bun in the oven.
Please don’t get me wrong, I’m happy for them. Thrilled actually. I have nothing but all the love in the world for each of them and I can’t wait until all these babies are born so I can play with them and hold them. But watching everyone else get what you so desperately want…it’s tough.
As the year anniversary of my clash with the abortion protesters drew near, I began to get a little chippy. The YouTube video below is nearing 1 million hits, and with that comes some of the nutcases. There are some nasty comments on there calling me and MJ murderers, telling us we didn’t love our baby enough, etc.
For the most part I’ve been able to ignore them and see them for the crazies they are. But lately, feeling the weight and frustration that’s been building up, I’ve taken to responding to some of them. I know it’s never a good idea to feed the trolls but I can’t help it.
I’ve just been so fucking angry. I feel like anger seeps out of my pores and spontaneously combusts as I walk around on fire. I’ve considered taking the video down and even stopping this blog altogether just to get away from it all and not have to deal with it.
And just then, I got the most soul-refreshing email from a perfect stranger whose kind words have helped me gain some perspective and really soothed me. And boy did I need it. So, with her permission and taking out some identifying information, I’d like to thank the author of this email for saving me when I desperately needed it.
Hello Aaron, my names M___. I’m a 20-something year old from the midwest – an artsy nerd, a roller derby girl, a typical black sheep art school type. I’m also among the thousands of young women who had to make the choice that would leave my heart permanently chipped. To keep a difficult story short, I made a similiar choice as you and your famliy. I was (and still am, though it doesn’t feel it) young, it was unplanned as the story usually goes: I was on medication for anxiety that unknowingly effected my method of birth control, and finding out I was pregnant was a shock I always told myself I would never allow to happen.
However, it wasn’t the worst news either. I had stability and luxeries a lot of young mothers didn’t have – a long, strong relationship with my soon-to-be husband, an almost too supportive, traditional southern family that wanted me to ‘get hitched’ and settle down with a family by the time I was 18 anyway. My grandmother was estatic. With the comfort knowing I had the means and support to bring a child into a world of nothing but love and financial comfort within both families, over time I was infatuated with mommy-dom like I had never imagined.
I recieved similair news you and your wife endured later in my pregnancy. I then made the same choice.
I don’t normally do this, go out of my way to contact a stranger, especially through youtube, but you truly deserve it. I know from reading your blog excerpt that you felt foolish for confronting those women on the street, these people who put so much of thier time and effort into spreading ‘the word’ of God with ridiculous scare tactics and a blind eye to all the reasons there are to end a pregnancy, a choice every woman deserves without ridicule. My child was the victim of chance and an unfortunate genetic history, and though I felt it, it was of no fault of this baby or my own. I wasn’t strong enough to stand up for myself when I was harrassed trying to enter a planned parenthood. I was miserable and heart broken. I hurt so much I wanted to die, and the protestors could see I was wounded. They knew they had the ammunition to bring me down, to make my shame into a cruel example, and they did so in front of every person within ear shot as I tried to do what was best for my health and a child that would not reach full term no matter how much I willed it otherwise. I was powerless in that moment, too upset to voice my side, so instead I just looked at my feet and cried into my hands.
I know what you said on the street that day wasn’t everything you wanted it to be in the heat of the moment, that maybe you didn’t feel like it was a victory. I just want you to know that when I read your story, and saw you from that day, that in a small way I felt like you were protecting me.
I hope with all my heart that you and your family are happy, healthy and continue to stay strong.
This is not to paint myself as a hero. I’m the farthest thing from it. This is to say thank you to M.
Even if yours was the only supportive email I received, it was worth it. Aside from the obvious pain MJ was in that day at the clinic, I was equally saddened by the young faces of the women sitting in the lobby that day, who had also just run the gauntlet of crazy religious zealots shouting at them with no understanding of their particular circumstances. I saw the shame, compounded by taunts from the thoughtless jackasses outside. And every so often their hateful words would drift in through the cracked window, causing a fresh round of tears and heartbreak for women making an impossible decision.
Yes I had my wife in the forefront of my mind that day, but I took a mental snapshot of each face in that waiting room and tucked it away. And I thought about women who went there for abortions in the past, who didn’t have anyone to stick up for them. Who either wouldn’t, or couldn’t, fight back. Women like M.
Thank you for that email M. You’ll never quite understand what it means to me. Or how much I needed it. Say what you want about the Internet, but it allowed me to connect with a total stranger on a ridiculously meaningful and personal level. And I’m forever grateful for that.
On an otherwise sunny and beautiful day in Brookline, my wife, MJ, had the life sucked out of her. Literally and metaphorically. Hearing that our baby had Mermaid Syndrome was bad. Being told she was missing kidneys, a bladder and other vital organs was awful. Having to make the nightmarish decision between a stillbirth and abortion was unfathomable. But the completely unnecessary and unprovoked verbal attack from total strangers was the crushing and cruel blow that sent us over the edge.
I dealt with everything by writing it all down and turning to all of you for support, but MJ suffered in silence. And things didn’t really improve.
Severe financial troubles plagued us. MJ’s medical problems and certain conditions (which I won’t go into here) worsened. We thought things turned around in January when we discovered MJ was pregnant again, but fate is a fickle little tramp. Another miscarriage. MJ had to go in for a D&C, which is never a pleasant experience. Then, last month, we discovered there were leftover remnants which caused a hematoma. Lucky MJ, that meant yet ANOTHER procedure. Which, in turn, translates into a delay of at least three months until we can even think about trying for another baby.
In fact, when I thought about the last four years, I came up with a shocking fact I hadn’t really considered: MJ has been pregnant five times in four years, during which time we’ve lost four pregnancies requiring just as many D&C procedures.
That absolutely blows my mind.
Seriously, it’s enough to make even the strongest among us curl up in a ball and give up. Which MJ and I have both considered at various points. But as hard as it’s been for me, it’s been worse for MJ. Her medical conditions make it so damn hard to function on a daily basis, nevermind work at a demanding job and take care of Will, me and the house. She handles all the finances and anything that requires paperwork. She does everything, which can really take a toll.
Things bottomed out six weeks ago when MJ had to take a leave from her job. I have to admit, I was worried about her because at that point things really could’ve gone either way. The time off could’ve helped her or she could’ve gone insane and spiraled so deep into depression she wouldn’t be able to recover. And that scared the shit out of me because she’s been close to that point in the past.
But once again I was reminded to never count my wife out.
She fought back the only way she knows how: a little bit at a time. She is getting the help she needs and she scratches and claws on a daily basis just to have a fairly normal day. It’s not easy. In fact, it’s ridiculously difficult. Yet even during her own personal battle, she’s remained a fantastic mom to Will and I still hold the title of “World’s Luckiest Husband.”
During a year of awful loss and trying times, it would be easy—even understandable—to dwell on the bad times right now. But instead, I want to tell my wife I love her. I think she’s incredible. And I’m constantly amazed by her strength and resiliency. As shitty as this year has been, the tough times can bring out the best in people. And my wife is, by far, the best.
The Daddy Files condo saw a population increase last weekend.
Our good friends Vic and Alicia had a wedding to go to in Virginia. So they asked us if we could look after their 3-year-old son Victor (who is also our godson), as well as their dog Muggles. So if you’re counting, that’s me, MJ, two 3-year-olds, two cats and two dogs. All in our 1,100-square-foot condo.
I have to admit, I was frazzled.
Sometimes I have all I can handle just with Will. Now here was Vic, a sweet and gentle giant of a kid (his dad is 6’4″), who is thrust in a strange place without his parents and on Will’s turf. I quickly discovered a few things that promptly drove me to drink:
You can give toddlers the exact same toys, yet they will STILL find a way to fight
Whining is contagious. If one starts, the other is sure to follow
Never—and I mean NEVER—buy/adopt a puggle
Will is an only child and as such we can’t help but lavish attention on him. So when I took some of that attention and paid it towards Vic, Will was not happy. He cried and he whined and he was just acting like an awful spoiled brat. I sent him to his room and put him in timeout more times this weekend than in the previous three months combined. There was hitting, biting, complaining, spilling, refusal to eat meals…all the while punctuated by a miniature hound of Satan who does nothing but bark in a crazed howling manner for prolonged periods of time.
My freak-out moment came when they couldn’t agree on a movie to watch. It was not my finest moment:
ME: “OK. Vic, what do you wanna watch?”
VIC: “How to Train Your Dragon.”
ME: “Will, do you wanna watch that movie?”
WILL(in hysterics): “NOOOO! I WANNA WATCH BEAUTY AND THE BEAST!!”
ME: “Calm down Will. Alright. So Vic, can you watch Beauty and the Beast?”
VIC (also now in hysterics): “I WANNNNNT DRAGGGGOOOOOONNNN!”
ME: “OK, OK…how about we compromise and watch Cars instead?”
ME: “That’s it! No more. I’ve had it! You’re watching A Bug’s Life. And the first person who whines or leaves this bed is going to be fed to a dragon!”
I was DONE! But after I turned on the movie and spent a couple of minutes outside the room calming down, I poked my head back in and what I saw melted my heart.
Both kids were laying in our bed watching the movie. Will was trying to get comfortable but when he laid down he couldn’t see the TV. Vic noticed and, without saying a word, took one of his pillows and put it under Will’s head so he could prop himself up and watch the movie. Will responded with a sweet “Thanks Victor” and gave him a quick hug. Then they both went back to silently watching A Bug’s Life.
Having another kid in our house was frustrating, and I truly believe having just one kid is so much easier. All of the whining, fighting and battling really frayed my nerves and at times I felt like I was careening towards a mental breakdown. The whole experience really convinced me of one important thing:
I want another kid. Badly.
If there was any kind of fairness in the universe, Will would already have a brother or sister. Alexandra would be more than four months old today. Will would be used to feeding her bottles and telling her stories.
In a few months she’d get to crawling, then walking and soon we wouldn’t have to worry about Will sharing because she would’ve just started taking shit from him. Like all younger siblings, she would’ve started the fight, tricked him into getting in trouble and gotten off lightly. That’s how it was with my little brother Nate, and it would’ve really been something to watch Will transform from a self-centered toddler into a slightly less self-centered older brother.
So it was a tough weekend. Not only because I learned what life is like with another kid in the house, but also because we were reminded of what life is like without one.
My “Confronting Life” article went viral over at the Good Men Project on Oct. 23, 2010. It currently has 775 comments and 678 people “liked” it on Facebook. It’s the most widely read piece they’ve had on the site and even today—four months exactly after it was first posted—it’s third on the “most popular articles today” list. It was featured over at Salon where it garnered more than 200 comments and 11,000 Facebook likes. And finally on YouTube, the video of me engaging the anti-choice protesters currently has 791,053 views with over 8,000 comments.
What does that all mean? It means for the last four months not a single day has passed when I haven’t gotten a comment or e-mail about what happened.
And for the most part, that’s been a good thing.
I’ve gotten hundreds—possibly thousands—of uplifting and supportive comments and e-mails from people all over the world. The ones I treasure most are the extraordinarily personal e-mails from women who said they were in similar situations and needed an abortion, but no one was there with them when protesters tore their world apart. They described how they wished they had the strength to say something at the time, and how grateful they were that someone finally did. I kept every one of those e-mails and I read them from time to time to remind myself that what I did was worth it.
I’d say 95% of the responses I’ve received have been positive, which is an overwhelming number for which I’m eternally appreciative. But I have to admit, that 5% has really pissed me off.
I knew this would garner a lot of attention, both positive and negative. So I knew I had to prepare myself to let the ignorant comments from fundamentalist Christians and pro-life zealots roll off my back. But for someone as opinionated as myself, that’s not easy. And when they’re attacking me personally, as well as my family, it gets even more difficult.
For the most part I ignored them, but sometimes they just got me so worked up I jumped back into the fray. I regretted it immediately and I know that’s exactly what they want, but these people are just so nuts. And so wrong. Here are a few examples of what I’ve been dealing with.
You didn’t HAVE to abort your dying infant. You CHOSE to. You could have tried with all of your heart to save the baby, you could have at least given it a chance. Most fathers would do anything to save their child from disaster or disease, but you and your wife decided to murder your baby without even giving it a chance at life. So what if the baby was dying, there was still some chance that it would have lived. Maybe it would have have been disabled, but it would have lived.
Even though your baby was most likely going to die you should not kill it..let life run its natural causre. And maybe with some faith and prayer your child might survive. And you wouldn’t regret later killing your child. And what those women were doing was just telling the truth..its not their fault that your baby has that disease dont yell at them.
Forget the fact that renowned doctors gave Alex a ZERO PERCENT chance at life. That she had no kidneys, no bladder and no anus. We weren’t worried about our baby being disabled, we were devastated she would not survive. People like this would have us pray for a miracle that somehow medical science will find a way to spontaneously grow vital organs for a still-developing fetus within five months. Their advice is don’t listen to the doctors, but instead I should talk to the an invisible deity in the sky and ask him for help. Riiiight. But here on Planet Earth, MJ and I knew there was no point in her carrying around a dead baby for five more months just to avoid the stigma of having an abortion. And anyone who can’t see that is dumber than rocks.
Speaking of dumber than rocks:
I don’t doubt that you and your wife had a very hard decision. But you wimped out. That child was living and didn’t deserve to die regardless of your religious beliefs, regardless of your lack of heroic virtue in caring for those who needed it most. If a thug attacked your wife and the baby miscarried due to the attack, you would have had every right to prosecute him for attacking both your wife and your unborn. It’s a double standard that you refuse to acknowledge. And you should have looked beyond the faults of local protestors to see that you and your wife compromised your values and deprived your unborn the right to exist. I find this whole charade deplorably lacking and see you as someone who is not manly enough to shoulder heroic responsibilities.
Really? You’re comparing this to a mugger attacking my wife? You’re comparing my sick child with no chance of surviving outside the womb, to someone who mugs a living person on the street? Just checking. And the part about MJ and I “compromising our values” is hysterical. Unlike most “pro-life” people, I actually do value life. But I can’t turn a blind eye to the fact that Alex had a condition incompatible with life. So instead of making the baby suffer along with my wife, we simply decided to speed up the inevitable. If anything, I look at it as an act of kindness. Was it difficult? Hell yes. But making the right choice can be hard.
This guy is not a hero, nor a winner. He’s a malicious big mouth loser.
I actually agree with some of what this person is saying. No one won in our ordeal, so I’m certainly not a winner. And I’m also not a hero. Not by any stretch. I even went out of my way to avoid the use of that word and corrected anyone who labeled me as such. And yes, I have a big mouth. But one needs that in order to properly battle back against even larger malicious losers such as yourself.
Perhaps the most vociferous commenter has been trolling my YouTube account for four solid months. He is relentlessly pro-life and unabashedly Catholic. Which is fine. I don’t agree, but to each his own. But the problem arose recently when he suddenly stopped arguing about abortion and the video, and then stated that I faked the whole incident and that I beat my wife.
These women, when confronted with an angry guy who obviously beats women but runs away when men appear, were more non-plussed than anything. They have no idea who Angry McScreamy is, doubtless because they’ve never seen him before, because he made the whole story up.
I wrote earlier that he scrams at, and beats his wife, on a regular basis, for no reason at all. I’d like to apologize for that. What I should have written was that he screams at and beats his wife on a regular basis, but when and only when she deserves it. I regret the error.
That’s when I fed the troll.
You can say a lot of bad things about me. That’s fine. But to claim I beat my wife is ridiculous. Not to mention libel, since it is totally untrue. Had those protesters been men, I would’ve confronted them the same way. Nothing would’ve changed. I never swore at those women. I kept my distance from them so they wouldn’t feel threatened. I engaged them on a public sidewalk in a nonviolent manner. But because these people have no valid argument for the despicable behavior of the protesters, they need to try to invent some kind of wrongdoing on my part to shift attention from the real issue. But it won’t work.
And as for the domestic violence allegations, all I can say to the person who made that comment is you better hope you get me in a fight and not my wife. Because you might be able to take me, but MJ will destroy your ignorant ass.
Lastly, speaking of fighting, I got this e-mail a couple of days ago from a truly idiotic man who highlights the level of moronic thought from the opposing side.
So, I saw the video where you act like a real man an attack a couple of older women protesting. Do not even ATTEMPT to claim it was out of an emotional response since you a)filmed it and b) put it on the internet. Where do you get off screaming like a lunatic at a few protesters at an abortion clinic? What did you expect at an instituion where the chief motive is to kill babies? And yes, I said babies, and if you ever saw the silent scream you would agree. I’m sorry for your loss; I couldn’t imagine how it would feel to lose a child. However, the fact that you ripped into those women and put it online makes me want to fight you, like any man walking by should have. So my proposal is a one on one, no weapons or anything dirty, me vs. you. Just squaring up and proving to you that a loud voice does not make you a man.
Where to begin with this lunatic jackass?
By his rationale, no men should ever be able to publicly challenge older females. Even though said women are standing in a public place screaming across a crowded city street. Even though they’re holding asinine signs and drawing attention to themselves. By his deluded rationale, these women should be allowed to say whatever they want without consequences, simply because of their gender and age.
Furthermore, any man who does challenge them in a nonviolent way should be pummeled by any other “good” men who might be in the area. Because violence is always the best answer.
But I agree that having a loud voice does not make one a man. Similarly, winning a fistfight doesn’t make one a man either you pathetic excuse for a human being. These women verbally accosted my wife and made her hysterical before surgery, on one of the most difficult days of our lives.
So, Mr. Tough Guy, let me ask you this: What’s more manly than standing up for your wife and defending her against the people who hurt her? Because that’s what I did. And I did it on video to show people how hurtful these protesters are, and how much damage they cause. If you want to fight me for that, well…that’s your issue. I’m not that tough, maybe you’ll even win. But that’s not going to stop me from doing the exact same thing if I’m ever in a similar situation in the future. Because I did the right thing. The necessary thing.
And none of your threats or piddly little e-mails are ever going to change that. And in the meantime, I smile as I watch the YouTube hits climb higher and higher, because it means more people are getting a first-hand glimpse at how cruel and ridiculous the people who sent these e-mails really are.
That was my initial reaction after MJ called me late Friday morning to tell me she was having cramps. It’s funny, because despite never having been pregnant (and obviously lacking the anatomical requirements for such a feat), I believe I have an unbelievable handle on women’s cramping. The ones in her stomach and back are par for the course. But these cramps were different. They started in her stomach and went into her thighs. The same cramps she got just before she went into labor with Will. Not good.
Our doctor told us to head immediately to a diagnostic facility in Falmouth. The same place we received our not-so-tactful news about Alexandra eight months ago. As if it wasn’t unnerving enough to be reminded of that awful day, my heart sank into my feet when they led us into the exact same examination room where we got the fateful diagnosis.
With a passing glance, MJ and I simultaneously gave up hope right then and there.
The uber-chipper ultrasound tech squirted out some gel and began searching the contents of MJ’s uterus. She searched for a while. Then a few minutes more. But there was nothing there. Just an empty sac. Three weeks ago MJ housed a tiny blob with a flickering heartbeat, for which I had been so grateful. But now there’s no flicker. Of life or of hope.
We filed out of the office without looking at one another. I’m usually good with words, but what do you say to someone after four lost babies? It’s all been said. The tears have all been cried. We hit rock bottom last summer with Alexandra and the hateful protesters, and I think both of us truly believed this pregnancy would be some kind of Karmic reward for having endured that hell. After all, we just want one more child. We’re not John & Kate. We simply want our son to have a brother or a sister. And this baby was going to complete our family.
But it looks like our family is done growing.
I don’t know why neither of cried on Friday. Maybe we were in shock. Or perhaps we’re used to this by now. Four miscarriages in five years will do that to you. And it could be this will all hit me like a ton of bricks in a few days, but this weekend something pretty miraculous happened.
I fell in love with my wife all over again.
There are all kinds of bravery. Soldiers who fight to protect us. Firemen who rush into burning buildings to save lives. But then there are ordinary people like my wife, who—as it turns out—are anything but ordinary. One miscarriage is hard enough. Two really sucks. The third was Alexandra, and that ordeal was enough to push most people right over the edge. But MJ stayed sane. And not only that, she mustered up the courage to try again. To put herself in a situation with a fairly good chance to have her heart crushed again. And yes, unfortunately that ended up happening. But that shouldn’t take away from how brave it was to even try for another child after all this shit.
It’s easy for us to whine about “why us?” There are unexpected and unwanted pregnancies that yield healthy babies everyday. There are women who are crack addicts who miraculously give birth to babies without health problems. These women don’t want their kids and probably won’t treat them well. Meanwhile we’re desperate for a second child who we can love forever, yet we are treated to nothing but heartbreak.
But there are people out there who have had more miscarriages than us. And some of them don’t have a Will. Those poor couples don’t have a beautiful, kind, miraculous baby boy to adore and squeeze and love until it hurts. We do. And I’ve never been more grateful for that.
But the fact remains, I’m feeling pretty jilted.
I’m writing this from the hospital waiting room. It’s Valentine’s Day. Instead of roses, chocolates and dinner, MJ is having a D&C. It’s a day created solely for recognizing the love in our life, and my wife is literally having the life sucked out of her. It’s not right and she deserves better.
The silver lining is the reaffirmation of my feelings for my wife. My hero. Some couples have it easy. They get married, buy a house, get pregnant and have perfect children in a Barbie dream house. Am I a little jealous of them? Sometimes. But we have something they don’t. MJ and I are battle-tested. Our relationship has hit landmine after landmine, but we’re still here. And not only that, we have a deeper appreciation for each other than ever. It would be so easy to resent each other and throw in the towel. But as I gazed at her Friday night, taking it all in stride, the only explosion I felt was my heart expanding to an unprecedented level to accommodate all my love for her.
Not to mention my love for all of you. My in-laws and my parents for helping out with Will. Alicia for coming out on Friday night, as well as Dave and Amanda for keeping us company, keeping us laughing and literally fighting me to pay for the bill. All of my friends who called, texted and e-mailed. And last but certainly not least, hundreds of you who dropped me a line on Twitter or through the blog. Make fun of the Internet all you want, but the support you have provided us is real. Tangible. And we are eternally grateful on a level you can’t possibly comprehend.
In a few hours I’ll pick up my groggy and worn wife, and I’ll spend the rest of the day caring for her. I’ll pick up my son and bring him home from preschool. Then I’m going to hug them until they can’t stand it anymore. Because as much as I’d love to complete our family, the family I have has already completed me.