Friday, April 1, 2011

How a heartbeat breaks your heart

It has been six months since my wife delivered our triplets – prematurely because my son died after a “cord event” at 34 weeks into the pregnancy.   Dealing with the grief over the last six months has been very difficult.  I have suffered panic attacks, spent days, unable to do hardly anything except care for my son’s two sisters.  For every triumph that my daughters make, each developmental mile stone they reach, I know that my son will never be able to celebrate what we celebrate for his sisters. 
My wife and I are still struggling to try and clean up the things that slid through the cracks surrounding the birth, death and funeral, along with the two and a half weeks my daughters grew in the NICU.  Things like bills, school, and work – all fell through the cracks.  To top things off, the hospital, well, they omitted my wife from both of my daughter’s birth certificates.   We have been trying to clean this up for nearly two months, but leaving the mother off of a birth certificate, and having it slip through both the hospital’s and the state’s checks and balances is evidently an unprecedented occurrence.   Friends have joked that this was an “immaculate gestation”, which briefly makes us smile, which seems to be a novelty these days (unless we are playing with the girls).  
I was working on the birth worksheets for my two daughters – they get birth certificates.  My son’s birth worksheet from the hospital lists him as IUFD – Intruterine Fetal Demise.   In the state of Ohio – and in many other states, if a child does not take a breath outside of the womb, he or she will only receive a death certificate, and will never receive a birth certificate.   This is something that has continuously haunted me.  For some reason the state feels it necessary to deprive him of his existence in a way – they will not acknowledge that he was born. 
Since joining the “club”, I have been regaled with horrific stories of loss, tragedy and pain, but one thing that has always struck me, is that a child – born at 18 weeks or earlier – a time when they cannot survive, if they take a breath, they are born – they receive a birth certificate.  My son Charlie did not have the chance.   I know it is just a piece of paper, and in reality, it really does not make much of a difference, but being deprived of this piece of paper – an acknowledgement by someone else that my son was here – is something that bothers me immensely.   My son was here, he existed to me, I held him, stroked his hair and sobbed over his lifeless body.   He will always be in my heart, but he never had the chance to come into being, to impact the world – to borrow a phrase from the Jesuits – he was never given the chance to go forth and set the world on fire.  
A birth certificate for my son – well, it is just a piece of paper.   My son was alive though.  We played with him (he kicked through my wife’s belly when I would make the sound of “whales” to him).   He banged on his sister, and he sat there, a week before we found out he rolled on his cord, calmly sucking his thumb in the ultrasound picture.  He was alive, he just never had the chance to make a far reaching impact on many people.   Again, a piece of paper is an acknowledgement by some other person that my son was alive, and I am deprived of that, but I will always have the piece of paper reminding me that he died much to soon.

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