Living in No Man’s Land
Primary Infertility (PIF), Preemie/NICU Parent, Stillbirth, Secondary Infertility (SIF), Widower, Miscarriage, Pregnancy After Loss (PALS), Rainbow Baby– all part of the alphabet soup of childbirth related challenges I have had to face. For my efforts, I have an almost 11-year-old girl who has been able to bounce back from trauma no child deserves to face. I have another little girl who died before she could be born buried in an unmarked grave in the Holy City of Jerusalem. I have a 6-week-old little boy who has helped to bring a joy to my life that I had long given up hope of ever feeling again.
When I was living in the challenge of PIF, we found “A T.I.M.E,” which is a support organization. Although the efforts to establish an active Men’s section was a complete flop, the community as a whole was able to help through that challenge. We attended their first ever annual retreat and my daughter Channah was born, exactly one year later on the weekend of their 2nd retreat. They were an incredible form of support during the 5.5 weeks my wife was hospitalized after her water broke and the 6.5 weeks Channah spent in the NICU after she was born. Once Channah came home from the hospital, it wasn’t long until I no longer felt like I belonged in that community. My wife had stayed active, mentoring and giving advice to new-comers and veterans alike. I just felt out of place even when taking on the challenges of SIF.
When my wife was unexpectedly pregnant with Gabi there was nothing but joy. We were both happy for the tremendous opportunity even though it was a difficult pregnancy. Then we hit the gestational age when Channah was born. We celebrated the milestone as we hit the 32 week ‘safe zone’. Four days after hitting the “Channah milestone,” Gabi was dead.
That night, I went home to an empty apartment. Friends had been kind enough to make the minimal amount of baby stuff disappear. I felt alone. I knew I had to accept the loneliness to save my family. Rachel would fight a tough fight against depression, while at the same time going through fertility treatment to desperately try to get pregnant again. Three failed IUIs, four failed IVF cycles plus months of trying when the medical professionals would not help because they didn’t want her pregnant so soon. She just wanted to start the cycles as soon as possible because she knew we would end up going the IVF route. Eventually she could fight no longer and one day, her body gave out on her and she didn’t wake up. Once again I was all alone.
Since then I have turned myself into a completely different person. After I remarried, PTSD and depression kicked in as it was finally safe to face those fears and painful memories that had been hidden away as I struggled to survive. In therapy, I have worked on focusing on the here and now. Everything is different. Most of the time, I am successful at keeping myself emotionally in the present instead of reliving the emotional pain of the past. Most of the time isn’t all the time and when the pain strikes, it sometimes can strike very hard.
When my new wife got pregnant, we basically hid it from the world as best we could. There was no announcement online and we only told those who we trusted could support us through an emotional roller coaster. As the pregnancy progressed and my wife was showing, those around us also found out. There were a couple of times I couldn’t contain my excitement and posted a cryptic message on Facebook that I thought those who knew would understand. Those became confusing for me as people who didn’t know, or at least I thought didn’t know, started to ‘like’ the posts.
It wasn’t a text-book pregnancy. As a result there were times where life felt like it was running parallel to the pregnancy with Gabi. My wife was amazingly supportive if I needed to walk out or skip a doctor’s appointment that was too emotionally overwhelming. I even had a doctor throw me out of an appointment because he knew the conversation would be too emotional for me.
During this time I didn’t try to join the PALS community. I was worried about accidentally making the pregnancy public. I felt out of place, as we generally focus on the Mother’s well-being and this was my wife’s first pregnancy.
Labor and Delivery did not go smoothly. My son was born healthy even though he was four weeks early. Even as the smallest baby in the ‘Small Baby Unit,’ he was still 10 oz heavier than Channah was the day I took her home from the hospital.
When it came time for my son’s Bris Milah (ritual circumcision), I was reminded of just how many special people are in my life. We had 150 people show up on a Friday morning to come celebrate with us. As a surprise, my daughter’s entire Grade 5 class had a field trip where they walked over to help join in our celebration. We had a live feed so friends and family could also participate. For most of them, it was 2 am when the ceremony took place. We had over 140 hits on the video.
I have faced a lot of difficult challenges over the years. At times, facing them felt incredibly lonely. Even though I often felt I was living in No Man’s Land, I was never alone and I never will be alone. Through inner growth, I have become a better person who can look forward to a happy future without forgetting the past. To me, that ability is the greatest gift that I can give to my son.