Her voice cracked and suddenly the string of words that we’re leaving her lips stopped. Behind a black-foamed microphone I saw my wife’s eyes closed tight in frustration. The iPad in her lap was now locked and the notes she was reading from were hidden behind a digital lock and key that would take more than a finger swipe to reveal again. She tried mumbling something behind the tears but the look I gave her meant I already knew and had pressed the stop icon. This was the part about Gabriel.
Gabriel. Just typing out his name is something I never imagined I would be doing. I remember the first time I said it out loud–my body nearly refused it and my eyes filled with tears regardless of my opposition. I more choked it out more than spoke it. It has such weight to it, not like when his name was Baby Boy Lanning.
Gabriel is our boy, our son who we never got a chance to meet, because he never got a chance to take a breathe of the same air that fills our own tired lungs. I have memories of him, though–of throwing a football back and forth, getting ice cream for the first time and laughing at mommy as she spills it down her blouse. I have memories of myself telling him about girls and driving cars and fixing broken sinks together.
None of these memories are real.
These ones are very real: hearing his strong heart for the first time, pressing my hands to my wife’s belly and hoping to feel him kick, finding out he was a boy with our family of 20 crammed into a small dark room made to seat five. The strongest memory I have is oddly just silence, a silence that was more painful than the words which followed it.
“Something’s not right.”
My wife’s screams. Her hand reaching out to me. A high pitched buzzing. My sweaty palms. My scratchy eyes. My tired, tired heart. The blurred slow motions of clumps of figures moving back and forth, followed by doors shutting and opening. My wife’s cries. My red face. The hum of the machine. Knowing that this was just the beginning.
My wife considered calling it a night and slid the headphones off her ears and around her neck. I comforted her in the dark corner of the freshly-painted nursery where we sat close, our knees rubbing against each other. We were recording for a special project we had started just a week or two before, a project that had now found a whole new meaning for us suddenly. Before this night, it was a project that meant to liberate those who felt that Mother’s Day didn’t apply to them. Before this night, it was a project that brought mothers of all kinds from all over the world into a small patch of woods to celebrate the children they could hold, and remember those they could not. We ourselves were beginning to feel that same liberation.
We sat in silent understanding. It wasn’t something that was new to us. Amongst the mixture of emotions I was feeling then, I remember feeling so proud of my wife–proud of the strength it took for her to pull the headphones back up over her ears and record the rest of our story that was typed out before her.
The video, released just a few days later on Mother’s Day this year, went on to reach tens of thousands of mothers and couples within its first couple of days. Hundreds of messages of newly liberated mothers all over the world flooded our inbox. The humility that comes from having touched so many people’s hearts in such a short amount of time is staggering. The amount of love and strength that went into the video had served its course, and we felt honored that we could share not only Gabriel’s story, but the story of every mother involved.
My wife, still standing.
If you see me referencing YouTube frequently, it’s only because its a huge part of our lives. We’ve dedicated so much time to building a community of couples and women who can speak openly about their loss. We’ve chose to break the silence through video, and the response we’ve received has been incredible. There’s something about watching someone else whose broken, and witnessing as they pick themselves up again. It builds a hope, a “you can do it too” kind of message, and we hope that’s always apparent through our work.
Despite our losses, we continue to live a life that’s full of love and happiness. It didn’t happen right away, and we don’t believe we have some magic five-step strategy that can get you there. There’s no money back guarantee, no gimmicks, just love–the love we have for each other, realizing the love we have for two little boys we were never able to meet is very real and very strong, and the love we have for Oliver James, our son whose due to be born early August, our son who has become a symbol of hope, firm and secure, not only for us but for so many others.
My name is Bryan, and I’m still standing.