Last Father’s Day, my wife, Rachel wrote, me a note about how much she loved me and appreciated me while I tried to hold our family together. With Father’s Day approaching, my thoughts keep returning to that note.
Our now nine-year- old daughter, Channah, was conceived with medical intervention. Rachel’s water broke at 27 weeks. She held on to the pregnancy for another five weeks in the hospital on bed rest, before fetal distress resulted in an emergency C-section. After six and a half weeks, our daughter came home from the NICU. She is a really special girl and I am tremendously grateful for her.
After moving halfway around the world to a place where treatments are funded by the government, receiving a lot of discouraging (and some downright demeaning) reactions, and plenty of contemplation and soul-searching over several years, we decided we were content with our small family of three. We would deal with fact having one child was abnormal in our community – iIn my daughter’s class of 27 girls, she is the only one without siblings.
Then a case of jet lag turned out to be a surprise pregnancy. And it was a tough one. Rachel battled gestational diabetes and recurrent migraines. As this was flagged as a high- risk pregnancy, weekly trips to the doctor’s office increased up to four4 times a week. As hard as it was, Rachel was always smiling and the smile never left her face, even when she was put on bed rest. How could anyone complain about such a gift?
We hit 32 weeks and we thought we were safe. We were past the gestational age at which our daughter was born. We went out and celebrated. We even bought a stroller.
Four days later our dreams were crushed. A true knot in the umbilical cord and had taken our precious gift, our baby Gabriella Galit, away.
Struggling to deal with her loss, Rachel began a long battle with depression. She started writing a blog to help work through her feelings. Sometimes she expressed the raw pain of a broken heart. Other times she offered incredible insights and guidance to those around her and to the world at large.
I kept that Father’s Day note in my wallet. On the worst days, when Rachel was at her lowest, I would pull out the note and read it. It would remind me that no matter what, Rachel loved me and appreciated me. It was just the depression talking to me and it was the depression that was bringing me down.
In December 2012, Rachel stopped the downward spiral to take stock of her life. She decided that she wanted to rebuild her world and break out of the depression. I finally felt I could throw the note away. I finally had my Rachel back.
Two weeks later, Rachel went to sleep and didn’t wake up in the morning.
For nearly two years, her number one desire was to hold Gabi in her arms. On some level, I try to console myself with the thoughts that Rachel is finally with Gabi, looking after her, and that she died the way she would have wanted, at home in her bed, her last words, “Thank you, Jason.” In those two weeks, we had been able to put to rest any hard feelings or disagreements that accumulated over almost 15 years of marriage.
In Israel, where we live, Mother’s Day and Father’s Day are not marked on the calendar, although as Canadian immigrants we had always celebrated them ourselves. This year, I didn’t tell Channah it was Mother’s Day. On Father’s Day, we will be back in North America for a family wedding. It would not surprise me if something is said or done at the wedding to acknowledge Father’s Day. When that happens, I hope to find myself anywhere but there. I don’t want to bring attention to my sadness; for me, so soon after Rachel’s death, being a single father is nothing to celebrate.
There is a Jewish custom that on their wedding day, a bride and groom have a special connection with God and therefore their prayers have extra strength in the heavens. How many brides have walked down the aisle praying for the well being of my family in the hopes that we would be able to have a baby before they did?
But this time I will have a prayer for the bride and groom.
I pray that life continues to bring them success and that they will never get to know the world of infertility or loss.