I write this post for my son, Cougar Lee and my daughter Dakota Emily.
As a father who lost a daughter due to stillbirth in May 2013, I am here to tell my side of the story. It is a long healing road and everywhere I turn its angel mom this or angel mom that. People don’t realize that the loss affects the fathers just as much as the mothers. People automatically think those other than the mother don't feel the loss as deeply as the mother, because Daddy's don't feel the baby's every move. We don't feel their hiccups. We don't feel the aches and pains with pregnancy.
I am here to tell you. WE DO! The loss hurts just the same. Here's my story:
Honestly, I don't know where to begin. Do I tell you of the yearning I have on a daily basis for my little angel? Do I jump right into our loss? Would a bit of background add to my story? This I don't know. So, I guess I'll start from the beginning of Dakota's Life.
We suspected it before she took the test but didn’t say anything. We thought it could have been a late month, because of stress of our wedding and me starting a new job. I don’t think that I had any kind of special reaction.
As any daddy, I was excited but it was kind of an “awesome, I’m a daddy again” type of reaction. While I watched my wife's body change from our growing daughter, the anticipation grew. I couldn't wait to feel Dakota kicking and moving, which is what I wanted to see the most. I loved playing with Emma and I was the only one able to get her from under Beth’s ribs. I was hoping for more of the same with Dakota.
When my wife told me she thought she was in labor, I was ecstatic. She had spent the weekend with her Mom while I stayed home for work. I was so excited during my drive to the hospital and couldn’t wait to get there to meet Dakota. The ride was probably the longest trip I ever made to the hospital. It felt like an eternity before I pulled into the parking lot, and met my beautiful wife at the doors of the emergency room.
After my wife was checked in, I watched her proudly as she conquered each contraction, which I could only imagine what they felt like. Looking at her eyes and the way she reacted to each contraction, makes me think they aren't fun. We were forced to wait for someone from Labor and Delivery to make their way down from the sixth floor to transport my wife to a triage room. I was impatient. It felt like the doctors were taking forever to come get her, even though the wait was a short amount of time. I was antsy, while sitting there fidgeting and watching my wife.
I was amazed with my wife and her pain tolerance. She focused on each contraction and went through them like a pro. As I watched her work with her body to bring Dakota into the world, I saw just how truly amazing she is. She didn't complain about the pain. She toughed her way through it.
By the time we made it to the triage room, the contractions were coming at full force and I watched my wife bend over the bed in pain. As her husband, I reassured her that she was doing great and everything was okay. She changed into the hospital gown, and I helped her onto the bed. Shortly after, the nurse came in.
Everything I knew became turned upside down and all around. This is where my life forever changed. Where the heartbreak I feel, will never go away, but I'll learn to cope with the pain. The doctor's couldn't find Dakota's heartbeat. After a few minutes I literally slid down the wall because my leg's could no longer hold me up. My breath was taken away from me and a knot formed in my throat, as I realized what was going on.
As I listened to the heartbreaking cries of my wife, I felt sorrow, sadness, and pity for her. I felt bad because this life that she felt for the last nine months had been taken away from us in a moments notice. So many thoughts rushed into my mind, I needed to take a step away. I went into the hallway to call my Mom and break down.
I couldn't let myself fall apart in front of my wife, so I cried into the phone to my mother, who lived six hours away from us. I couldn’t believe it was happening to us. The two people that have been through every rough time you can imagine and made it out, now had to deal with the death of our precious daughter. I prayed to God many times that night, wishing the doctors were wrong and Dakota would come out fine.
I felt so much heartache for my wife and wondered how long it would be before I had to bury her too, from depression over our loss. The labor and birth was hard. I was at my wife’s side the entire time and no one could have made me move, except God himself. I barely got a glance of my precious daughter, as she was whisked away from us. I couldn't hold it any longer. I broke from the heartache. The void in my heart was overbearing as part of my heart died. I realized from this point on, life would never be the same.
So many feelings were going through my body that I had no idea if I was coming or going. My head wasn’t straight and I couldn't handle the idea of preparing the funeral arrangements before we could leave the hospital. My wife looked at me with her red, puffy, and swollen eyes, which were filled with so much hurt and pain, as she asked me to do it. She told me it was too much.
I pulled myself together. I had to do this. If not for me, for her. When she says she can't handle something, there's no doubt in my mind that it isn't true. My wife is a strong willed woman who will tackle any task that is placed before her, and come out shinning. Her weak, shaky voice told me at this moment, that woman was gone. For the next week, my life revolved around planning the funeral, which NO parent should have to do. I would never wish this on any enemy or even any person in the world.
As a way to cope with my loss, I make myself stay busy as much as possible. Whether it be with my car, bike, or video games, I try to bury myself in busyness. When I see pictures of Emma’s face around Dakota’s grave, or see the sadness on her face in pictures even though she is smiling, I break down. I hate being a daddy with a broke little girl who I cannot fix. It breaks my heart that she has to endure this type of pain at such a young age.
The walk as a Daddy to two angels, the pain never leaves. It's always there ready to sneak up on me when I'm alone for a breakdown. I try to hide my tears from my wife and daughter because they need me to be strong. I am the man of the house and I'm supposed to be strong. Although I may not show it, Dakota's loss has changed me and my family.
My wife has a sadness in her eyes that has been lingering for the past four months, and I watch daily as she breaks down while crying out in blame. She feels she failed me as my wife, but she is very much wrong. As I watch her write out her story to tell the word and I see the pain it causes her, I begin to admire her for her strength, which behind closed doors, I lack. As I hear my daughter say how proud she is to be a sister to an angel, my heart breaks because as she says this, a tear slips down her cheek.
This isn't how life is supposed to be. I'm supposed to be taking care of my family, but when it comes to our loss and the brokenness within it, I can't fix it and it breaks me up on the inside. I feel like I'm failing them. A part of me says that it's the grief that makes me feel this way, but who really knows.
For me, it's hard to discuss what happened to Dakota with anyone. I don't like to so I am even surprised that I decided to do this post. But, as a father to an angel, I know one thing which not only gets to my wife but also it upsets me...People always recommend we see a professional to help us through our grief. Most of the time it's the ignorant individuals who haven't been where I am. They haven't walked this path, but I understand. Saying "Go see a grief counselor" is the easiest answer, but some need to remember they aren't for everyone.
So the next time you see a parent of an angel, don't try to tell them what they need to do. It usually just ticks us off. Only those who know what their feeling and how well they are coping can decide whether or not they need a doctor.
So in closing, when you create awareness for Pregnancy and Infant Loss, remember the Daddy too.
That's all for now. I'll be back again to share my thoughts for you to read. Until then, keep spreading the awareness for all the angels who have gained their wings, as well as the families who have to walk this lonely path.