This past week has been a hard one in the dad blogger world. It seems so many guys have been sharing their story of loss like Tommy Riles has or their near loss like Aaron Gouveia did. Having read all these, I was sad to see them because each time it reminded me of my nephew. My sister has always had trouble getting pregnant so when she was blessed with a little boy in her future we were all happy for her. I was only recently married myself and had no wish for any kids; I did have a daughter at the time I wasn't really able to see her much and hadn't been touched by the "baby bug".
The thought of being an uncle scared me. I feared I would have to hold him and risk dropping him. The pressure was too much for me and I just shut down. I had essentially decided (without my wife's knowledge) that I really didn't want any more kids. Things were going pretty good for my sister but one day at around 25 weeks, I believe, her water broke. I stayed away from the hospital for the most part because I honestly believed it would all be OK. I have always felt, "these things can happen, but not to us". I truly believed that everything would be alright because we are good people. And everything will turn out right when you believe it...right?
On January 29th, Kienan was born at 25 weeks of gestation. I didn't want to go to the hospital, but I sucked it up and went to be there for my sister. I clung to that belief that it would all be alright. I kept telling myself to have faith because that is all you need and things will be right. When I got to the hospital the room we were in was full of hope. Hope that this would all be fine and 18 years later we would be at his graduation thinking how crazy it was that we almost lost him. We all believed it but you could see the truth behind our eyes. You could see it when the nurses came in. You could see it when the doctor explained his odds. And most importantly you could see it in my sister's tears.
I remember being allowed to see him in the NICU. He was so tiny, I could have held him in both my hand with room to spare. I had never seen anything so small in my life. His diaper looked like a giant sized diaper even though it was smaller than my fist. His little eyes shiny and beautiful and I swear he was looking at me as if to say, "I can't wait to meet you, Uncle Mike". His body was covered in bruises from the birth and he was so fragile we weren't allowed to hold him. After 10 minutes of standing in a room full of sadness, I had to leave. I went back into the room and hugged my sister. We left and went home. For the rest of the day I was a shell that kept repeating, "It will be alright. It will be alright."
That night my mom called me and told me we lost him. He was barely 2 days old. I stayed strong all night and for most of the day. We went to the hospital and I was sure to stay strong and not cry. After all I am a man and I must keep my emotions to myself. I need to be strong for my sister...Right? After we left the hospital we went out to eat. I was quiet while my mom and wife discussed what they would do for the funeral, I think. Honestly, I don't remember what was said, my faith in life and God had just been shattered. As we got into the car to go home I told my wife to drive. I could feel myself getting sadder with each minute. As soon as we got on the highway I gave in. I don't think I stopped crying for 2 days.
I know the pain I was feeling was nothing compared to my sisters or even my moms. But it hurt me that I would not get to be an uncle. I wanted to be the uncle that would always be there. Be there to baby sit and be there to take him to baseball games. Be there in high school when his first girlfriend dumps him and he is embarrassed to talk to his parents about it. Be there when he graduates. When he gets married. Has his own kids. It was then that I realized I want to be a dad...not an uncle. That was when I decided to be have kids with my wife. I immediately stepped up for my own daughter and after talking with my wife we decided to have our first kids. 9 months later Liam was born, 17 months later Jude was born then 21 months after that Ben was born. With every birth I am reminded of Kienan. I see him in every one of my kids’ faces.
Sometimes, I feel guilty that I have had 3 boys that have all been healthy and that my sister hasn't been lucky. But I push that down and am thankful for what I have been blessed with. For if it was not for the pain of losing our little angel I would never have become the father I am today. His legacy in alive in me and when you see me being a good father and showing my kids the love they deserve it is all because of Kienan.
This story doesn't end badly for my sister. She got pregnant again and, after a difficult time, she gave birth to John who I was lucky to have been able to babysit yesterday. He is one and a half now and when he went to leave he turned back around and gave me a hug. I may not have been able to be that great uncle for Kienan, but at least I can honor him through John.