A Dad’s Journey (Part 2 of 2), when the unthinkable happens and your baby dies
I have often heard the phrase “a parent should never outlive their child” and like most things in life it takes experiencing something before you understand the true meaning. No parent should ever outlive their child, it is not how the world should work, a parent should be able to live a long and happy life watching their children grow up, go to school, then onto whatever makes them happy for their career. We should watch them find their perfect partner who they love as much as we love our partners and then we should watch them, and more importantly experience the great joy of more children in the family when we become grandparents and get to enjoy the entire process again. Then as we live a long and full life, our time comes for us to pass the baton to our children and we depart this world for another, this is how life should be, unfortunately it is not how my life will ever be now.
Once we left the hospital without my little man, but a car full of flowers instead, we did something I never ever contemplated doing, we had to visit some cemetery’s to determine where we would bury Liam. Seriously can you imagine having to choose where you are going to bury your only son, I don’t even know where I want to be buried let along having to choose the location that I will leave my child. Our first stop was not good, I got out of the car and it just felt wrong, I looked around and just didn’t feel comfortable. I’m not sure what you should feel when choosing a location, but I am a simple person who needs to feel comfortable, I don’t need flashing lights, I just wanted a place that I can visit in peace and have a sense of calm. Amanda was not ok either, I really didn’t want to have to take her to the cemetery’s straight from hospital, and had even gone as far as to organise my parents to look into the cemetery for me as I couldn’t do it. Unfortunately we left hospital on the Friday and needed to meet the funeral home on the Saturday and tell them which cemetery we had chosen so time was short and we needed to choose. I wish we didn’t but this is a place that we are going to visit for the rest of our lives and so it needed to be right for both of us, so I had to take Amanda to these places when I knew she was struggling. Thankfully the second place which is only 10 – 15 mins from home was ok, it felt peaceful, their baby lawn is surrounded by large trees but not enough to block out good light, it feels peaceful and I think I can be at peace here and I can leave my little man in this surrounding.
I can’t tell you how I survived those next couple of days, all I can say is that the mind goes into a state of shock to help you cope and those days are just a blur, I sort of remember being there and some things happening but I was a passenger making sure Amanda and Alethea were ok and had everything they needed. I remember being exhausted, Amanda was still in physically pain so every task was an effort for her and she was just existing, nothing more. I remember on a couple of occasions on that first weekend home being worried that she might try and leave us, I remember taking Alethea to a park with my mum and nearly running home as soon as possible because I was worried about her mental state and I had left her by herself. We had not been apart more than 20 mins for the previous week and to leave her for longer was surreal. It was as if we had become one person living and breathing and surviving together. I’m not sure how she managed to make it through those days, I did some cooking and we relied on other peoples food drops for most of our food but we only ate because it was meal time and that’s what your supposed to do. During those days I know that my taste for life was low, things that had seemed beautiful before had lost their lustre, food that normally burst with flavours tasted more like cardboard, it was like every sense I owned was dulled.
Then the day that I had dreaded arrived, Liam’s funeral. We arrived early due to good traffic and I remember standing out the front unable to go in, it was a really cold morning but I didn’t care, I couldn’t do it, I just wanted to stay outside because maybe that meant this wasn’t real and maybe someone would wake me up from this nightmare. Finally as the time approached it became clear that it was no dream, I needed to go inside and say my final goodbyes to me beautiful son. I walked in last, found my seat at the front between Amanda and Alethea, sat down and took in the sight of the tiny coffin in front of me. I had seen the coffin the day before which helped me prepare for the sight but still the sense that my own son was lying in front of me was too hard to deal with. How had it come to this, how did I have to bury my own son, I had failed as a parent to protect my son which is the first job of a parent, to protect your children from everything. I remember trying to be strong as I was aware of Alethea next to me who was struggling with all this crying and wanted to know why her parents were so upset all the time.
Our pastor was lovely, she had come to the hospital to meet us and then come to our home to help us plan for the funeral and she spoke first but my mind was elsewhere. All I could think of was my little man lying in the coffin in front of me and I could picture him in every detail. Amanda then got up to speak with more strength than I thought possible, she talked about her hopes and dreams for Liam and how he was taken too soon and that he was now in heaven and he better watch out as when she got there she would give him cuddles that would never end. Then it was my turn, thankfully I had written my speech out as I would never have been able to do that speech without it written in detail. My mind was in lock down, I talked to my little man, the rest of the world disappeared so that it seemed like it was just me and him there. I struggled to get through that speech, as I got up I knew I was in trouble with a big lump in my throat and once I started talking I had to pause to ensure I didn’t break down. I didn’t care if people saw me cry, I needed to tell my son goodbye and say everything that I had written down to him. Then it was over, I held Amanda close and Alethea sat in my lap hugging me tight and when the funeral finished I walked over, picked up my son and carried him to the car that would take him to his grave.
At the grave site I again carried Liam’s coffin, for the last time and placed it gently above his grave, my little man whom I had so many dreams for, I got to take him on his last ride to where he will rest forever. How did it come to this, only a few weeks prior I had been at the footy with a good mate to watch my team play and as I walked into the ground I had passed a lot of fathers and sons siting out the front with the kids decked out in their club’s gear eating hotdogs sold out the front. I remember thinking to myself that the Dad’s would have told their sons not to tell their mother about the hotdogs and how proud they were to take their sons to the footy to cheer on their team and how this might be me in a couple of years if I was lucky enough to have a boy. Now that will never happen, I will never take my son to our local oval to watch our team play and I will never get to teach him to play catch, never share in the joy of sports with him, and a thousand other things that fathers do with their sons.
When people ask me how many children I have, I proudly tell them I have two, one who will soon turn 4 and another who would be just over 3 months old now if he was still alive. Amanda and I have make a pact not to hide Liam from anyone, he is and always will be our son and we are very proud to have met him, even for only a few short minutes. Our family will forever be the 4 of us…never just the 3 of us. We were talking recently about the 9 months of pregnancy and excitement only to hold our son for 20 mins before he passed away, and whether if we had known this was the only outcome possible at the start of our journey, would we still have gone through it. We both agreed that we would have, and although the pain that we have from losing him is horrendous, we got to meet, hold and love our perfect, beautiful son, Liam Edward Campbell and it is far greater to have loved and lost then not to love at all. My promise to my little man is that I will live the rest of my life to its fullest, I will live my life like I had hoped he would have lived his, so that when my time comes to leave, then I will have made him proud when I meet him again.
- Posted in: The First Weeks