Consumed By Fear

By |2016-10-13T17:13:40+00:00September 2nd, 2015|From Dads Who Know, Parenting After Loss|2 Comments

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I was never prepared for the part of parenthood that would force me to confront being consumed by fear on a daily basis. I am sure that fear is a constant state of being for parents who have never faced a loss of their child, but it is so prevalent after you do experience a loss, when the first time you hold your own child is when they are cold and lifeless.

These are tactile experiences that stay with you. I go back there when Eli touches me with frozen toddler fingers. I go back there when I watch him sleeping. I go back there when Eli wraps his whole hand wraps around my thumb. I go back there just to go back there. It is a memory that you do not forget.

Fear is so gripping that I also remember the last time it was completely absent from my life. I can remember vividly, before my wife was told that her uterus was “a hostile environment for a fetus,” how casually and naively we skipped through the rolling fields of ignorance as we “expected” our first child. There was no fear. Because we had passed the first trimester, and now we were to just exist in a Norman Rockwell painting until the contractions started. I miss that time. I want to go back there. It was fun. And parenting was going to be easy.

I don’t know what “normal” parenting is when it comes to fear. I don’t know if it is normal to wake up every 15 minutes during the first 18 months to check in the bassinet because I knew…I knew…that Eli would die from SIDS. I don’t know if it’s normal to panic every time they do that rubber neck thing that kids do, or how they don’t snap their necks ten times a day. I don’t know if it’s normal to still check his breathing as a toddler and panic when it is completely shallow as tends to happen at this age. I don’t know if it’s normal to still have a baby video monitor after he’s passed his third birthday. I don’t know if it’s normal to hold my breath during every meal while he chews wondering how much of that class I’d remember in the event I have to save my own kids life.

And I don’t know if I care.

Because I see every day, the tragedy that has befallen each one of us. It see it on my newsfeed, happening to total strangers. And my heart breaks for people I’ll never meet. I try to imagine having to go through the pain after having experienced the love and the thought alone is paralyzing.

So I continue to be consumed by my own fear, and my own paranoia. I try and take that emotion and turn it into love. Because there is nothing stronger than love. When I am scared, I hug him. When I check on him at night, I kiss him. When he starts to go kamikaze and I’m sure he’s going to impale himself on a fork, I tell him that I love him. Because then at least he knows how much I love him. And then I remember that my fear exists because he exists. My grief exists because Em exists. And then I remember, yet again, that I wouldn’t trade it for anything in the world.

*Photo Source: “Same end of two” by Péter Farkas, content license through FreeImages.com

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About the Author:

Derek Larsen
Derek Larsen is a loving husband to his high school sweetheart, Carissa, whom he met as a sophomore, and devoted father to his two amazing boys. While it took him 13 years to finally marry her and start a family, it was not long after the wedding that they were pregnant with their first child. An event they had literally fantasized about for over a decade, they expected a fairy tale pregnancy. It was quite the opposite. At 20 weeks, they were told that the pregnancy would not last and to prepare for the worst. The next month was a living hell, as they simply waited and hoped, until their precious Emanuel Robert succumbed to Intrauterine Growth Restriction (IUGR) and was stillborn at 24 weeks on 12/31/10. After spending a career in advocacy and politics, Derek briefly considered starting a nonprofit to focus on outreach and policy for parents of stillborn children. However, he quickly realized that he needed to focus on himself and his family instead of putting energy into an activity he did not have the strength to maintain. After grieving together and hearing months of no real answers from doctors while fearing that IUGR would reoccur, they found the faith to try again. Even in the hospital on the day Elijah Monroe was born, Derek was just waiting for another dreadful loss. Now in a new stage of grief, Derek is attempting to focus on using the loss of Emanuel to be an amazing and dedicated father to Elijah. Derek has presented as a keynote speaker at a conference for healthcare professionals on “A Father’s Perspective” and hopes to continue to utilize his experiences and share his journey while contributing to PALS as a grieving dad.

2 Comments

  1. Linds September 2, 2015 at 7:16 am - Reply

    That was so beautifully written. Thank you,

  2. Laurie Prim September 2, 2015 at 11:06 pm - Reply

    I’m so sorry for your loss and struggle. I am there with you, fear and love, two four letter words inextricably linked. Just wrote about it myself this week, here is part:

    I could go on, but what finally led me to medication were the intrusive thoughts. I saw the death of my children all day, every day. Some of them were the obvious ones, that I’d find them not breathing as a baby, or Columbine type visuals as I reluctantly saw my son off to school each day. But there was nothing too trivial to torment me. My son’s sore leg after a slide into second base became Ewing’s Sarcoma, and I would see him dying in my arms at a Children’s Hospital. Waiting our turn at the ice cream truck I’d see my daughter slip under the wheels and be crushed. When we moved into our two story house I’d see them both at the bottom of the stairs, broken, bleeding, dead. All. The. Time. I rarely talked to anyone about what was happening. Not only did I feel fucking crazy, I was embarrassed, like I wasn’t worthy of post traumatic stress. After all, I had my babies. Get over it.
    I had gone to therapy at various times during my reproductive struggle and did ultimately find two therapists who helped me through. But PTSD was never specifically diagnosed and they were each an hour away; there was—is—no one in my area who dealt with reproductive loss. Several kindly told me they would treat me in terms of generalized anxiety. One said we could look at my family and childhood history to discover why I reacted the way I have to my trauma. I wanted to scream, “Because it was traumatic!” and basically gave up the search. I’d be OK in time.
    Three years later, I finally cried Uncle and started on Zoloft initially prescribed by my new gynecologist, a nurse practitioner. To navigate a side effect and dosage change, she referred me to a psychiatric nurse practitioner, who after speaking with me for five minutes said, “You have PTSD.” I wept with relief.
    – See more at: http://laurieprim.com/index.php/blog/#sthash.05mtnLQn.dpuf

    Wishing you peace.

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