“Pain and joy can coexist.”
I first heard these words at my wife and my first child loss support group in September 2017. We had lost our first and only child three months earlier. Our son Zain was born with a Congenital Heart Defect, which required immediate open-heart surgery upon birth. He spent the next 67 days at Children’s National Hospital in Washington, DC. As we were getting ready to take him home, he was diagnosed with a secondary vein disease, Pulmonary Vein Stenosis (PVS), which is terminal and currently has no cure. We made the difficult decision to bring our son home to live out his last days/weeks at home with family. On June 9, 2017, Zain passed away in my arms with my wife and dog by our side.
When we went to that first support group meeting, we were still fresh in our grief process.
We were sad, devastated, and angry at the world for taking our beautiful baby boy from us. We listened to the parents who were further along in their grief process talk about how it gets better and the all-encompassing pain we were feeling would dull with the passage of time. At that moment, we could not even begin to envision a world where this was the case. Then another parent said, “Pain and joy can coexist.” I remember telling my wife that this was a very interesting concept, but right then all I could feel was pain. Joy felt like a distant memory that would never return to our lives.
Then about a month later, for our third wedding anniversary, my wife surprised me with a positive pregnancy test.
We were having our rainbow baby. At first all I felt was pain. I even felt that I that I was dishonoring the memory of my son by being excited for his little sister. Then I remembered, “Pain and joy can coexist.” I would still have the pain of losing my first born, but I could also have the joy of expecting his little sister.
In addition to these feelings, I also was scared that his sister would have the same fate as her older brother. I realized that I had a choice to make. I could allow myself to have despair and spend the next nine months terrified that the worst would happen, or I could choose hope that everything would work out.
I chose hope.
I would take it one day at a time. One appointment at time. Every appointment with good news was a win, and we would figure it out if we got bad news. But to not to let the fear of bad news ruin the joy that we were experiencing with each positive doctor’s appointment.
I will always love and miss my son, Zain. At the same time, I am beyond excited about the upcoming birth of my daughter. If I can give you any advice it is that pain and joy can coexist and choose hope over fear.
Omar Rahman lives in Washington DC with his wife, Laura and their dog Mia. Omar is a father to an Angel, Zain Omar Rahman, and expectant father of Laila Zain Rahman. Laila is due on June 13, 2018 and all signs point to a healthy baby.