I had an emotionally abusive father growing up. It was hell. Having an earthly father like that always made me hate Fathers day. Then it happened. I married James and was given the gift of seeing what a real father was. I saw what it looked like to have a father figure welcome me into the family. His dad treats me like his own child. From the minute we were engaged he said, “I’m so glad that I not only have a daughter-in-law, I finally had a daughter.” Good gracious that felt nice.
When James and I decided to get pregnant I could hardly wait. I see how he is. I watch him with our nieces and god children. He holds them when they cry and is always the life of the party. He has a way with making kids smile. He teaches them things and reads the word of God with them. He’s been like that as long as I’ve known him. There was no doubt in my mind he’d make the best dad. Getting to take that step with James was something I always looked forward to.
Then it happened. “There is no heartbeat.” We immediately looked at each other out of shock and sadness. Tears formed in my eyes. Sure, these tears were because our first little minivan was gone, but they were also because I wouldn’t get to see him love our kid the way that he loves other ones. Now I wasn’t going to spend my first Mother’s Day pregnant and this meant neither would he.
During the first month of our grief I knew I needed to speak up for myself for Mother’s Day. I needed to tell people what I wanted and demand that people understood I’m still a mom. They do. Friends told me happy Mother’s Day, my mom did, and James celebrated with me. As the day came to a close I started thinking towards June and wondered how I would celebrate the support James had offered me and our minivan. I looked on Etsy, I looked on Amazon, I looked EVERYWHERE. What do you get for a bereaved father? We help out moms and have come a long way, but there is nothing for dads. Then I started to think of other ways to surprise him. He doesn’t like things, so maybe I’ll plan a fun day for him. Then I remembered that wouldn’t work because he’s an introvert. I finally asked him– “How can I help us celebrate Father’s Day for you?” “I don’t know. I don’t feel like a father.” That broke my heart. I wanted this so badly for him.
When we had our service of loss he was the first one to start crying. That’s what a father does. A father is vulnerable and loves their child fierce. That’s James. We don’t know our child’s gender and never got to hold them, but that pain is there. That fatherly pain is there. He held my hand and I saw the tears in his eyes as he watched our child be pulled out of my body during the D&C. That is a father. He holds me and sooths me as I cry. That is a father. He acknowledges our baby and talks with me about them often. That is a father.
It’s so exciting to see other people post pictures of their partner with their kids on Fathers Day. I always wanted to post those pictures of James. Now those photos are triggering and make me wonder when they first saw their partner as a dad. For some it was when they walked their kid down the aisle. For some its when they cut the umbilical cord. For me it was when that stick turned pink.