Today is the Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day. It’s also the day that our son Liam was due to be born.
Liam was born prematurely on August 9 and died shortly after birth. My wife Evelyn had a routine growth check during her 31st week of pregnancy, from where she was sent to the hospital for close monitoring and eventual delivery. This was sudden and unexpected as Liam’s progress was on track only four weeks prior.
I was on a ship in California for work when it all started. Evelyn called me from her doctor right as the ship was entering port. I got my stuff together and Ubered to SFO hoping to reschedule my return flight home for ASAP. Shortly after arriving at the airport, I got a call from our midwife, crying. Liam came out and his heartbeat was weak and going in and out. “They tried for a long time”, she said. In shock, not yet understanding, I asked “They’re going to try again, right?” “I’m so sorry,” she said after a long pause, “it wasn’t supposed to be like this.”
Within two hours Evelyn and I went from happily and carelessly expecting our second son, to holding his dead body. Within two hours Evelyn went from playing with our older son Nolan in the library and at the playground, to laying in a hospital bed with an empty belly.
My flight was not departing for another 11 hours. All I had was my backpack and photos of my dead baby. I spent hours just sitting and staring at his photos, swiping left, swiping right. And then I was roaming up and down the Harvey Milk terminal, aimless, expressionless, numb. Swiping left and right again. Completely dissociated, I saw myself in 3rd person — the reality is so unbelievable that the only possible explanation is that it’s happening to somebody else. I couldn’t be with Evelyn in the most difficult moments of her life. I couldn’t be with Liam and hold him while he was still warm. The worst were the brief moments when my mind drifted somewhere else, and for minutes I’d forget about what happened. And then I’d remember…
A part of me froze at the moment of Liam’s death and stayed there.
Soon it came the time to let many people know that I won’t be available for a while and why. Every time is extraordinarily difficult because writing about it I re-live it. It took me a long time and strength to let my friends know. I’m afraid that there may be people who care about me and who will learn about what happened by reading this article. I’m sorry.
I haven’t experienced grief until Liam. I never thought much about it. They say that losing a parent is difficult, and losing a sibling is worse. But losing a child has an added element of being cheated. Your child is given to you and then suddenly taken away. I wasn’t prepared for this— how could I be?
Grief permeates the entire fabric of existence and the state of mind. It’s multi-dimensional: I grieve my son who died too early; my wife who was so looking forward to him, and whose life got turned upside down in a mere hour; I grieve the life we would’ve had if Liam had the chance to live; I grieve our two-year-old Nolan who would’ve been such a great big brother to Liam. But most of all, I grieve all the moments, years, and decades of loving Liam the infant, toddler, boy, teen, and adult. Decades that we would’ve had but we won’t, for Liam is dead.
We picked up Liam’s ashes a week ago and he’s finally back home with us. The wait was excruciatingly long and we’re relieved that we can finally be with him whenever we want, and kiss him good morning and good night. Here’s his cubby in our living room:
If you got this far reading about Liam, I’d like you to meet him and celebrate his short life with me: