Monday, May 14, 2012

Father's Perspective vs. Mother's Perspective

The following provide perspectives for both Father's & Mother's, as both approach the sentimental holidays. 

A Father’s Perspective…
Submitted by John Stuart, Daddy to Kieran

My story is probably no different than anyone reading this newsletter. Our only child, Kieran, was born premature and only saw one sunrise. There were many hopes and dreams that went with his passing. He was our only successful conception in over 4 years of trying. So when we were originally informed of our good fortune, much of our life during those 22 weeks was focused on his arrival and preparing for our new future.

How people experience their grief and how they cope is as different as snowflakes. The losses we experience are very personal and often difficult to quantify. I was devastated by the prospect of not seeing him every day and not being able to watch him interact with the world. For the first several months, I coped by immersing myself in other distractions and withdrew from all of life's optional dealings. I lost the ability to focus on all but the simplest, singular tasks. And it hurt to experience most any emotion, good and bad.

Father's Day was just 17 weeks after Kieran's birth. As it approached, I was keenly aware of its meaning and that I was now among the honored. This was not how I envisioned joining the ranks and I felt uncomfortable. This was compounded by wanting to acknowledge my own father. My child could not do the same for me.

It's difficult to express how I came to grips with my emotions. I felt sorry for myself and I knew that was destructive. I needed to alter my perspective. I realized that the honor of being a father was not an external acknowledgment but in my own, internal perception. I am happy to have a son. Although he was not physically with me on Father's Day, he was with me in spirit, as he continues to be. The world doesn't have to acknowledge that I love my son, because he knows and I know.

My wife also knows, and loves our son and me. We managed to make it through Mother's and Father's Days because we respect that the world is full of complex emotional triggers and these holidays are very big triggers.  Our reactions to the triggers are usually different, but we're able to look beyond the reaction and see the underlying response as emotions of love and loss. Outward expression of these emotions can be manifested in negative ways.  But we remember that what the other person is reacting to is valid even if the reaction seems irrational. We need to vent our emotions even if the emotional release is misdirected.

There are many holidays on the calendar that are intended to cause you to pause and consider how a particular group of people has affected your life. For me, Father's Day has taken on multiple facets. I think about my son, for without him, I would not be a father. I think about my wife, for without her, I could not have a son. And about my parents, for without them I would not know what it means to be a parent. I love and am grateful for all of them.


 A Mother’s Perspective...
Submitted by Suzanne Phillips, Mommy to Kieran

Mother's Day has been a hard, complicated day for me for many years.  It's the annual reminder that, “I don't belong in the mommy club.”  My husband and I struggled a long time to become parents, only to lose our precious boy.  Although I am Kieran's mommy, because he lived so briefly, my “mommy credits” fall short.  I feel left out of the club when I see other mothers and babies – in the park, coffee shop or congregation.  I know first-hand about sleepless nights, but I don't have stories of Kieran's firsts:  the first time he held his head up on his own, rolled over, pulled himself up, crawled, teethed, babbled or stepped.  It's hard for other mommies to listen to my baby's short story. He's not wiggling around, demanding attention.

For a long time, I avoided Mother's Day. I avoided the saccharin cards, speakers and mother-daughter banquets which celebrated motherhood. Then my husband and I began to do something special that weekend without it being “mother” or “father” focused.  We have gone camping, picnicked at an outdoor jazz festival, and attended local arts festivals.  For me, camping has been the most successful because most families don't camp in May.  It's easy to enjoy nature with our dogs as we set up camp, hike and are buzzed by local hummingbirds.

Last Mother's Day (2007), the first without Kieran, friends invited us to go sailing.  The focus was on friendship and catching up. They talked about Kieran.  At the end of the day, they gave me a Mother's Day card – the only one I received.  I cherish it as recognition of our friendship and Kieran.

There are no Share support groups in our area.  However, the local Children's Hospital sponsors an annual Memorial Service for bereaved parents between Mother's and Father's Days.  This service is a safe place to openly remember and mourn our babies.  We are not isolated.  This recognition of our loss validates the pain and grief we feel, particularly when it seems the world celebrates parenthood as only having living children.

Whether or not you chose to participate in Mother's or Father's Day, I recommend you take steps to care for yourself on that day.  It's OK to simply avoid the whole event.  It's OK to ask others for what you need.  If it feels right, find a moment to remember your baby and honor yourself as your baby's parent.  For these two days, my husband and I each created our own bracelet with Kieran's name, his birthstone and his animal.  This creative action honored our child and our new title as parents, despite other's conflicting opinions of our parental status.  In honoring ourselves as parents, we also honor our babies. 

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