We spent 9 years of our life in a small country town in North Queensland called Charters Towers. These are my memories of the people and events that were a part of our life during that time.
Don’t you normally see the heart beating?” I asked the radiographer. She was obviously having problems although we were unsure just what was happening. April was having an ultrasound but there was something not right. I didn’t realize then the heartbreaking implications my question was to have for us.
“Mmm,” she replied distractedly. “I’m having some difficulties finding some of the landmarks. I need to get the senior radiographer to have a look,” she told us.
By this time it was becoming obvious to April and myself something was terribly wrong. The senior radiographer’s verdict verified the fear that was beginning to develop in us both. Our news was devastating. Something had gone very wrong. At 21 weeks we never dreamt that anything could happen to our child. Everything we had read said the danger period was during the first three months. After that the baby was supposed to be virtually indestructible, or so we thought.
“How are you today?” brightly asked the girl behind the checkout counter at the supermarket later that day. She had the usual pasted on smile they must teach at checkout school.
What were we to say? “Well, everything was pretty good, until we found out our baby died.” I never expected what had been up to now a growing bulge in my April’s middle could cause me so much pain. We were told it was best if the baby was delivered as soon as possible. April was checked into the labour ward early in the morning two days later. Every four hours she had a chemical inserted in her uterus to induce labour. Like so many births it began happening in the dead of the night. April’s pain increased late in the evening as her contractions heightened in intensity. Through it all there was a feeling of numbness. I felt disconnected from these horrible events. For us there was the certainty that at the end there wasn’t going to be a bundle of joy. I think in some merciful way our minds had gone into shock where they could take no more bad news. Shalom was born on the twenty seventh of March 1998, four days after my birthday. He was so tiny his body fitted into the palm of my hand and his head rested on my fingers. He was so perfect except he never would have the chance to draw a breath in this world.
He was my son but I never really had the opportunity to be his dad. I never will have the chance to cheer him on at the football, or to take him to the movies, or to wrestle with him on the lounge room floor. I will never have to confront that awful moment dreaded by fathers when it is time to tell him about the facts of life. Despite never doing anything with him I miss him a great deal.
This is not the sort of pain that I want to have in my life. The deep grief that seems to have touched the core of my being, my constantly aching heart, and the deep wounds that have lacerated my soul. I would much prefer my wounds to be physical. I want my pain to be tangible. I know how to deal with things when they show on the outside. I know I can cope with this type of pain. Physical scars for blokes are our badges of pride. We hold them up as notches of our manhood. They are something to show off, to prove to others that the toughness of life will not beat us. Yet the real pain we feel is so often hidden under protective layers of putting on a brave face. We force ourselves to keep up appearances and get on with life without taking the time to understand why it can hurt us so much. I know in my head that God wants to work all things together for good for those who love him. Yet I wish so much that God’s working was different to this. It seems like God wanted to play a cruel joke on April and I after we waited so long for a child and now He snatched him back. How do you farewell someone you’ve never met? There were no photos, no memories of fun times together. There were no cute expressions for me to remember. All I have is a card with a tiny footprint and handprint on it. We only held him for a short while then it was time to for him to be taken from us. Saying goodbye to Shalom is the hardest thing I’ve had to do in life. There are no pat answers to this type of pain. I know I have cried many times in private because of my enormous sadness. I don’t understand why God has chosen this particular path for me and I have questioned his wisdom in this situation. There is something in me that wants to say to God that my son doesn’t belong in heaven, I want him here with me. I think that no matter who we are we can say this to God. God this part of my life doesn’t belong to you its mine. I know that life’s relentless pace will gradually reduce the intensity of my sorrow. However, life will never be quite the same because of what has happened. Up to this point my life had been untouched by the reality of death. Now I have joined to God in a new way, as I understand something of what the loss of a son means to a Father. I guess what happened was that I joined the rest of the world in its journey of life in saying, God, I hurt.But, because I know God I can thank Him for sharing that pain with me.The real issue is where do we belong? Do we say to God that we belong to him yet try and hold some of the more painful or more pleasurable areas for ourselves? Ultimately no matter what life dishes up we have to accept that the only way to live life is God’s way.