Did you feel like a dad when I was pregnant with Zalayah?
No, I did not feel like a dad while you were pregnant, but I felt like it was coming. I guess it is different for dads since we do not experience pregnancy. I know for you, you felt like a mom during the pregnancy, especially around the time she started moving. I did feel like I was ready to be a dad and that as soon as Zalayah was born, and I saw and held her that I would feel like one.
Did that change when she was born?
Yes, it did change in a way, but it also did not. I realized that even though I could see her and hold her, she was not really with us, so I still did not really feel like a dad. I felt like a failure. I felt like because we were not taking her home and I would not be experiencing fatherhood like many other fathers do that I was not a dad. I still feel like that today. Even though I talk to her and think of her often, it just isn’t the same to me and it makes me really sad.
Did you feel like you had to hide your emotions after she died?
Yes, I did. I could see how much pain you were in and felt that if I put on a strong face, it would
somehow help. I felt that if you saw me sad or crying every day that it would just bring you down. As a man and husband, I felt like I was supposed to help you and support you and I could not do that if I showed you how sad and depressed I really felt. There were many days I did not want to do anything, but I had to. I knew that I had to be strong for the both of us for us to get through it.
Do you feel like we were treated differently by professionals after her death?
Yes, I do. I remember during some counseling sessions only being asked one or two questions over the hour and all the rest going to you. It seemed like it was difficult (not sure what word to use here) for the counselors to talk to me and ask me questions. I do not know if it is because in our society men are supposed to be strong, they are not supposed to cry or show emotions, so I felt like they did not want to force a reaction out of me by asking too many questions if that makes sense. It is messed up, but I guess that is the kind of world we live in. But in a way I feel with a loss like this, the mother suffers more. You carried her, you felt her growing, and when she was moving you knew what she was doing at every moment every day. I think you had more of a real connection with her and an actual bond than I did. I was just kind of there on the outside like a spectator, I guess. Yes, I got to feel her move by touching your stomach and I learned about her and her routine by what you would tell me but that does not really compare to what you had and went through. To me the father’s time comes after she is born, and it is really sad that I did not get that. So yes, I feel like you and I were treated differently in terms of the support and care we received after she died, but I am not upset about it. I felt like you needed more support in this difficult situation.
Would you have liked more time off?
I feel like I did have enough time off, but I think that is just because of my profession, my boss’
generosity and the timing of everything since she was born close to Christmas. As a mechanic, it is very slow for garages after Christmas, so my boss let me take as much time as I needed but it was unpaid. I ended up taking almost 3 months off. In general, though I do not think fathers are given enough time off. I was not entitled to parental leave since that is only given for living children. There should be some type of leave for bereaved parents where they can both get EI for a certain amount of time. I have heard people being forced to use vacation or sick days which I do not think is fair. Even 15 weeks (maternity leave) may not be enough time. I know it was hard for you when I went back to work, so you went back to work early just to be able to do something, but I know we both probably were not ready. They (the government) should really do something about that.
Did you feel like you received adequate support?
Despite everything I just said, I do feel like I had a good support system. The Roger Neilson House was very good, especially the group sessions where they made a point of asking everyone (mothers and fathers) the same questions. Looking back on it now, I honestly do not know how we would have gotten through all of this without them. In terms of the other services that were offered, I guess it would have been nice if there was something specifically for fathers as there was for mothers but again, I understand why it is mostly focused on mom in this situation.
Here's a great resource for fathers looking for additional support. Kelly Farley, is a father to two angel babies and has made it his mission to help other fathers cope with pregnancy loss. Please check out his story by TODAY on YouTube Father Breaks The Taboo Around Grieving A Pregnancy Loss | TODAY or on their website Fathers grieve for pregnancy loss as much but get no help (today.com). To read more about his story, read stories from other fathers and/or share your story please visit his page Grieving Dads – To the Brink and Back.