Saturday, May 29, 2010

The Day Matthew Was Born...And Died--Daddy


This is the story of your life, however short it was, though my eyes. I do not claim to have an intimate relationship with you like mommy did. Only mommy, who carried you for 10 months can claim that stake, however, from the moment that I knew you existed, I could not have been more proud of you and excited to eventually meet you. Many people have talked about how only a mommy could have loved a baby before it was born, and that daddies just wait for the day to come when they can hold their child, and that is the day when a daddy and child begin to bond. I couldn’t feel that these ideas are more wrong. When I first saw your heartbeat, I felt it in my heart. When mommy started to grow a belly, I marveled every day at the change. Every time that I saw you wiggle in mommy’s belly, I giggled inside with joy. But I am not going to talk about the time leading up to your birth. Right now, I am going to talk about the few days surrounding your birth as a celebration of your life.
You were due on 24 November, 2009, but you decided that you loved your warm and cozy home that mommy had provided for you. So, we were scheduled to come into the hospital a week later and help you with your decision on whether or not to come into this world. However, we received a call a few days later asking us to come into the hospital on the 27th because it would not be as busy. Since I was so excited to meet you, I jumped at the opportunity. Mommy was a little scared, because she couldn’t bear the thought of you not being as close as you already were. So, we scheduled the date and made sure that our bags were ready. I had already packed the car about 2 weeks earlier to include a cot, sleeping bag and many other things. Finally, the evening had come for us to go into the hospital.
On the drive to the hospital, mommy admitted that she was scared. I tried to calm her fears and she understood that I was so excited to meet you and hold you. When we got to the hospital, I took a picture of mommy holding all of her bags. I will always remember that picture. She looked both excited and scared.

We checked into the birthing ward and were placed under the care of a very nice and reassuring nurse named Jade. We got settled into our room, the room where we would stay for the next 24 hours. In short time, the induction was begun. The one thing that I remember most about this time was the sound of your heartbeat. The machine that monitored your heart pulsed with every beat, making a whoosh, whoosh. That night was a very long night. The induction made mommy have contractions every couple of minutes.
We both tried to sleep that night. I am not sure if mommy was able to sleep much, but I was not able to sleep very much. It was the whooshing sound. I was hearing that all night long. On occasion, your heartbeat would undergo decelerations. The nurses would come in the room and have mommy change the way that she was laying. This seemed to have the desired effect however, ever time after, it was like my mind was a metronome and when you heartbeat slowed down, I was alert. It was a very long night.
In the morning, I got up, took a shower and left for a short amount of time to get something to eat. It wasn’t very good, but maybe that was because I was focused on one thing, and that was seeing you come into this world. I am not sure on many of the events during that day, but I do know that mommy took a shower, and tried to get comfortable. What I do know is that things weren’t progressing as quickly as we had hoped and mommy was in pain from the contractions. So, the decision was made to give mommy an epidural to help ease the pain. The doctor that did this was a very nice man even though he was a Wahoo. It must have been a hard thing for him to come into work on that day because, his team was fighting a loosing battle to the Hokies, a team of which you got to see play during a very rainy day in October. We didn’t know it at the time, but something in the back of his mind told him that he should stick around the hospital because he thought that he might be needed later.
It was sometime around then when grandma showed up to visit with us, and stay for most of the rest of the evening. As mommy would tell you, my stomach usually speaks up and I have to answer to it. Grandma got some pizza for the two of us. We could not finish most of the pizza and ended up giving the rest of it to the nurses. For the rest of the time, I tried to read while mommy tried to sleep.
Shortly after this, our doctor arrived on the scene. She had been around several times throughout the last day but I guess that she decided to that her services would be required soon, and she was right. Our doctor was pregnant herself. The thing you should know is that over the last few weeks, mommy figured that she would be the one to deliver you and she had been buttering the doctor up with all kinds of goodies and treats.
Based on the examination, the doctor decided that she would move things along and break the water. Your mommy didn’t want this because she was afraid that this would result in a mess and the nice nurses would have to clean it up. But, that’s your mommy, always thinking of others even in her hardest times. The other issue was that the heart monitor was increasingly difficult to adjust and we had a hard time getting a good accurate reading of your heart rate. So we were going to attach a sensor to your head so that we could keep a good eye on your progress. During the exam, the doctor was able to touch your head and you wiggled as if to say, “don’t take me from here. It is nice and warm and mommy eats milkshakes for me. “
The membrane was broken and water came out. The sensor was attached to your head and as the doctor turned back around to finish her work, there was a sudden gush of blood. The doctor very calmly said, “Mr. Matthew, you forced my hand.” She was very collected however, based on the fact that she was pushing mommy down the hall to ER, I knew it was serious. I was not allowed to follow into the ER until mommy was prepped and I was asked to put on a paper gown and mask. I sat in the hall scared and grandma comforted me. I was not prepared for these moments. When I was finally allowed into the ER, you were on a table. The doctors were working very hard to rescue you. I watched in horror as they performed CPR and gave you breaths. I held mommy’s hand, but I must have not been very comforting to her. She asked me what was going on and I said I didn’t know but I didn’t think that it was good. She kept saying that it would be OK. She just knew it and she prayed. I prayed in my head. I so wanted you in my life. Eventually, you were taken out of the ER into the nursery.
I had promised mommy earlier in the pregnancy that if something happened, that I would always stay with you, so I did. I wasn’t allowed in the nursery but I was able to look through a crack in the blinds. They continued to work on you and the whole time, more and more people showed up to help. Eventually, I could see that you had a heartbeat and their tasking turned from CPR to working to stabilize your condition. There were lines and tubes and sensors all over you. I am not sure how long you were in the nursery, but it seemed like it was 20 hours. Eventually, one of the nurses came to me. I was exhausted and I was crying. I said to her “can you believe I am a Marine?” She said “yes, but tonight you are a dad.” I will tell you—I have since seen many Marines crying over you. I have learned that to weep is not a sign of weakness rather, a sign of love.
The nurse asked me if I wanted to go into the nursery and see you. Absolutely! I got my camera and we went into the nursery and I was able to sit and touch you. You opened your eyes and looked around as if to say, why are these people here doing these things to me. You gave me a great gift there in the nursery. You squeezed my finger as I offered it to you. That is something that I will never forget.

I took pictures into mommy who by this time was in recovery. She was glad to see them.
The decision was made to medevac you to Georgetown University Hospital by air. It seemed like it took forever for them to get here, but I know that it was not that much time. They wanted to perform a procedure at Georgetown that would cool your body temperature down and allow you to recover. When the aircrew arrived, they went into action. They had to do a couple of things before they could transport you in the helicopter. I remember observing all of the people in the nursery that night. There were lots of people that although could not actively help, were just staying there just in case. I also remember that the Georgetown crew needed some fine sutures. I don’t know who it was, but I watched as a small, young nurse ran at a sprint from the nursery and shortly returned back. I imagined that she ran the whole way, and I knew that even though the staff at St Mary’s might have not had the state of the art NICU facilities, there is not a thing that they wouldn’t have done to save you.
Soon enough, you were loaded into and isolette and prepared to transport down to the helo pad. But first, mommy wanted to see you. The helo crew was in a hurry, but I think they realized that this is the last time mommy might see you. When they brought you into the room, mommy got up and stood on her feet and touched you head and your hair. It was almost as if Jesus had walked on water for mommy to stand.
I followed the isolette down to the aircraft and watched them load and depart. As I watched, I thought about how I could fly the helicopter and I would fly it as fast as it could go. Maybe one day I will have a job where I can rescue people in need and fly a helicopter like that. After you left, a good friend of the family, Jeff drove me to Georgetown. Matthew, you would have had friends in your life that would have responded in times of need as Jeff did. Again, this ride seemed to take forever but eventually, I made it to the hospital. Jeff offered to stay but I thought that this was going to be long trip, maybe even weeks. I had hope. I had prayed during the entire trip up there. Pleaded with God to heal you.
I found the NICU and was asked to scrub up. When I entered the NICU, I was greeted by several of the staff, but I knew that things were not good. I was taken to a room where they told me the bad news. During the helicopter ride, your heart had stopped beating several times. Each time was harder and harder to resuscitate you. I was told that you would not make it. They could try to resuscitate you every time your little heart stopped, but eventually it would not be possible and already, your brain was not working. My world was crushed. I had to talk to mommy and others that could support me during this time. In desperation, I tried to reach out to whomever I could. I sent a message to our friend Bill who was able to supply phone numbers to our pastor. Also, I got the number for Bert, who was a friend of the family and a former pastor of our church. I also made sure that grandma was taken back to the hospital to be there to support mommy when I told her that you were going to die, but I had to do it soon, because the doctors were not sure how long they could keep you alive. Grandma had to be driven to the hospital by Connie because she was exhausted and emotionally drained.
Finally with everyone assembled, I called mommy and I explained to her that you would not make it and that the best and only thing that I could do was to hold you until the end. So, I went back into the NICU and you were given to me. I cradled you and kissed you on the head. Bert was conferenced in and he read a few Bible verses to us. I stayed on the phone with mommy and eventually, a doctor listened to your heartbeat and said that you were gone. I still held on to you for a while. One of the nurses took some pictures of me holding you. Now that I look at them I realize how tired and exhausted I was. Eventually, it was time to put you down. When I turned around, one of the nurses asked if someone had hugged me. I said ,“No,” and told her that I was alone. She then gave me a hug. It really is amazing how comforting it is for a total stranger to share in your grief.
Since I was alone, I had no way to get back home. Fortunately, mommy’s sister, Heather and her husband Shan had driven to our house and Shan got in his car and started driving to Georgetown. Meanwhile, I sat in a small room that was set up for daddies to get rest when visiting their babies. It was a cold, lonely place. Eventually, I could not sit there any further and I went down to the hospital lobby to wait. Again, this seemed to be the longest wait of my life, but finally, Shan showed up and got me to the car. Most of the rest of this night was a blur to me, but I do remember glancing up to the sky driving through D.C. There are lots of lights in D.C. and you can almost never see stars, but on that night, I saw a brilliant shooting star sail across the sky. This was my sign. You were OK in the hands of God. Our pastor preached to church one day that God heals by miracles, through divine guidance of skilled doctors hands and finally through death to be made whole in Heaven. I know unfortunately for me and mommy that you had been healed through the latter, but that you are whole again.
I got back to the hospital where mommy was and I was exhausted. I knew that I was not going to be able to sleep that night so I took a sleeping pill. As I fell asleep, I heard the whoosh whoosh noise that your heartbeat made. In fact, I heard this noise in my head for several more days. I am not sure when I stopped hearing it, but I was glad when I did because it was starting to haunt me.
I never knew that I was capable of feeling such deep sorrow, but every morning when I showered, I sobbed uncontrollably as I stood there in the shower. I did not want to do this in front of mommy because she had a lot of healing to do and I thought it would upset her. I had to be strong for her. I later found out that she had known all along that I was doing it. I also found out who were important friends in my life. There were lots of amazing displays of compassion from many of people. I have mentioned many of them. Craig called me every day for about a month. Barb and other women made an album of your life. And Allison, Andi and Marilyn pampered and nursed mommy back to health. I know that I can never repay your cousins and aunt for all the help they gave us then, but I am thankful to have them. And speaking of aunts, your aunt Amy got a ticket and rushed to be with us for when we buried you.
Matthew, I don’t know what to expect when I meet you in heaven, but I am sure that you will be there with all of the other loved ones of my life. Will I get to learn about what kind of a person you would have been if you had survived or would that even matter? I know on this day, I will be happy.



  1. Dear John and Lori,

    Another day of sorrow and grief as you mark the passing of your beautiful Matthew. John, I am so grateful that you wrote this letter to Matthew and allowed us to share in the events of his short life. Again, lifting you up in prayers for strength, comfort, peace, and joy in the new life of Matthew's brother or sister.

    With love and prayers,

  2. you are both such beautiful people, bless you for never leaving Matthew , it must have been so hard on your own. but you were there when he needed you and when his mummy needed you to be. and that must be of great comfort to her. sending love, anne xxx

  3. oh john!!!!!

    that was so beautiful! to hear a precious daddy's thoughts and feelings to his son is just absolutely wonderful! matthew is the most blessed little boy to have you for a dad. you are a very special daddy indeed.

  4. What a love ... only God knows the complete importance and significance of a father, and He knew what kind of a father Matthew needed and what kind of husband Lori needed. This was so perfect. Thank you for sharing.

  5. John,

    My daddy was a Marine. I can tell you that many, many Marines cry over true sorrow. They are still the toughest folks around and always the folks I want around when things are tough. You included.

    Your post broke my heart again over Matthew. I have wished every night since his birth that things were different.

    I wish I could hold you and Lori in my arms - but thank you for sharing your story on the internet and with me. Much love from Minnesota,


  6. What a beautiful gift for Matthew's brother or sister. John, your voice is beautiful. Thank you for sharing.

  7. I'm crying my eyes out. That is such a sad, yet sweet story. I don't know how either of you put your feet in front of each other everyday. You are amazing and beautiful and I'm so blessed to know you!

  8. John,

    Matthew would have been so blessed had you been able to parent him into adulthood. He would have had a father who would have shown him how to be open and caring, able to express his emotions with great courage.

    I recall getting on the plane with a heavy heart, as I remembered Lori and I joking about who would "deliver" first. Yes, even as I stepped onto that plane for our own unexpectedly difficult journey, Matthew was in my heart.

    While you will never forget him, time and new life will help bring joy back into your lives. May you continue healing, may your lives be blessed again with another child, healthy and whole.

    And may Matthew's spirit hover around you always.


  9. John,
    It was so wonderful to hear your love for Matthew straight from you. Lori always writes of it, but to hear it come straight from your heart was wonderful. I don't know what happens in Heaven, but I do hope you get a glimpse of all Matthew would have been here with you on earth. I can't wait for the day your family is whole. Matthew is whole in heaven... waiting perfectly for his family. Enjoy this new baby God has blessed you with. Enjoy each moment knowing you have an eternity with Matthew. You are a wonderful dad and a great husband. Thank you for sharing your heart.

  10. This was beautiful and heartbreaking and sweet and sad all bundled up...What precious words to a child so loved.

  11. Dear John and Lori,

    Thank you for allowing us the privilege of knowing your sweet Matthew. My heart goes out to you both. You both are amazing and wonderful parents!


  12. Dearest Lori and John,

    When I first read this post this morning I had no words and could not seem to even leave a comment. Instead, I closed up my blog reading and headed outside in my garden. I always find peace in that little garden of mine.

    While there I thought about John's recollection of Matthew, how immense the pain and how broken he was. I stood in my garden and cried for all that you have been through. And, I don't ever think I will forget John saying "I'm a Marine" and him being told by the sweet nurse, "today you're a Daddy". The sweetest of words....

    Thank you for sharing Matthew's story and thank you for sharing your precious little boy with me. He continues to bless my life in so many ways.

    Much love to you both as you journey on. Know that I am lifting you up today and always and praying for your comfort and safety.


  13. Gosh, this was harder, for me, than all of the posts before. I hope it was, somehow, healing in its process, but it made me cry. I pray for you all regularly. Just this morning in church, I prayed for your unborn sweet baby. Matthew has a wonderful father here on earth and a perfect Father in heaven. He is so blessed.

  14. Written in the way daddies are so good at: straightforward and candid...and therefore extra heartbreaking. I hope other men faced with the same circumstances are comforted by this - and those who have their first baby on the way appreciate, and learn from, this account. John, thank you so much for sharing your perspective and your voice. Based on what you did for your son in those eight hours, you would've been amazing if given a lifetime. Lucky Miney has no idea what incredible love - the kind unique from a dad to his child - is in store for him/her!

  15. Dear John and Lori,

    My thought and prayers are with you both. I have so many tears for your loss. My heart goes out to both of you in a way that's difficult to put into words. Just know that I am sending so many prayers. I too pray for your comfort and strength. I pray that god will ease your pain and send you constant reminders that your family will be reunited in heaven.

    I am asking god to give your sweet boy some extra hugs today. I am also asking him to embrace both of you.

  16. Thank you John for sharing this with us. It had me in tears and made me think of what my own husband experienced. I've had him write his view of the day we got the diagnosis but not the day of Carleigh's birth yet.

  17. Thank you for sharing your story. My husband still cannot share his, it is too painful. You have loved your son well and honored him in your memory and with your words. I won't forget Matthew's story.

  18. John, Thank you for sharing your window into Matthew's life. How beautiful, yet so sad. I wish that there were more for grieving fathers. Through blogging, I have found comfort. Through this group of women who are walking the same road, I have found a sisterhood. I wished the same was true for my husband. He often wishes this out loud also. Men grieve differently, but they do grieve and the support is lacking. Thank you for taking the time to wade through your grief and post this here. My husband read it also and was touched. Bless you and Lori! You are honoring Matthew and God so wonderfully.

  19. John,
    My grandfather was a Marine for 40 years. He never said much, but when he did, people listened. I sit here, reading your words so intently. I picture my grandfather who lost his daughter, Rachel, when she was 3 months old. I see his sorrow and I see yours. What a brave, beautiful soul. I'm so utterly heartbroken for you and sweet Lori. You are constantly in my prayers.

    Much love, HR

  20. Dear John and Lori,

    Though I do not know you, I felt all the pain.. reading through it, my heart ached and I could not help my tears... But you are good and brave people... God is always there to take care of each one of us.. Do not worry...
    with all the best wishes,

  21. Thank you for sharing this letter to Matthew. It's beautiful. My son Bruce died at Georgetown's NICU in September 2013 at three days old. I can relate to so much of what you wrote. I would feel so alone if people like you didn't share their stories. I miss my son tremendously, but I take comfort in knowing he is in good company with your son and other beautiful souls in heaven. Thanks again. I wish your family all the best.