I've done things in life that most would consider hard to do.
1.) Grow up without a father.
When I was 2 my father left our family. The next time I heard from him I was 12 or so, and all he had for me was a pack of lies. Being raised in a christian family and going to a christian school made this twice as hard. I clearly remember the principle of the school telling the teachers "Keep an eye on him, he is from a divorced family, he will be a problem." This was on my first day of school. As a result of the prejudice, I was put in remedial classes--until standardized testing in 2nd grade. I guess testing at a high school reading level did not fit well with being in the remedial reading class.
2.) Boot camp.
After not being able to figure out what to do in college I decided to have someone tell me what to do for a while. I enlisted in the United States Coast Guard. Boot camp was hard, at the time I would have told you it was the hardest thing I had ever done. The story that sticks out in my mind the most that describes the difficulty of boot camp is when we earned our company colors (flag). After a long day we were getting ready for lights-out when a company commander walked into the squad bay yelling. We quickly found ourselves on a road march to a place none of us had been. The road turned into a gravel road, which then turned into a path. We stepped onto the beach in the pitch black. We then spent the next hour or so being "IT'd." This consisted mostly of running, jumping, and doing push ups in the sand. We then were marched into pitch black water about knee deep, with waves crashing around us and were instructed to drink a mouthful of the salt water. You see if we failed to do our jobs, our duty, this is the last thing the person we should have been saving would taste.
3.) King crab season.
The lesson taught on the beach during boot camp became real for me very fast. Out of boot camp I was stationed on the Cutter Jarvis. In boot camp I thought it was a dream assignment. The Jarvis is home ported in Honolulu, HI. I spent my leave back home, then flew out to meet my ship. It turns out the ship was underway in Alaska. A few days in Hono and I was off to meet the ship for real this time. After getting my sea legs under me I fell into a routine. We had a short shore leave, and then the reason we were in the area started--King Crab season. If you have ever watched Deadliest Catch you will know what this is. I was there for search and rescue standby. The seas during the season were around 30 feet with rouge waves taller than 45 feet. Even on a 378 foot ship these waves were dangerous. The small fishing vessels did not fair well. With water temperatures in the 40's the two people who were washed over board while fishing didn't stand much of a chance. The third person to go over board while searching for the first two people didn't have a chance either. We spent 4 days searching for the fishers. No one said it, but we all knew... we were searching for bodies. This hit me hard, less than two months out of boot camp three people died.
4.) Quit smoking.
I won't go into great detail on this, if you smoke you understand how hard this is. If you don't smoke or haven't been a smoker I can't make you understand.
5.) Raise a newborn.
No sleep-check. Crying for what seems like no reason- check. Poop, lots of poop- check. Stress, worry, and nightmares about SIDS- check. Raising a child is hard. I think anyone who has done it will stand by that. My living son is 14 months old, I am not sure what is in store for the future, but I am sure it will be equal parts hard and joy.
So I hope the hard things I have gone through have established me enough to the point were you can take my word for it, I am a "man." It might even be said I am a man's man. I wear shorts nearly year round (I live in Wisconsin), I am too manly to get cold. Now that we have that out of the way; onto the hardest thing I have ever done.
6.) Have 3 of my children die
None of these things, not even if you somehow added them up and made them all happen at one time even touches how hard it is to be a father who has held his children after they were dead. How hard it was to see the spot on the ultrasound that was causing my wife's bleeding and knowing it was Tittle after he had died. How hard it can be to answer "How many children do you have?"
I wish my life had taken a different path. I wish my father had never left, that I had not needed boot camp to get direction, that I could have found those fisherman so that their families had bodies to bury, and that I had never even started smoking.
What I think is so hard for some people to understand is that I don't wish I never had Oscar, Bella, or Tittle. Sure I wish they were with me still, but even knowing that they would die I would do it all over again. Being able to know that pain and the tears that come with it, and say honestly that I would do it all over again makes me more of a man than anything else I have ever done.
Feel free to leave a comment. I would love to know who is reading these posts. Share this with anyone you think would benefit from reading it. If you are a father or mother who has suffered through loss, speak out and break the silence. The loss of a child will only remain taboo as long as those who suffer do not speak out.