I always need to be the leader in our marriage, but I’ve had to walk that delicate balance between being a dictator and being aimless. The decision to choose hospice after birth was the direction I saw Mila’s health going, but I let Delia get as many opinions and counsel as she desired. I would have supported intervention if she insisted, because I love her and she is the mommy. Whatever she wanted for that day she would get, such as how she wanted to capture the day on video, or what personal items she wanted to have nearby. I trust her judgment, and so I trust being patient with her to make it, because I am confident that she will see everything in a wise way.
I could not have been more pleased with all of the nurses, doctors, and staff at the hospital. Everyone was helpful and kind to us in the most sensitive time in our lives.
Throughout it all we have both mourned and cried, but they didn’t happen at the same times in the same ways. When the time had come to take Mila’s body to the hospital morgue, I knew that I could not let myself become overwhelmed with emotion. As I wheeled Delia in her wheelchair through the hospital, pulling all of our bags and luggage along as well somehow, she held Mila in her arms and had the freedom to bawl as much as she wanted. I had to be the soldier doing my duty, in a sense, in order to facilitate that freedom. When you are in a war and your childhood buddy dies beside you, you can’t stop being a soldier, and although Delia probably would not express it this way, it’s what I knew she needed. It’s not in some cold way, but in a dedicated, facilitating way.
When we got to the door, I saw the most difficult moment in all of my life. Delia is in tears holding our daughter’s body, and the taker for the morgue is standing next to us waiting, along with our nurse. I waited for a little while, and then reached out to take Mila from Delia. No words were spoken. I just knew what was happening and what I had to do in that moment. No one else was going to do it, and she wasn’t giving her to anyone else.
The car ride home was remarkably peaceful, and we really did have no regrets. The shock of it all remained until we were getting ready for bed. Suddenly I felt an overwhelming urge to go back to the hospital. The plan for intervention was given to us in detail, and I imagined myself placing needles in my baby to drain the excess fluid. It made no sense, but death doesn’t make any sense. Delia had to minister to me directly for the first time through all this to assure me that everything was ok, and that I could just go to bed. It seemed so wrong to be home having left my baby behind. Even now when I think about it, that rush to go do something for my child comes faintly in.
I was really glad to speak at Mila’s service. Delia did a wonderful job on her tribute montage, and she has been rightly the focus through her blog and the attention all the other women in her life are giving her. But this was my opportunity to tell our beloved friends about Mila and talk about how much I loved her. It was the hardest speech I have ever given, and I’m often complimented when I speak publicly. There were long pauses and tears. My voice broke multiple times. But I would give it again and again if I could. Every moment of that service was precious to me.
I knew that life would be hard in the next few weeks. This is when your allegiance to your wife and family are really tested. As a man, I tend to make marital intimacy of highest importance, and although having been through eight pregnancies I am aware of the time off needed, there is an additional factor of grieving that Delia is going through. She may not even want to be cute with me, or even want a kiss that often, and I would need to give her all the space she needs. I would need to wait patiently for her, as the righteous husband in the Song of Songs does, and put all of my personal desires aside. I would need to be “dad plus” because the kids were not going to have mommy all of the time. She will be grieving, planning a funeral, getting counsel from friends, pumping milk, or just plain overwhelmed with life. In a sense, my wife has a “disease”, and I must be sanctified to be more selflessly devoted to her as a result.
I have never witnessed a more plain example of tangible Christ-like-ness as I have in Delia, who in the burden of pregnancy has “carried a cross” to the result of only a death. She has toiled through a labor, a “work”, that has had no worldly benefit whatsoever. It’s remarkable to look at her, me being a man who doesn’t even have the privilege, so to speak, to be like Christ in that way.
Our children have taken all of this so well, almost so well that Delia has questioned their sensitivity. I have seen it, however, early on as a clear fruit of our openness towards them in sharing life with them, and also the security and knowledge they have from having an open Bible. The things of this world are not strange surprises to them. Nevertheless, our kids are still the little “works in progress” that they were before Mila came around. And so I need especially now to address everyone calmly and from scripture when my kids are obstinate. Delia and I may have more accented emotions in the days to come because of all we have been through.
In some sense, it has been nice to go back to work and to some degree “lose myself” in the career that I enjoy so much. But the stakes are now higher in the battle between “work” and “life”, and work can’t be the victor over family. I must avoid the temptation to engulf myself in work, or to be insecure about my highly competitive, hard-fought career. I don’t want to rob my kids of the interest and attention they should have from their daddy.
Lili continued her childish little phase of being stand-off-ish to me, which was harder having just lost Mila. She has now recently gone back to being daddy-obsessed, which I of course have been relishing. I want her to grab my hand with her little fingers and snuggle with me. My thoughts will imagine Mila doing those things, because she never did and never will. Lili is not replacing Mila, but I want to enjoy Lili’s childhood to the most I can.
The decision whether to have any more children is the toughest decision for me that we have ever had to make. We never wanted to make it, but this trial is something that we never want to imagine the possibility of going through again. At times I question myself, whether I am simply being cowardly about facing pain through childbearing. But it seems no one would argue with us if we decided our “quiver is full”, and we were counseled by elders that we can indeed “make that decision”. It’s disappointing, but it is also relieving. The test I gave myself was whether I could advise my own children the same. I believe I could tell them to have all their children early in their marriage, and have lots of them, and if after 10+ years they feel like the “quiver is full”, then they can be confident about deciding so.
But this was not a decision I made for us. Delia struggled with my leadership on this, because I was previously so committed to the idea that we should never stop having kids. And she followed through the years, though it was hard for her, since she was so consistently pregnant, and sometimes felt that our intimacy was only one-way. So I waited for her to be convinced of the change in thought. I assured her that the elders we respect think this way, and that this frees us not to prejudge those who stop having kids, and that we will get to have more time to focus on our own relationship. Thankfully, God is faithful to bring us to be of the same mind over time in a peaceful way. Looking ahead, I don’t know how we will go about actually assuring our decision happens, but I pray that it will somehow have no negative effect on our marriage.
I want to just “fix” things. If something is broken, I want to engineer a solution and make a plan to get it solved and done, now rather than later. But I can’t “fix” how Delia feels. I can’t reach through the videos of Mila and “fix” everything, to tell my baby girl that everything is going to be ok, and to take the pain away from the whole experience. Everything inside of me wants to do that. I think it’s a uniqueness of being a papa bear versus a mama bear. On occasion, I have looked at Mila’s pictures taken just after her death, or at the impression of her feet that we have, and I have actually gotten angry. I become incensed that my baby’s body is down in the ground in a cemetery and that I can’t go and touch her anymore forever. The emotion doesn’t last long, but it is nonetheless real. Delia has learned a lot about me through this.
I have been through difficult things in my life, but so often they are because of my own sin or someone else’s. This trial is through no fault of our own, and so although the pain is the hardest of any, what we are experiencing is much more “natural” than if I was simply suffering the consequences of my own sin.
We will never be the same, but I know ultimately it is for the good. I sense that our marriage will be much richer, and that everyone in our house has grown through this. I can see how a devastating event like this can destroy a marriage through cowardice or anger. But a trial is just like a high explosive; it can be lethal when used wrong, but it can also make passageways through mountains, or remarkable carvings on the side of them. And so I can still thank God for all that He has done, and I am a much more confident man as a result.
Sin has ruined how human life is supposed to go. I imagine being in Eden and asking Adam and Eve, “do you have any idea what you are about to do?” We are dust, and Mila has had hers returned. No one can argue with God. The one thing that I am assured of from here is that she is with Christ in heaven. She is our child, a child of God’s covenant with His people. I can take the only possible path I can fathom in order to see joy beyond this sorrow in that I know she is with Him now.