At 38 weeks old, her little heart stopped.
This is a hard story to write. But it’s a story that has the power to inspire so it must be written.
Bad things can happen to any of us
9 years ago I got into writing.
One of the people responsible for that decision is an Aussie man named Joel. The other night my wife and I were watching a cooking show.
During the ad break we watched our little 7 month old daughter sleep on the baby monitor. A few minutes later, I opened the Instagram app to check something.
That’s when my heart sank.
My friend Joel and his wife were expecting a baby. When I first found out I was so happy for them. I knew they were about to experience the same joy that I’m still high off 7 months later.
But it wasn’t to be.
The Instagram post said that at 38 weeks their unborn daughter’s heart stopped. She had to be delivered suddenly and had passed away. Was she dead before the delivery or as a result of it?
I don’t have the heart to ask. What matters is baby Harper is gone.
Where it gets bizarre
Joel says in the post that he once told a close friend “One of the most devastating experiences in life would be to bury your own child.”
He never knew that’s exactly what he’d be doing a few years later.
It’s funny how the world works. Sometimes I feel like there are discrete signs put in front of us to tell us what’s coming. But we’re often too mindless to see them.
Joel says that many people who face this reality lose face in humanity and life itself. But, bizarrely, it’s given him and his wife newfound hope.
Tragedy changes us for the better
Three years ago I came across a live performance of Chris Isaak’s “Wicked Games” song. It was on one of those singing shows in Russia.
The performance starts with an eerie silence. The camera zooms in. On the top of the piano is a stuffed donkey toy. The man is almost 40.
The toy looks out of place. I scroll down through the hundreds of comments to get the rest of the story. The toy belonged to the man’s child.
His kid was holding it when he died in a car accident. The singer brought the toy along to guide his music.
He sang the most beautiful version of that song I’ve ever heard. The difference between the loud notes and the soft ones was incredible. You could hear a pin drop. So much emotion.
The facial expressions were of a man that had felt loss.
And that feeling was captured in his performance. His son’s memory turned into emotion in his father that turned into inspiration that, later, millions of people would feel.
Tragedy has the power to transcend us if we let it. If we use it as inspiration.
Why this is so hard to deal with
Even though my baby didn’t die, seeing Joel lose his hit me hard.
You can’t help but think “What if that was me?” Like how do you even bury a baby?
A friend I worked with in banking lost her baby in a similar experience. I remember she told me what it was like to pick out a tiny coffin. It’s the sort of story you never want to hear.
And you definitely don’t want to be the narrator of.
I had so much joy for Joel. I couldn’t wait to see him be a father and pass on all his wisdom — the same wisdom he gave to me with no invoice attached.
Now there’s so much sadness. I can’t stop thinking about it.
When I hold my daughter I think of his. I cherish my own kid even more (if that’s actually possible). I’m more thankful for the birth experience I endured, but it wasn’t without fear.
My daughter’s heartbeat dropped suddenly at the hospital and they had to deliver her three hours early. Nurses and doctors ran from everywhere and I felt terrified. When they bring out the child-sized defibrillator you know it’s bad. Thankfully, everything was okay.
But it’s not for Joel.
And that’s what makes me sad. To be robbed of this experience feels like one of the greatest crimes on Earth. Who makes these decisions?
Where to from here?
I mean, do you try again to have another kid?
Do you risk losing another precious life in the process of trying to create life? I don’t know.
A colleague I used to work with had a similar experience. They gave birth to a deformed son. He and his wife decided they were damaged goods and forced themselves never to have another kid.
What’s tragic is their two other kids have made the same decision. They believe their genes are tainted.
I don’t know what Joel and his wife will do. All I know is I can’t stop thinking about them. I want them to continue to feel the support from the people who care about them.
At the same time it feels wrong to try and have any kind of conversation with Joel. People need time to grieve. They need to process it.
I guess I do hope they try again. But what the hell do I know?
So if you’re reading this, go hug your kids, family, or your dog. Don’t take them for granted. One minute they could be there, the next minute they can be gone forever without a goodbye.
Sending you love Joel.
RIP Harper. You’ll forever be in our hearts.