What’s broken can always be fixed, what’s fixed will always be broken.

Being a new Dad once again has given me a good opportunity to reflect on how I thought it would be with Owen, but having 2 kids is a different challenge. I’m still human, I get frustrated, at times I forget the bigger picture and occasionally guiltily I wish I had a few moments to myself. I would probably not have anticipated that, hoping instead that our experiences would have prepared me for a totally selfless fatherhood.

Being carried on Daddy's chest
Being carried on Daddy’s chest

The free flowing tears come less frequently now, for both myself and my wife, that certainly doesn’t negate the continued depth of the sadness, it’s just a reaction that’s slowly dissipated. We frequently smile and laugh, it’s not the same as our wedding day but that’s okay, we’re parents, our smiles were always going to be different, tinged with new knowledge and experiences. There’s less shame in being seen this way, it doesn’t mean we’ve forgotten or “moved on”, it means we’re living, as a family.

We worked hard during this pregnancy to normalize any trauma associated with Owen’s birth, this was predominantly based around the hospital he was born at. Bravely, we made the decision to deliver at the same place for his brother. With our amazingly supportive team, we progressively visited different places that held tough memories and painfully negotiated what had happened there, what stuck with us and what still hurt. It was important to us that we ensured that our history didn’t overshadow Elliott’s birth, he is entitled to his own story and we crafted that by allowing him to make his own space within our family during the pregnancy. He had his own personality during the past 9 months and while he sports some of the dashing good looks defined by his brother, he’s his own self in every way.

Some friendships have gone, new ones have flourished, those that are lost aren’t mourned, we still feel like “that family” in the eyes of many, likely a result of feeling the need to tenderly defend our position on how we parent Owen. We know that going forward this will be a continual struggle for us, especially as we begin to embrace having a physical child to parent, while ensuring our family is understood in its unusual make-up. We negotiate “Is he your first?”s with a varying tactics provided by hours of counselling, never dishonouring Owen but sometimes protecting our hearts.

We honour Owen in everything we do, rarely does a moment go by when he isn’t remembered, thought about and loved. However, sometimes in the distractions of having a newborn physically present, he isn’t front of mind, and the guilt takes hold, grappling with the bittersweet moment of soothing those beautiful cries or seeing a flitting glance of progression towards a developmental milestone. The onset of tears regularly burn the backs of our eyes as we see Elliott grow and react, usually swiftly taken away by a special moment and the reassurance of knowing that there’s a beautiful brotherly bond being built there.

There’s an additional 8lb 3oz (going on 10lb) weight on my shoulders, and in my arms, these days and it’s a truly beautiful one, constantly reminding me; that life is amazing, time together precious and that there’ll always be a deeply adored older brother in this unique family.

(Article title from Jens Lekman — Your Arms Around Me)


being carried on daddy’s shoulders

I fully anticipated the balance of adding the role of Dad to my repertoire to be a lot of work; a shuffle of work commitments, less time spent reading tech blogs, maybe even leaving an email without a response for a whole day.

Reality isn’t far from those expectations, but instead of those somewhat mundane realities being replaced by the intense joy and laughter of becoming a new father, they were replaced with alien roles, jobs, and work I had never even imagined.

As a husband, I support my perpetually tearful wife. Drawing the last ounce of energy I have from the day to come home to such intense sadness, countlessly repeating the only words I have in me to try and offer support and comfort, while hoping to convince myself that one day we’ll laugh, smile and love again together without guilt as we did on our wedding day.

As a human, I grieve the loss of having had a piece of my heart and soul ripped away from me and torn up in front of my eyes. I work through the trauma of being alone in the NICU watching half a dozen people trying their hardest to save my child’s life.

As a father, memorializing the life of my son, ensuring that his short time here wasn’t for nothing, that it gives me a new constructive perspective on life and in return I use the life, that I would so desperately trade, to make sure he gets to experience the beauty and wonder of the world through my actions and feelings.

As a friend, socializing and finding the effort to put into those relationships worth holding onto so that the people on the other side don’t feel like abandoning us as a lost cause, despite the fact that we’re intensely grateful for those that have stuck out being around our misery when even I don’t like being around us.

As an employer, convincing myself to give direction and opinion to colleagues because while I find no joy in my job now, one day I hope to find that drive and ambition again and don’t want to find disappointment when I get there.

Instead of where there should be a quickly sprouting little Daddy clone, this is the load I carry. It’s much heavier than you would think. I had bad posture before, but this burden forces my shoulders to round more and sinks my head deeper. There’s nobody there to help carry it or offer a hand, indeed, as time goes on and people’s expectations of my capabilities increase, so does the weight.

Sometimes I collapse. It feels good to let it all go, but soon enough I remember I have responsibilities in these roles and they taunt me into picking it all back up.

A grieving father’s strength is not carrying or accepting this load, it’s resigning to it as part of your new life, taking the shaky first step with it, then another and another. It’s bending down when every part of your being aches and re-stacking the pieces that you drop when your heart shatters once more and causes you to trip and fall.

There’s a 7lb 9.34oz weight that I’d love to have straddling my neck, pulling hair, using my chin as a rein and laughing giddily as we bounce along, that’s the sort of weight that makes you stand up straight and hold your head up high.