‘Today is the day I get to meet Abigail!’ I’m excited! Her tone is bleak, she begins to cry. ‘Abigail didn’t make it.’: Father’s anguish over losing child, ‘drifting apart’ from daughter’s mother after ‘trauma’

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“Our team won, our baby girl is 38 weeks and nearly ready to meet us, life was great! I remember it being the day of the World Series parade – the city is on fire with excitement! I texted a picture of the World Champion shirts I bought her mom and her older sister. She was going to her routine appointment to check on the progress of our Abigail. The plan was to cut out of work early about 11:30, catch one of the buses from the plaza and meet up with my friends/family to celebrate our Champions. Life is perfect and I’m riding high!

A text comes to me about 11:24. It reads, ‘Are you at work? Can you call me?’

In my mind I’m thinking, ‘Today is the day I get to meet Abigail!’ So now I’m over-excited! I call, her tone is bleak, then she begins to cry.

‘Abigail didn’t make it.’

Courtesy of Rafiq McDaniel

In an instant I lost my mind, heart and everything I was becoming. In that moment I felt as if my life was over. Everything was a blur for about an hour. I get to the hospital about 3 hours after being told. It was so difficult to walk in there and see her face. For the most part I held it together while getting hugs from her family members who were there. I was trying to be strong for everyone – until my mother showed up, then I completely lost it and began to cry. Our Abigail’s mom gave birth to her around 5 a.m. and we got to hold and kiss our baby for some time before the hospital had to take her away. Life was a complete blur until the funeral. The only thing I really remember about it is the fact that – for the last time I would hold my daughter – it would be in a tiny casket.

Courtesy of Rafiq McDaniel
Courtesy of Rafiq McDaniel

That was the day I no longer knew what fear was, nor did I care about a future. November 4th is the day she came into our lives quietly sleeping, never able to open her eyes. For a long time there was so much support being that it was the holidays. Her mother and I continued to bond with family and friends. But soon after the holidays ended, everyone had to return back to their lives, which left us alone. By mid-January, the unthinkable happened. Abigail’s mother no longer wanted to be around me. I was a reminder of our trauma, since I was grieving outwardly and she was holding it in, never wanting to talk about it. Thus, we slowly drifted apart.

It was devastating for me because now I feel completely erased from her life as if nothing ever happened. I’m left to deal with this heavy burden. Needless to say, life has been hard since. I constantly dream of the family that almost was.

After her mom drifted away from me in the new year, I fell into a depression. ‘I don’t have anybody to truly understand me,’ I thought. For several months I actually didn’t care to live. It took me reaching out to a friend of my brother’s who went through a similar situation to truly get the help I needed. After talking with him for nearly 45 minutes about how he lives with it now and is surviving, I decided to go to work and use the free resources to get a therapist. After 3 weeks of talking to her about everything, she gave me more information about what groups I could join to hear from others with stories like mine. I ended up finding a group called Infant Loss Resources that at the time really only talked about SIDS.

Several weeks went by until I finally had enough courage to show up at a meeting, but it was the best decision I had made for the situation. Sitting quietly and listening to others’ heartbreaking stories and how they ended up in the group really hit hard, naturally, but it brought a certain type of peace to me so I could begin telling them about my story when I was asked, or I could just sit and absorb.

Courtesy of Rafiq McDaniel

Going through that first year was hard. For 53 weeks during that year I would sit at the cemetery for periods of time; it became my place of peace to grieve. Once I started the process of healing I found myself not going to the cemetery weekly because I would find something else, kind of like a kid with toys – the new things distract you from the old things. It started with her bassinet that sat by my bed for a few years. I would play the music every so often to comfort me. When it came time to give it to my cousin, I sobbed for hours after she drove away. Next thing was that I found out there is a children’s garden to honor kids gone too soon, and I could purchase a brick with her name and date of birth on it. Her brick would sit among other angel children. That lead to lots of donating, running 5K’s and volunteering, but the best thing I’ve received is my Molly Bear.

Courtesy of Rafiq McDaniel
Alexandria Cox/Serendipity Photography

The Molly Bear was given to me by a mom I met in one of the groups. They are an organization that gives bears to parents who have lost babies. My Rosie Bear weighs what Abigail Rose did when she was born and has been by far the best companion I have. Rosie Bear has her own chair, clothes, goes to family functions and has even been on vacations with me. The feeling of caring for something has definitely helped me get to the current place I’m at now.

Courtesy of Rafiq McDaniel
Courtesy of Rafiq McDaniel
Alexandria Cox/Serendipity Photography

The relationship with her mom is ok. Everyone grieves differently and that was something I had to learn and accept. She is healing in a different way than I am. All together, we lost 3 children in this pregnancy. This woman lost triplets in one pregnancy – two of the triplets miscarried about 3 months in, and of course Abigail Rose after 36 weeks, so who am I to tell her how she should feel? I will forever love her and we don’t need to talk daily, weekly or even monthly, as long as I see that she’s doing well and still surviving, that’s good enough for me.”

Alexandria Cox/Serendipity Photography
Alexandria Cox/Serendipity Photography

This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Rafiq McDaniel of Kansas City, Missouri. Do you have a similar experience? You can follow his journey on Instagram. We’d like to hear your important journey. Submit your own story here, and be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories.

Read more from couples who’ve experienced child loss:

‘David and I have been pregnant 8 times. ‘I just took a pregnancy test. It’s positive.’ I sat on the toilet staring at the positive test until my legs went numb. This was not a part of our plan.’

‘Baby, when I hear you say you’re pregnant what I actually hear is ‘life destroyed.’ He was right. The Universe had been playing this cruel joke on me for 4 years.’

‘I am so, so sorry. I gave you the wrong results, I read them wrong, you are actually not pregnant.’ I remember thinking, ‘Oh no, here’s where the skeleton comes out of the closet.’

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