What happened the week after my daughter died

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First, thanks to everyone who left a comment here, or sent me an email. It helped to know there were people out there who understood what was going on, and how I was feeling.

Because, honestly, there really wasn’t much of that going on offline.

My girlfriend and I lost our daughter due to complications with her delivery on Friday, April 6. My girlfriend’s water had broken a week earlier, and we were just hoping to get the baby to 24-weeks so her lungs would have a chance to develop. Unfortunately there was an infection, and the doctors were forced to induce just a day before the 23-week point.

That morning, in fact an hour before delivery, the baby’s heart rate was normal and she was still kicking. But she was just too small, and she died during delivery.

We were, and still are, devastated. We had named her Evangeline Rose.

I arrived at the hospital just after the delivery. The first person I told was my step-father, who had given me a ride to the hospital. He shook my hand as tears welled up in his eyes. When he was ready to leave he grabbed my shoulder and told me he was deeply sorry for my loss.

That was the only natural, and proper, reaction from either my or my girlfriends family. For the rest of the week it was insults, disrespect, silence and making sure we knew the entire process was an inconvenience to the people around us.

Because my girlfriend was in shock for most of the weekend after Evangeline died, I made most of the phone calls. I called her parents, to let them know we were home. Her mother answered and pretended to not know what was going on, I asked her to have her husband give me a call when he had a chance, she said “whatever” and hung up.

The next day we arrived at my girlfriends parents’ home to pick up her son, who had been staying with them for a few days. My girlfriend wanted to stay in the car, so I got out and rang the bell. A few minutes later her mother opened the door and said “what?”.

I told her I was there to pick up the kid. She said “oh.”, then closed the door. A few more minutes later and she opened the door again, pushed her grandson out, her husband walked through the door, dropped the kids bags at my feet, turned around and walked back in.

Then she closed the door again.

I walked the boy to the car. My girlfriend, who watched the whole thing, said “lets just go”. I said “fuck that” and walked back to the door and knocked.

She opened the door again, and I told her there would be a graveside service on Friday afternoon, if she and her husband wanted to be there.

That’s when she mumbled, as she was closing the door: “I don’t know anything about it, I wasn’t told, nobody told me.”.

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Aha. My girlfriend’s mother was pissed off at her daughter because we hadn’t told her directly about the pregnancy. We decided, as we did with our first child, not to tell anyone until we knew the pregnancy was going to be safe. So, about the third month.

When the time came we told my parents and my girlfriend’s father, as well as my grandfather and a few friends. We couldn’t tell the mother directly because she had fucked off to Manitoba after Christmas to be with her oldest daughter. Plus, she’s a miserable bitch who made my girlfriends life a living hell for thirty-three years.

But she, and her oldest daughter — re: clone — knew because the father told them.

And that’s not even the point, her granddaughter died during her delivery, and the only thing the old fuck could think of was “I can score some points about Diane” using my dead child’s body.

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Later that same night I called my girlfriend’s oldest sister. Her husband answered and seemed genuinely upset. And then the sister got on the phone.

I told her Diane had lost Evangeline during the delivery. “Oh,” her sister said, “she was pregnant? I didn’t know. No one told me.” Which, of course, was absolute bullshit.

I asked if she were sure this was how she wanted to play this. I said “I wanted to make sure you knew, because I didn’t know if your mother would tell you because she’s acting a little odd.”

She replied “you’d think a sister would call a sister about this. Did you just call my mother odd?”

“Her behaviour,” I said, “was a little odd today.”

And then she threatened me. “If you ever call my mother odd again I know where you live, and I will drive down there.”

And then she hung up.

And that was the last contact we had with her parents — Diane’s older brother, and an aunt, were very supportive over the phone — until the day we buried Evangeline.

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Her father showed up at the service. He brought six of his buddies from the local Masonic Lodge with him, stood over to one side, never looked at me or his daughter, then left when the priest was done talking. At no point did he approach us, or my mother, or anyone else.

He just stood there like an ass, and left.

This was a guy who, while his sociopath wife was in another province, would bring my girlfriend baby clothes and baby supplies for Evangeline.

But now he blames us for the loss of our baby… actually, mostly he blames me. He told a friend of mine at the funeral that he had rushed up to be with his daughter. That, when he told me what was going on, I decided to wait.

But he was there for, literally, ten minutes before leaving. He burst into the delivery room, my girlfriend told him to leave because she was naked, and he left… the whole fucking hospital. He went home.

But in his version, he’s the hero dad and I’m the slacker boyfriend, even though I haven’t left my girlfriend alone for two frigging weeks.

And now he’s confused as to why we don’t want him around. The typical routine in that family is to have an outrageously insulting argument then, a few months later, when everything has been forgotten, they get together for tea and pie and everything’s great again.

This time, I pointed out to my girlfriend, there has been no argument. There is only our daughter in a grave and them using her to make the point that you and I are lousy human beings.

I don’t know how to come back from something like this. How to be a family after having the death of your child ignored and trivialized.

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But my mother has some ideas. Including that it’s my fault that Diane’s father is now excluded from our lives, because I haven’t laid out a plan for a reconciliation.

That’s what she told me as she was kicking me out of her home a few days ago. I was telling her pretty much what I’ve laid out here, and I was emotional because I haven’t had time to talk any of this out.

So, as I was talking loudly and getting ready to break down in tears at the bizarreness of it all, she walked to the door, opened it, and told me to leave. She did not want “anything of them”, meaning Diane’s parents — and maybe even Diane — “in my home. Please leave.”

My mother, during the week after Evangeline died, never called either Diane or myself, and never came over. I had to go to her. I practically had to push her to bring some food to Diane.

She was at Evangeline’s service, and even stood in front and read a prayer. She looked after Victor when he got a little rambunctious while the priest was talking, and she stayed afterwards for a few minutes.

But, a few days before, she made sure to tell me she’d have to leave because she had a busy afternoon. Just like, the day we came home from the hospital, she made sure to tell me that she had stuff to do, so giving us a ride would be an inconvenience.

Just like, when we thought she’d be looking after Victor for one more day after Evangeline died, she told us they had friends coming for lunch so we’d have to pick him up early in the morning, or find other arrangements.

My mother has never made a serious attempt to like Diane. It’s almost as though she’s afraid to be around her because she thinks Diane will explode like her family does with each other.

My mother greatly dislikes Diane’s family (but so do I, and so does Diane).

And all week, from when Evangeline died, until the service, and then this week, it really felt like my mother was holding back. Like either we had inconvenienced her by forcing her to possibly deal with Diane’s family (or Diane), or that she just didn’t want any part of what was going on.

When my mother found out my girlfriend was pregnant with our first child, she made it clear she was unimpressed. She did the same thing when I told her about Evangeline.

Maybe I’m a romantic but, to me, when someone faces a situation like this a family is supposed to come together. There’s supposed to be food brought to the people grieving, there’s supposed to be tea made, talks talked, hugs, support.

I never expected Diane’s family to be there for either of us. They’re still convinced I’m Satan because I haven’t married Diane yet. But the manner in which my own family responded to the death of my daughter — my youngest brother and his fiancée couldn’t even be bothered to take an hour off work to be at the funeral, neither could my step-father — has stunned me.

I’ve felt lost since Evangeline died. I feel like there’s a lot of unnecessary bullshit raining down on both my girlfriend and myself. And it’s taking away from the grieving I’m supposed to be doing for my daughter.

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While I was planning the service, someone approached the funeral director and paid for the entire thing. The director, who was fantastic during the whole process, won’t reveal who it was.

It was very generous of whoever it was… but, social services had already agreed to pay for the everything. Because I’m disabled, and my income comes from the Ontario Disability Support Program, and because my girlfriend was on maternity leave, we were eligible for (I think) up to $5,000 to pay for the plot, the digging, the flowers and everything else.

But when social services called the director, and he told them there was an anonymous benefactor, they said “great, good luck” and that was that.

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The last step is to buy a headstone. We’ve planted flowers on Evangeline’s grave, and we plan on planting more soon.

I just feel as though there are a lot of people who owe her an apology.

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...thanks.

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About Gabriel...

...diagnosed with manic depression in 1989, for the next 14-years I lived without treatment or a recovery plan. I've been homeless, one time I graduated college, I've won awards for reporting on Internet privacy issues, and a weekly humour column. In 2002 I finally hit bottom and found help. I have an 8-year old son, and a 4-year old son... I’m usually about six feet tall, and I'm pretty sure I screwed up my book deal. I mostly blog at saltedlithium.com....
This entry was posted in Bipolar Disease, Bipolar Disorder, Clinical Depression, crazy people with no pants, CSG, Health, Living With Depression, Living With Manic Depression, Manic Depression, Mental Health, Pregnancy and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

12 Responses to What happened the week after my daughter died

  1. Melanie says:

    It is already so hard to grieve. Family and friends should be there to support us. Sometimes they just don’t know how. I understand a little how you feel. Not to take from your grief, but mom is at the last stages of her cancer at the Cornwall hospital and there is only myself, Lorelei and dad. We don’t have any support from other family as they are in Europe. It is very hard. I feel your pain, or at least something similar. I always keep you in my thoughts. Take care of yourselves.

  2. Finola says:

    Oh Gabriel, I am so very sorry for all of this. You, Diane, and sweet little Evangeline deserved so much better. What a sad sad story.

  3. Jada says:

    Assholes. Fucking assholes. I’m so bloody enraged for you, but sadly, not surprised. You have my email if I can do anything, even just an ear.

    Friends of mine started this site: http://www.glowinthewoods.com/ You, or Diane, might find it some solace at some point.

    Love Gabe. Love for you all.

  4. My heart goes out to you.

  5. Rhiannon says:

    Your two families are real pieces of work. They should feel grateful if you let them back into your lives at all as far as I’m concerned.

  6. markps2 says:

    I believe you know of the supposed five stages to grief. Denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance.

    When you told people of the death, and they got angry, maybe they had to get angry at someone due to human psychology. The messenger of (bad) news historically gets killed.

    I hope the (bad) reactions can be forgiven and forgot. We are all just trying to make it through the day the best we can. We are all on the same (metaphorical) boat.

  7. the howler and me says:

    My heart goes out to you, girlfriend and your kids. Not everyone in the world are a bunch of assholes. Remember, we cannot pick our biological familes – BUT we can choose how we react to their bullshit.

    Hang in there.

  8. Heather j says:

    Gabe.. I’m appalled at their behavior. No one should act like this to you in your time of grief. This is just awful. Your family is in my family’s prayers, daily. I’m so, so sorry.

  9. Gabriel... says:

    Thank you for all of your comments, and support.

    We decided on Friday we were going to write her father a letter, explaining how a reconciliation could take place — basically he had to apologize for all of the stupid, stupid decisions he has made over the past few weeks (re: years). It would be some kind of ‘road map to reconciliation’, or something.

    We were both more comfortable doing it this way instead of in person because, in person there would have been a fight. Verbal or physical. My girlfriend also decided that any reconciliation with her mother and older sister was out of the question. So, a letter.

    Tonight (Sunday), just after dinner, my girlfriend’s father called her at home and started yelling at her, demanding to know what was going on, and what he had done that was so bad.

    I am very proud of my girlfriend. She stood her ground, she laid it all at his feet, told him how he could make things better (apologize to both of us) and how he could fix things so he could have her and her two boys as a part of his life again.

    She told him it was his decision to leave the hospital ten minutes after arriving. It was his decision to ignore us during our daughters funeral, to ignore us during the week after her death. He told her it was my fault Evangeline didn’t make it, then, when my girlfriend said bullshit all over that, he blamed my mother for not stopping us from getting pregnant. My girlfriend, again, called bullshit. Then he blamed Evangeline’s death on the long stairway to my apartment. Again my girlfriend told her father he was full of shit.

    In the end he had nothing except irrational bullshit, irrational hatred and delusions, and my girlfriend saw that.

    I have no idea if what she said will register with him. At the beginning of the phone call he told her to come and empty her stuff from his shed. But that would just be him trying to use whatever little bit of power he had left.

    But we’ll be heading down there early this week to get everything — our son’s bed, a dresser and a bunch of clothes and toys.

    I’m still considering writing the letter.

    I’m very proud of my girlfriend.

  10. oh, i’m so sorry. so so sorry. sending hugs, and wishing you peace. Evangeline is a gorgeous name.

  11. Anonymous says:

    I am reading this part now as I am also greiving our daughter lost last September. I want to help with the headstone. Our girl was Eva. I am so so sorry you had to deal with this all at once. Our 2 families did this type of thing to us when we were pregnant with our son, we also were not married and they were judgemental. I was shocked to see such a side to my family AND his. By the time our son was born, they wanted to see him and we had gotten married, while some of them were jerks at the wedding, most acted like they hadn’t done anything to us at all and it was all brushed under the rug. But they were all supportive when Eva died, which was 7 years later. I have experienced both of these types of things, but to experience it at once would be so hard to bear. SO hard, and you have every ounce of compassion that I have. I want to send money for the headstone. My daughter’s grave is a place to go and find solace, not that I have time to go there often enough and it ‘s quite a drive through traffic, but I do treasure it and you deserve to have that for your daughter too. I am having a hard time, thinking life isn’t fair, but that is just it, it isn’t. There is always so much to pay for when you lose a child, and no one expects to lose their child. It is just so difficult.

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