I remember the rainy winter night vividly. Our unborn baby was dead.
Three days prior to Christmas 2009, my wife and I lost our baby. I put on a brave face for my wife by saying everything will be OK, and I told my inner circle that we'll dust ourselves off and try again — but privately I was a mess.
I know that about 15-20% of confirmed pregnancies end in miscarriage, but that didn't ease our immense pain.
Oftentimes the stories of miscarriages are shared through the perspectives of the women who experience them, and rightfully so. I didn't have to endure the physical pain and emotional pain that my wife and countless other women deal with.
But as a man, I want to share my version of the events to help others who are going through the same thing. The emotional pain and feelings of loss and helplessness following a miscarriage aren't something men talk about that often, but it was incredibly difficult for me. Simply put, I experienced a roller coaster of emotions during that time.
I didn't eat, I lost a lot of weight, and I spent a lot of my private moments in tears. I knew I had to move forward, but I didn't know how. Looking back on it, I know the main reason I was so sad for such a long period of time was due to not knowing if I should grieve — at least publicly.
I felt as if my role was to be the strong one. "This happened to my wife's body, not mine," I thought. "This can't be about me and my feelings." Society seemed to agree. Nobody asked how I was feeling. It was as if I was a bystander instead of an active participant in creating the child we lost. As the weeks passed, I fell deeper into despair.
If a loved one outside the womb died, I'd be given the green light to grieve. So why is it so strange for a man to grieve for a loved one who died inside the womb?
I couldn't keep up the charade for very long, and eventually the floodgates opened (which made me feel a lot better).
2. Anger and disgust.
I would hear stories of dads who have little to no interest in raising their children — and I would become enraged. How could someone father a child and not want to be involved in their life? Sure, many dads today are great — but I couldn't get the bad ones out of my mind.
It was almost as if the only way to rid myself of the rage would be to create a reality show called "Deadbeat Island." All the crappy dads of the world would be banished there to complete tasks like remembering their kids' birthdays or changing blowout diapers until they committed to being active fathers. But alas, that type of programming would never see the light of day.
Some days were worse than others, but my main coping mechanism was to remember that it wasn't about the other guys. I would be the best dad I could be if I had the chance. That's what kept me going.
When we became pregnant again, I experienced a level of fear that I haven't experienced in my lifetime. Every milestone was met with a brief sigh of relief followed by more intense panic.
"Whew! We passed the six-week mark ... but we still have to make it through the first trimester."
Every day there was something new to be afraid of — but mostly it stemmed from my fear of experiencing that devastation once again. It was like walking on an emotional tightrope for 40 straight weeks. My wife felt the same way.
After what seemed like the longest wait ever, I finally became a dad in January 2011.
I cried joyful tears, I laughed, I sang, I danced, and I completely lost my mind in excitement during that first day. The love affair only grew from there.
Sure, it's never easy waking up in the middle of the night to change diapers or soothe a fussy baby, but that's what I signed up for. I wanted the chance and I received it, and that made me very happy.
Being the best dad I can be for my daughter and her baby sister inspires me to be a better man.
I wasn't the greatest guy before a became a dad, and that miscarriage was the wake-up call I sorely needed to improve.
Today I talk less and listen more. I give more hugs than handshakes. I'm less, "I've got it all together," and more, "We're all in this together."
Sure, I'm still a work in progress (aren't we all?), but I figure if I'm aspiring to be the best dad I can be for my daughters, why can't I aspire to be the best human being I can be for everyone who cares about me?
I don't have all of the answers, but I can state that my overwhelming passion to be a good dad stems from the fear that I'd never have the chance to become one.
I'm not naive. I know there are thousands of people all over the world who cannot have children. But once the chance to be a father was taken away during that December night, I didn't think about that. I think about it now, and my heart goes out to the families who encounter those challenges.
No matter your gender, please know that you're not alone. Riding the emotional rollercoaster of miscarriages can be easier if you know that others are going along for the ride with you.