So last night’s episode of This Is Us was pretty heart-wrenching. Having been through a couple of early losses, then The Big One (see posts here and here), it stung.  Lots of dust in the room last night.  A little over 19 months ago, our sons were born.  It’s really strange, in that typing that phrase simultaneously brings both overwhelming joy and crushing sadness.  JJ is walking, starting to talk, feeding himself with a utensil … and his brother is gone.  I don’t mean the title of this post as some sort of way to signify that I’m shutting it out of my mind.  More that I am finally ready and able to publish this, and finally pull the band-aid off and look at the scar, as it were.

Gabriel Adam Markham
2 April 2016

We did genetic testing, which gave us the following information: “Testing revealed a normal male karotype, with no genetic abnormalities noted.” Translated into layman’s terms, this means that we had a boy, who through no genetic abnormality nor cause attributable to anything we did or did not do, ended up with Amniotic Band Syndrome and Limb Body-wall complex.  Because we had waited on listing gender on his birth certificate, we had to drive down to Richmond, VA to provide the paperwork to the state Department of Health’s Office of Vital Records in order to get the birth (and death) certificates revised.  I must say, of all the government agencies I’ve had to process paperwork through, the OVR was far and away the easiest to deal with.  Think “at the opposite end of the spectrum from the DMV” levels of easy to deal with.  Given the reason we had to go down there, thank God they were so good.

While we were central characters in this story, family went through this with us, and some have sent us things, or done things as a way to honor him.  We have really appreciated those gestures. It’s nice to know we weren’t the only ones anticipating his arrival, and weren’t alone in mourning the loss.  One thing in particular hit me especially hard. While many might find it cheesy or obscure, because of who I am and what I do I found it particularly touching.  Knowing my affinity for astronomy, some of Kelly’s family went to one of the organizations that registers star names, and registered one for Gabriel.  It’s in the constellation Bootes (pronounced Boh-oh-tees), which was (coincidentally?) one of the constellations which are visible during the time of year and time of day the boys were born.   I was, and am, very touched by that.

I can, with no reservation, categorically state that this was the hardest thing I’ve ever done.  And while I ‘get’ what someone who has lost a child in this way feels, the blow was significantly lessened for us since we still had one to bring home.  I wrote the majority of this post around the time JJ turned one, but it’s just been sitting in my WordPress draft folder for months.  I talked to Kelly before posting this, and agreed that while it needed to be said, it was best to wait a couple of days, and make their birthday about JJ.  Then days turned into weeks, and weeks into months.  Loss is a real thing, and you need to talk about it.  Maybe not immediately, but you definitely need to get it out of your head and into the room.

If you know people who have been through this (miscarriage, stillbirth, infant loss), for God’s sake don’t bring it up because of a TV show, or this post.  Be available, let them know you’re available, but let them bring it to you.  You’re not Mandy Moore’s character from the show closing a plot arc that she’d be there with open arms for her daughter when the time came.  Because real life isn’t scripted like that.  But do be there when friends or family need you.

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