It all started in April of 2006. I was married in South Sioux City to my wonderful wife Katie. I would have to say it was probably the greatest moment of my life, next to what happened in August.
In August we were headed down to Missouri for a vacation with my side of the family. I got home from work and she tells me I am going to be a father. The greatest words you will ever hear as a man – "You're going to be a father." I was so excited that I couldn't keep my mouth shut. You see, it was my grandparents' 50th wedding anniversary and they were paying for the trip. I didn't really want to steal all of their thunder, so I tried to keep it in. But by the last day I couldn't do it any longer. I finally sat down the whole family, all 25 of us, and told them the wonderful news.
Many of you know what happens next. You see the doctors, you get appointments set up for the first few months. Oh, and let's not forget the money you have to pay. All the time looking ahead to where you will be in the hospital and holding your new member of the family and the wonderful life ahead. This is were the dream ends and reality begins.
My father always told me life isn't always going to be fair and I never really listened until now. In October Katie and I scheduled our first ultrasound. With my mind racing of what I would get to see, we both thought nothing would be wrong. When she returned home that day and I headed off to work, she got a call from our doctor saying that he would like to see us the next day. Now I thought nothing of it, but Katie told me she felt something was wrong, and she was right on the money. This is the day I found out about Potter's Syndrome, a very rare genetic mutation that forms during the baby's first days.
Potter's Syndrome is a fatal condition for which there is no treatment. It is a condition that when the fetus is being formed there are no kidneys – therefore the lungs do not form the way they need to so the baby can live a healthy life. There is nothing we could have done because it is random in happening. There are different statistics out there, but its something like one in 6,000 babies are affected by this condition. The good news is that no one is a carrier, so this most likely will not happen again.
Katie was crushed, as was I. All I could think is that this just isn't fair. That is when my father's words came to me from my childhood, "Life isn't always fair, Cory." So we looked at our options and there wasn't much we could do. The doctors told us that many women carry the baby until about 30 weeks, then deliver. They told us that if it survives the birth, it will live for a short time. Taking this all in was really hard for us and it happened so fast.
One moment I was planning out college and the next I am planning the next two months and how to spend what little time I have with my child. Katie and I have been out a couple of times picking out two sets of clothes, one for the hospital and the other for the inevitable. I'm not going to lie to you the days are rough. Some better than the day before and some worse. I wake up every morning and look at Katie and try to imagine the pain she must be going through with this. I pray that I could do something more than just comfort and support. With a 30-minute drive to work, I have my time to think things out and sometimes it is hard to imagine the road ahead and how it will work out in the end.
I am not a real emotional person. I try to keep my feelings in and be strong for the both of us, but sometimes even the biggest men crumble. Katie and I have talked about every aspect of the situation. The great thing is that coincidentally, her sister has a close friend that is going through this exact situation right now, so they talk whenever they are down, I think this is wonderful that she has somebody to connect with.
Now with everything planned out and the birth a week and a half away I sit here and think, "I'm about to have the happiest moment and the saddest moments of my life in one day." Who would have dreamed I would have to lay my child to rest before I would pass on. I think that is the hardest thing for me to get a grip of.
I know the families will be there and I know a lot of my friends are coming in from out of town to be supportive, but after it's all over and we are back at home, what do you do? We get this feeling now that we are all alone, but how will it feel when we are alone? After the grieving is over, life has to go on, how will I want to capture the moments I have with my child? There are so many things that I would love to do and so many pictures that I want to take, I just don't know where to begin. I want to be able to laugh more than cry, and that will be tough to do, and I want everybody to see the one thing in my life that makes me the happiest man on earth.
I guess what it all comes down to is what you make of the situation. I am still going to be a father and this child will still be my firstborn, and cherished for my whole life never to be forgotten. Katie and I will both have our memories. Hers may be different, of course, but one thing is for certain – if we can make it through this together, I believe we can do anything together.
Sometimes I think that I am getting old too fast and yet others say I am being tested by somebody with greater understanding. Whatever it may be, I know that this was one thing in my life I could say that I really didn't expect to happen to me.