Amie Lee writes about about her own terminally ill baby and a sensitive, heroic man – her husband Lamont.
Why were people surprised to learn that baby Avery’s Bucket List was written by her dad? I read of this reaction in a Good Feed Blog entry written by my friend Joanna Schroeder, The ‘Bucket List’ Baby and What Makes a Good Man, and my instant reaction was sadness. Sadness that Avery passed, and sadness that commenters on his blog tried to take something away from her father by expressing surprise that the blog was written by him and not her mother. Sadness that gender debate even surfaced in the midst of this tragedy. Sadness that anyone would ever vocalize surprise that her father wrote her heartfelt blog entries.
Let me tell you about a world where gender roles do not matter. The place is the NICU. The Neonatal Intensive Care Unit. I can tell you that the NICU has a way of equalizing all parents. It does not matter what race you are, what religion, what gender, what sexual orientation, none of it matters. Even the big, burly, hunting and fishing “man’s man” sits in the same vulnerable position as the most feminine of tiny mothers, whispering quietly to his little baby, and trying to will them to live. We all just looked at each other thinking “I know what the hell you are going through, and no one else does.”
I’m married to a guy who used to sing Elton John’s “Your Song”, and read the classic version of Peter Pan to our dying daughter. He made a great Tink. Gender is not a debate to be had in the NICU. There are only parents. Trying to cope with the hand they have been dealt.
I saw many reactions in the NICU. I saw women that avoided their sick baby at all costs, too afraid to deal with the pain and emotion of the unknown. I saw men sit for hours and even days by their child’s bedside, crying and entreating a higher power. I saw women, only hours after giving birth via c-section, sit next to their baby’s bedside completely ignoring their own pain. I saw men collapse on the nursery floor in desperation when they were told their baby would not live through the night. No one is shocked to see a dad cry, sing, or buy a pink dress. No one is bewildered to see a mom refuse to hold her tiny baby.
I saw people from all walks of life, and never once witnessed anyone express surprise at a man showing deep emotion, or a woman showing none. When our daughter Mya died, five neonatologists, all men, came into her nursery, held her, stroked her cheek, and broke down tearfully. We all just knew we were human, and were doing the best we could. There was no protocol, no specific roles to fill in the midst of tragedy, and so no one expected it.
It was the new normal.
Author’s note: The lead photo is one I took of Lamont, holding Mya about 2 months before she died. He was going on probably less than 3 hours of sleep over 2 or 3 days here, which actually was pretty common because he worked and then spent every waking hour in the NICU.
The photo below is Lamont and Stella (Mya’s twin sister) at our home, just after Mya died.
All images are property of Amie Lee Photography.