The Meaning of Children: Father of Three

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In May FDW is hosting a new series on  stories from people in all walks of life and their observations of children and what they make us. Click here for more on the series and a list of the contributors. This post was written by friend and colleague Adam Walker Cleaveland.

Sometimes when I introduce myself, or if someone asks me how many children I have, I like to say, “I’m the father of three, one living.”

Except for when I don’t. Except for when I don’t really want to get into it all.

“Is Caleb your only child?”

“Yes…” I say, as I remember holding Micah and Judah in my arms as their tiny lungs struggled to take in air. On October 25, 2010, my wife gave birth to Micah and Judah just shy of 20 weeks into our pregnancy. Micah was 10 ounces and Judah was 8 ounces.

That was the day I became a father, however it was not in the way I ever imagined.

***

People say kids change you.

As the father of a current 3.5 year old, I certainly agree with that. They can make you feel love and joy and warm fuzzies in ways that are beautiful. They can also make you lose your cool and be filled with frustration, anger and lots of thoughts you wouldn’t want other people to know you were thinking.

Caleb has helped me learn to love and appreciate children’s picture books. He’s helped me be silly and danced with me in elevators. He’s reminded me that I need to stop working and doing stuff that really doesn’t matter and take time to play more often. He’s taught me that there are many things in my life for which I need to be grateful.

I can’t wait to see what Caleb continues to teach me.

But even though Micah and Judah only lived about an hour after they were born, they taught me things too. They taught me that I was, in fact, ready to be a father, even though I was quite nervous about the prospect of being a dad.

They taught me that love can happen in an instant, and that even in moments of deep sadness and despair, love and beauty and God can be present.

I always hate it when people say “But God will use this horrible situation for good” – it often feels like a meaningless platitude, but Micah and Judah taught me that in many cases, it is still true.

It still really messes with my mind sometimes, when I stop to think about the reality that if Micah and Judah had been born when they were supposed to be, we never would have had Caleb. And I know that I would have loved Micah and Judah, but I can’t imagine a life without Caleb.

 ***

When you lose children, especially through infant loss (whether that’s stillbirth or a miscarriage or something else), you unfortunately join a club that no one wants to be in, that many people don’t talk about, and that includes way more people than you would imagine. It’s like you’re immediately thrust into this community of grievers, and you’ve joined them on this journey they never wanted to be on.

In the months that followed our loss in 2010, there were many women at the church I was working, in their 70s and 80s, who came up to me and told me about the miscarriages they had when they were younger. They shared their stories with me, and every one of them added something like, “I’ve never really talked about it before – we certainly didn’t talk about it back then.”

Through my blog DazedDad.com, the place I publicly worked through a lot of my grieving process, I have been in touch with many couples, and many men, who have lost children. For the men especially, many are thankful for a place where they can come and read about another man’s journey through grief, because there is a significant lack of resources for men going through infant loss.

Our lives were changed on December 30, 2011 when Caleb was born (thanks for the tax break, kid!). But our lives were also changed the year before, as we held our twin boys. Micah and Judah were simply born too early. But their short lives have impacted so many people that I can’t help but be a witness to the blessings amidst the loss.


Adam and CalebAdam Walker Cleaveland is a husband, father, pastor and artist. He loves thinking about the future of the church, playing with his son and drawing and sketchnoting. Adam blogs at Pomomusings.com, where he writes about ministry, theology, art and social media. You can find Adam online at adamwc.com, on Facebook at facebook.com/adamwc or on Twitter at @adamwc.

 

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