Some of our very best friends lost a baby.
Completely normal pregnancy, much like their first. She was admitted to the hospital in active labor. She pushed and pushed. When the baby was born, he was not breathing. The doctors couldn’t do anything. He was stillborn.
She cried out. “I didn’t do anything wrong! I did everything I was supposed to do! I didn’t do anything wrong!”
And she meant that. Nothing was different with the pregnancy. Nothing was different with the labor. Nothing was wrong with the delivery. But the baby didn’t make it. The doctor agreed with her. These things happen. It wasn’t her fault, even though she put the blame on herself, or God, or some indefinable moment when life that was to be suddenly was not.
I wasn’t there for any of that. I heard all about it later. But I got the email from her family saying, “She’s gone to the hospital! Sam will be here any time!”
And then I got the email saying, “I don’t know how to say this. There is no Sam. It didn’t happen. There is no baby.”
I went completely numb. I read those words and went back to work. I actually did work. My mind would not let me process what I just read. I worked for about an hour, my head buzzing like some kind of horrible theme park ride mixed with too much caffeine and energy drinks and staying up too late and then realizing it’s time to get up and you never studied for that test and the class is in five minutes.
An hour or so went by. I called my wife, who was the college roommate of the mom who just lost her son. I told her exactly what was told to me. There is no Sam. My wife screamed and cried and went outside on the porch with the phone in her hand and threw herself down in a heap and wept.
After work, I went to the bar and ordered a Sam Adams Octoberfest. The dad, one of my best friends, is a big Sam Adams guy. He and I tipped a pint or two many a time. I wondered if he named his son who would never take a sip of beer in his life after Samuel Adams. I smiled and drank my Octoberfest. Every year since, I’ve raised a pint to little Sam.
The couple now has another baby, another girl. She was born last Spring. We took Fin down to see the family on his very first long-term trip away from home. But we were determined to make sure Fin saw the new baby. Not just because we wanted to offer our support. It was a rite of passage, in a way, to bring our child who almost died to welcome the baby who came to a family after a son who did die. We had to make the nine-hour round trip. Because it wasn’t two weeks after Sam died that we found out we were pregnant with Fin. I don’t know about reincarnation or anything like that, but I do know that when we were in the hospital, there were two families that supported us like nobody else. And the thing the moms had in common was that they both lost babies. Sons.
The big difference is that when we started getting attention for our sick baby, one of those families let the jealousy and rage and sadness consume them, and completely stopped being our friends. The other, Sam’s parents, looked at Fin as their surrogate son. They have two healthy daughters, just like us. Their son didn’t make it, and we didn’t think ours would. In a way, I feel like Fin’s second chance is a tribute to Sam.