by Dr. Hayden Von Coombs
March 29 was supposed to be the best day of my life.
A day when my heart would ignite with unparalleled joy. Becoming a father is like standing at the edge of an uncharted adventure, a thrilling journey into the unknown, where the flame of anticipation burns brightly. It’s a unique blend of anticipation, excitement, and a touch of nervousness that ignited a fire within my heart.
The moment the news was shared, the world seemed to change. Time took on new meaning as it counted down to the day when I would hold my child for the first time. The nursery, once just a room, transformed into a sacred space filled with tiny clothes, soft blankets, and the promise of sleepless nights, like embers waiting to catch fire.
With each passing day, the excitement swelled like a rising tide, threatening to engulf us in its burning intensity. I found myself daydreaming about teaching my child to ride a bike, cheering them on at basketball games, and holding them close after a nightmare, the warmth of their presence like a glowing ember in my heart. The thought of being their guiding light in a world full of wonder was nothing short of exhilarating, a burning passion for the future.
Baby names became a topic of endless debate and laughter, and I imagined the sound of their first cry, the sparkle in their eyes when they looked up at me, recognizing me as their protector and provider, igniting a flame of love and responsibility.
On March 29, I’d be able to see my baby for the first time. Arriving at the women's clinic, my wife and I were filled with excitement and anticipation, our hearts burning with hope. We didn’t sleep well the night before, but instead spent the evening talking about our unborn child and what he or she would be like, stoking the flames of our dreams.
Eagerly waiting in the lounge, we could hardly wait for the nurse to call us back. When the call finally came, it took everything in us to not sprint straight for the ultrasound machine. Trying to maintain a cool demeanor, we smiled and clenched each other’s hand tight as we were ushered to our room, the fire of anticipation burning brightly in our hearts.
The nurse took my wife’s vitals, weighed her in, and said the ultrasound technician would be in shortly. Sitting there in that quiet room, my wife looked at me and inquired, “You think everything is okay, right?”
“Of course everything is okay. We’re going to have a baby!” I replied, though beneath my words, a burning unease started to smolder.
When the ultrasound technician entered the room, I felt a sense of excitement rush over me that I had never before experienced. She fired up the machine, got out her tools, and started her examination, the sparks of hope dancing in our eyes like a burning bonfire.
As we sat in the dimly lit room, the soft glow of the ultrasound machine cast a warm, reassuring light on her face. The anticipation in the air was palpable; our hearts beat in harmony with the rhythmic hum of the equipment, a steady burn of desire for that first glimpse of our child.
As the technician moved the wand across her belly, we held our breath, our eyes fixed on the screen. Looking at the computer monitor provided little clarity to the situation; we couldn’t tell the difference from a fetus and a gallbladder. Instead, our eyes navigated to the technician, hoping to catch a smile that would reveal the moment my baby was on the screen.
I dreamt of this moment. I was ready for the miracle to unfold before us, a firework of emotions bursting into flames. It’d start with a tiny, flickering heartbeat. Our baby's first visible presence, a minuscule yet vibrant life, illuminated the screen, and tears would well up in our eyes, tears born from the burning joy of a new life.
We would watch in awe as the ultrasound revealed more of our little one's world – those delicate fingers, the tiny feet, and the silhouette of a head that would one day rest on our shoulders. The sound of our baby's heartbeat would echo through the room, a reassuring lullaby that would be forever etched in our memories, a burning memory of hope.
That was my dream. But this was reality.
I watched the technician for what seemed like an hour, but was less than a few fleeting moments. I looked and stared, but that smile never came.
The technician's silence spoke volumes, the absence of that comforting whooshing sound of a beating heart echoing in the room. Our eyes fixated on the screen, and the void where a flickering, life-affirming heartbeat should have been sent shockwaves through our souls, the burning ember of hope extinguished.
Avoiding eye contact, the technician headed for the door and said she needed to grab the doctor. Once again, my wife and I sat alone in that quiet room. And once again she asked me, “You think everything is okay, right?”
“Yeah everything is fine.” I lied, though the truth was a wildfire burning within me.
Our doctor entered the room cautiously. I immediately knew what he was about to say, but I didn’t want to hear it. I knew exactly what was coming, but prayed that it wouldn’t.
He sat down in front of my wife, explained that our baby stopped growing, probably because its heart never fully developed, and died. He said this sort of thing was common. He said he would give us some time. He said everything would be okay, his words like smoldering ashes.
The ultrasound, the event we had looked forward to with so much anticipation, revealed a stillness, a silence that drowned out the world. The image of our baby, once so full of promise, was now a painful reminder of what could have been. Tears welled up in our eyes, and the weight of the loss settled in our hearts like a leaden anchor, pulling us into the depths of grief, a burning sorrow that consumed us.
In that moment, the room felt colder, darker, and our future seemed uncertain. The horror of realizing that our baby's journey had been cut short was an indescribable anguish. We held each other, broken and in shock, forced to confront the devastating reality that our dreams had been shattered. It was a pain that cut deeper than any other, a horror that would forever haunt our hearts, a relentless burning ache.
We were alone. Everything was not okay.
The excitement of becoming a father was a force of nature, a powerful surge of emotions that would propel me into a new chapter of life. Parenthood was supposed to be a thrilling adventure, filled with love, laughter, and a profound sense of purpose.
Instead, in that moment, the love we already felt for our unborn child deepened, and the connection between parents and child undeniably real. We stared at each other, unable to speak, our fingers intertwined, knowing that this was the beginning of a beautifully painful journey.
The dread was suffocating, and the once-promising glow of anticipation was now shrouded in despair. This day would be an eternal reminder that our love had created something extraordinary, but we’d have to wait another lifetime to meet our child, a burning desire that would never fade.
March 29 was supposed to be the best day of my life.
Dr. Hayden Von Coombs is an Assistant Professor of Sports Management at Southern Utah University. Originally from Salem, Oregon, he also called the ancient country of Portugal home for several years and has a published in both English and Portuguese. His work has been featured in the Global Review, Exposed Bone, Voidspace, and the Taborian, amongst other publications.