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Father of Engel

by Paul Konijn

Update 4/6/00

Date: Thu, 25 Mar 1999

We have 2 healthy young boys, Selwin (4 years) and Elout (2 years) and were waiting anxiously for the birth of our 3rd child, due at the 20th of July 1999. The future looked bright and nothing could go wrong in 1999. I would become father and godfather in the same year, because my wife's sister is also pregnant and is expecting to deliver in the beginning of June. We had made already many plans for the baby, secured a place in the daycare center, had foreseen an extra 3 months leave for my wife (Dagmar) from work and were just very much looking forward to holding another tiny baby in our arms and loving it with all our hearts.

The pregnancy went without any problem, we had seen the baby with an ultrasound and Dagmar had heard the heartbeat at 16 weeks. At 19 weeks we had to visit the hospital for a routine ultrasound and because after 2 boys we wanted to know whether we had a girl this time, we went together to find out. We were a bit nervous, because in the next minutes the doctor would tell us what we were going to have. Nothing worried us as our 2 boys were heavy weights at birth (both weighing 4 kg).

The ultrasound started and we could see the baby on the screen, nothing moved, except the doctor, who was staring at the screen, zooming in and out, trying again and not saying a word. It must have been only minutes, but that short time seemed to last for hours, what was going on, why didn't he say anything? Finally without taking his eyes of the screen he said: "I'm sorry, but I am afraid I have some terrible news for you." It was a shock, this couldn't happen to us, what had gone wrong and more importantly WHAT DID WE DO WRONG?

On the 23rd of February 1999 (the next day) we checked into the hospital early in the morning and Dagmar delivered our baby boy at 10 in the evening. There was only silence at that moment and not the cheerful crying of a newborn, as we associated a delivery with before. We didn't have the courage to look at our son, who was only 16 cm long and weighed 60 gr. We were afraid to say goodbye to a baby that didn't look like one. Fortunately the hospital took some pictures of our son and we cherish these pictures very much, the pictures of a perfect baby boy, because this is the only thing that our 'Engel' (a name meaning Angel in English and given a few weeks after his death) has left for us to hold and kiss.

We don't know yet what caused the miscarriage. Results from the first tests show that everything was OK. We have been told that the chance of finding out what went wrong is also not very big, but that most likely it has something to do with the chromosomes and lies completely outside our doing. It's like a natural disaster striking you and you standing by and watching.

We have difficulty coping, all in our different little ways. Our oldest son Selwin, was so much looking forward to having a little brother or sister and stops whenever he sees a baby to just say hello. We told him that his little brother won't be coming, but is in a better place now and waits for him in heaven. He talks to him now and again and waves kisses to the sky.

Our youngest son Elout doesn't know what is going on, but feels that his parents are very sad. He clings to his mother like glue and tries to comfort us as much as he can.

Dagmar is devastated, wants her baby back and is remembering Engeltje with all kinds of things, like a handmade doll with the same weight and length as our son, a medallion with an angel depicted on it and the date of birth. She is planning to send cards to close relatives in remembrance of Engel and still cries every day.

Myself, as the father, am completely at loss. How to remember, comfort the rest of the family and go on with our lives. I don't know, cry in silence and try to survive.

The future will bring difficult times, the birth of the baby of my sister-in-law, the 20th of July that Engel was expected to be born and all related anniversaries in general. We must however keep hopeful towards the future, because after reading so many sad stories, we know that we are not alone, can overcome this tragedy and most of all know that the love for our little boys Engel, Elout and Selwin will help us get through it.

Paul Konijn, Leuven, Belgium
Paul.Konijn@esat.kuleuven.ac.be

Update: Date: Thu, 06 Apr

After our miscarriage and a lot of grieve, we decided soon after to try and get pregnant again. We were absolutely not sure whether it was the right decision to try this early, but we just longed for a baby and could not end our desire for a baby with the death of our Engel. We knew it would be difficult and we did not know how we would cope with grieving about Engel and being happy with the new baby at the same time.

Just a few months after our decision we were pregnant again but everything was different than last times, we would not allow ourselves to be happy, because it could go wrong again.... We never had so many ultrasounds in the beginning of the pregnancy as this time and we saw every little "abnormality" as being possibly fatal, but the doctors were very understanding and everything was fine. We neared the dreaded 19 weeks mark and got very nervous again, because if they weren't able to tell us what went wrong last time, why would it not happen again. Time passed and when we felt the little baby kick for the first time, it took away our worries for just a few moments. At the same time we were giving our little Engel a place in our home, we made a card to remember his birth, have a little statue of an Angel on the mantelpiece and had an aunt (who is a artist) make a beautiful stained glass, depicting a Golden Angel. We try to treat our Engel the same as the other boys and talk openly about him with Selwin and Elout.

We could not however bring us to prepare ourselves for the birth of the new baby and decided only very late on the name, the birth cards, presents to ask for etc. One month before the due date Dagmar was starting to have contractions and had to stop working, we were worried again, could it go wrong even in this stage? It was a long four weeks and suddenly we found ourselves closing into the date that Engel was born last year, the 23rd of February. We did not want to have the same birthday for the 2 children and the doctor advised us to have the labour induced. After we agreed upon this, a little boy called Iason announced himself spontaneously and was born without any problems on the 18th of February 2000, little less than a year after Engel. We are very happy and love him tremendously, but will also never forget our little Engel.
I think it has done us good to keep them separated as much as possible and give them both a place in our home, because the one will never be able to replace the other. With the attached images we also want to give them a place on the Internet as a sign that there is hope...

Iason Engel
 

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