Real Men Don’t Cry

When Emily started this blog I was really pleased that she had a way to express herself and explain her thoughts and feelings to everyone and anyone that cared. I didn’t for a minute think that I’d ever write down my own thoughts and feelings. I’m comfortable talking about my emotions (although I haven’t always been- we’ll come to that) but writing them down is a bit ‘Gossip Girl’ for me.

Well, here I am, baring all.

When we finally got to meet our girl

My first emotion immediately after Etta’s diagnosis was anger. For anyone that knows me at all, you’ll know that this is pretty much my default emotional state. I’m generally quite an angry person. I don’t know why. Granted, I’ve had a few shitty things happen to me, but on the balance of things I had a very happy childhood with a loving family, and my adult life is much the same, surrounded by love. Nevertheless, I’m always a little bit angry. This was different though, I wasn’t angry at anyone, I was just angry. I was angry that Emily was sad (not that she was sad and shouldn’t be but rather that something had happened to make her sad) and I was angry that this situation had happened to us.

I wasn’t upset. Not yet.

When we got home the anger subsided and the feeling of nothingness began. Emily’s parents were looking after Ezzie whilst we went for the scan, so when we came home and after a short explanation of the devastating news that we’d just been given, I left Em with them to have a cry and a cuddle. I went outside and sat in the garden. I sat for quite a while and nothing happened. I wasn’t angry anymore, I didn’t cry, I didn’t really think about anything at all for a good twenty minutes. I just sat there. I realise now that I was in total shock and utter disbelief that this could happen to us.

I decided that I needed to tell my family. Up until this point they had no idea that there was an issue- it was just another 20 week scan and as the proud uncle of seven nieces, this wasn’t a big deal for us. We’d kind of been there, done that, got the t-shirt. I can’t remember what order I did it in, but I phoned my Dad, my brother and my sister to tell them the news. I remember thinking to myself, keep it brief, keep it factual, keep emotions out of this phone call, just get it done. I don’t know whether I managed that, I don’t really remember the words I said. I just remember the tightening in my chest, a weight on my shoulders and a deep urge to cry. But I didn’t cry.

As you may have read in Emily’s previous post about Etta’s diagnosis, we had to wait a few days between being told there was probably a serious problem and having a proper diagnosis. Those few days are a total blur and I can’t remember for the life of me what we did to pass what seemed like twenty years between the two appointments. We spoke a lot, we got a few important things clear in our minds and we tried to distract ourselves. It didn’t work. I had given my family strict instructions to contact me only by text, I knew I’d cry if I spoke to them and I wasn’t ready for that. I’m not sure why I didn’t want to cry- Em will be the first to tell you I’m very comfortable crying. An episode of first dates- cry. Big Hero 6- cry. Watching Emily graduate- cry. Birth of Ezra- MEGA CRY.

Most of you reading this will know that I lost my best mate, my mum and a good pal from my gap year all within about 14 months (my freshers year at university). At the time, through a combination of denial, starting a new life with new friends at university and trying to seem like a big, tough man (real men don’t cry, remember), I pretended that everything was ok and got on with it. I think I may have even convinced myself that that was true. It wasn’t until I met Emily that I realised that I was just a child when these bad things happened to me and I certainly wasn’t emotionally equipped to deal with them. Through my now nearly ten years with Emily, becoming a husband and a father, I have learnt what it really means to be a man. When I say man, I’m not referring to my gender but rather my ‘coming of age’ moment where I stopped being a boy and became emotionally stable enough to cope with the shit that life sometimes throws at you. My point is, the reason for my not crying wasn’t deliberate and it wasn’t an attempt to conceal what I really felt about the situation. I have no idea why I didn’t want to, or perhaps couldn’t, cry.

When the time came for the follow up appointment, we already knew everything about the possible heart conditions that Etta might have had, ranging from really shit to quite shit. Nevertheless, there was still a fair bit of optimism that this was all a horrible mistake and that we would find out everything was fine. Our foetal medical consultant, Mr H, didn’t take long to confirm our worst fears and he told us in no uncertain terms that there was a considerable problem with Etta’s heart. Em cried a lot- she had been clinging on to the last bit of hope that we had. I still didn’t- I think having witnessed bad news like this before, I was preparing for the worst whilst hoping for the best. We went through the formalities with Mr H and his team, we talked about the options and the next steps. As you can imagine, it was pretty rough. Emily asked Mr H if he could tell us the sex of our baby as we hadn’t been able to find out at the first scan. A few very experienced movements of the ultrasound later, Mr H announced that we were having a little girl. Finally, I cried. I wept and wept and wept. I let out the four days of stress, upset, anger and confusion in one snotty bawl and it felt good.

The final few months of Em’s pregnancy, Etta’s short life and the difficult times since her death have been filled with tears; I’m crying right now as I write this blog. Although it’s completely different, it’s only natural that I compare the loss of Etta to the loss of my friends and of my dear old Mum. One huge thing that I’ve learned is that you can do all sorts of things to try to stop yourself feeling (and I probably did them all when Mum died) but eventually those feelings will catch up with you and it will be a hell of a lot worse in the long run. Em and I have tried to let our minds and bodies tell us how to feel, and to let it happen when those feelings come. Some days I’m happy, and that’s ok. Some days I’m sad, and that’s ok. Some days I don’t feel anything, and that’s ok. It’s all ok, just let it be. That’s how we’ve been trying to live our lives since Etta left us and I’d like to think that we’re doing ok. There’s one thing I know for sure; I’m not angry nearly as often as I was. I prefer it like this.

XOXO- Gossip Girl

Proud Dad

6 thoughts on “Real Men Don’t Cry

  1. Sam, thank you for sharing! Thinking about you often and hoping you will bring Emily and Ezra to meet us some day soon. Isn’t you 30th coming up? Much love from Texas!

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  2. Dear Sam

    You have really made me cry …..I am finding this whole blog enormously emotional and so cathartic.

    I wish I could wrap you and Emm up in cotton wool and protect you from all this hurt.

    You both write so beautifully and I really hope sharing your experience is also helping you both.

    Everyone I know loves and so admires you both, as do I.

    Mandy Xxxxxxxx

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  3. Sam and Emily, thank you so much for writing these blogs they are so honest and raw and give us a real insight into Etta’s story. I am so glad that you feel able to allow yourselves some happy times amid your pain

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  4. Since I first met you I’ve always appreciated your ability to say things how they are – and share your emotions.

    Also – not fair to end with ‘Gossip girl’!! Naughty. Xxx

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