I recoiled in horror. Seeing how I moved, my wife asked me what happened, but I never told her. Of the entire ordeal, that attempt to breathe haunts me the most. My son had the will to live, he tried his best, but there was nothing he could do. Even worse, there was nothing I could do to save him.

I spent a few more moments with him before the nurse put both children on a table. They still had a heartbeat and they were still technically alive. The anesthesiologist decided my wife had suffered enough and put her to sleep.

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I was caught in this awkward place, stuck between spending the last few moments of my children’s lives with them and checking on my wife’s condition. I walked back and forth several times, almost ordering the doctor to make sure that my wife would be ok. I had already lost enough that day.

Almost half an hour later, when I was hovering above my children, my son opened his mouth once more. He was too far gone to even try to take a breath, but I could see a little movement in his chest. Once again I recoiled in abject horror. Why couldn’t I help him? Why couldn’t I save them? I am a failure as a father!

Their little hearts kept beating for about 55 minutes. As their pulse began to fade, I walked over to each and put my hand on them and spontaneously said, “Good night my sweets, because forever is a long time.”

It was then that I looked up and realized that the table had a heat lamp normally used to keep newborn babies warm. The nurse had neglected to turn it on. I was devastated. Not only couldn’t I save my children, I couldn’t even keep them warm while they died!

That was the breaking point for me. I ripped my surgical mask off and threw out my gloves. The neonatologist stopped me from walking out by telling me that rules prohibited fathers from leaving and reentering the delivery room.

Having gone through the worst pain imaginable and what would be a precursor to the many callous comments my wife and I would endure in the coming months, the doctor then said something that even after all we had been through, shocked me to my core.

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Chaim Shapiro, M.Ed is a freelance writer, public speaker and social media consultant. He is currently working on a book about his collegiate experience. He welcomes comments and feedback at chaimshapiro@aol.com or on his website: http://chaimshapiro.com/
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