Today my Daughter Would Have Turned One


In my family, I’m known to be cold and calculating at times. But last night, that all faded as I silently cried while my girlfriend lay beside me.

After a few minutes, I reached out for the first time in a year and told Sara, “I miss Scarlett.”

It All Happened Very Suddenly

Last October 10th started out like most other days, until Sara told me that she felt that something was wrong and wanted to go to the doctor. I was a bit irritated at this point because I thought she was just being panicky… After all, Hero’s mom had us go to the doctor at least 6 times for false labor. Surely, Sara was just overreacting?

But once we got to the doctor, my tune changed very quickly. Within a short period of time, the doctor told us that we needed to go ahead and induce labor. All of a sudden, the fact that I was going to be a father (again) hit.

I took Sara to the hospital, got her checked in to the delivery room, then ran home to pack a bag. We hadn’t prepared quite enough for this.

Within 5-10 minutes of leaving the hospital, I got a call saying that there were complications and that they were going to do an emergency c-section within minutes. I immediately raced back to the hospital, put the surgery gear on, and waited nervously.

Another few minutes and I was watching the doctor cut open Sara to deliver Scarlett. I tried calming Sara down by holding her hand, but I kept getting sidetracked by the sight of the surgery.

After the doctor delivered Scarlett, they immediately began to work on her. We could feel that something was wrong, but I was certain that the doctors and nurses had everything under control.

With every passing minute, Sara became much more irritated and anxious to hold Scarlett, which pushed me to check in with the doctors. “Why can’t I hold Scarlett yet? What’s wrong?”

The Next Morning

Nana with Scarlett
Nana with Scarlett

I can’t remember all of the steps that came next, but at some point I remember the doctors telling us that Scarlett would need to be flown to Cook Childrens Hospital in Fort Worth (about 2 hours away), because the local doctors couldn’t help her any more.

At first the doctors told us that Sara was not going to be allowed to leave the hospital at the same time that Scarlett was air-evaced. While Sara complied with this for an hour or two, eventually she told us all that she would be leaving the hospital with or without approval.

A few hours later, we found ourselves in Fort Worth and were racing to find where Scarlett is. Against my pleading, Sara insisted on speed walking, even though her abdomen had been cut open and stapled back just a few hours earlier.

Eventually, we got to a nurses station and were briskly led to where Scarlett is being tested. At this point, we also managed to find a wheelchair and I began pushing Sara around. Probably a bit slower than she would’ve liked to go.

We are taken to some room where we are not allowed any metallic objects, we had to put on earplugs, and we sat and watched as some loud recurring noise played. I can’t remember what this test was.

Eventually, we make our way to Scarlett’s room, where we would be for the next few days. There was a chair and a pull out couch in the room and we were told that we could sleep in the room, and were likely expected to.

Scarlett was subject to a ton of tests while Sara and I watched and waited, but one test hit Sara and I especially hard…

Is She Brain Dead?

I remember the doctor talking to us about Scarlett’s condition. She was using some very scientific and technical terms, but I could understand the undertone.

After listening for a few minutes, I simply asked the doctor, “So, you’re essentially telling me that Scarlett is brain dead, right? You don’t have to sugar coat this.”

The doctor replied with, “I think that you and Sara understand the situation, and are handling this well.”

The doctor went on to clarify that Scarlett wasn’t technically brain dead, but that her brain was dying.

Shortly after this, we began receiving more frequent visits from people other than Scarlett’s doctor. At one point, I can’t remember if some visitor had prompted us, Sara and I began to talk about quality of life and decided that if tests continued to show no brain activity, that we would choose to take Scarlett off of life support.

Scarlett with breathing equipment
Scarlett with breathing equipment

One might think that choosing to let your daughter die was the hardest decision that Sara and I had to make. But, that was really just the start.

All of the decisions came next. Should we donate her organs? Do we have a funeral? How do we pay for the after death costs?

But, the hardest part was holding Scarlett in both of our arms and watching Scarlett slowly die.

Still Dealing

After taking Scarlett off of life support
After taking Scarlett off of life support

Now, one year later, I can, at times, see very clearly how Scarlett’s death has affected us.

There are times that I see our friends’ children and wonder how it would have been to have a daughter.

I have even more of a dislike towards all things religion.

There have also been effects on my relationship with Sara. One of the biggest being that Sara and I deal with Scarlett’s death in very different ways.

My particular approach was to shut it out, while Sara broke down often. Sara had a very hard time understanding, and probably still does, why I didn’t cry or hurt as much and like she did.

Last year I remember breaking down and crying as I stood beside Scarlett’s bed. I sobbed in Sara’s arms, something I told her at the time would only ever happen that once. Maybe it’s a good thing I felt something last night.

In the end, the thing I most want to impart is that we all deal with loss much differently. If you have a loved whose reactions and thoughts you don’t understand, I urge you to be patient with him or her.

11 responses to “Today my Daughter Would Have Turned One”

  1. I’m so glad that you were able to find it in you to post this. Life is an incredible adventure and you’ve embraced it. Many hugs. I hope that time makes things easier, but I also hope that you never forget her even for a minute.

    1. Hey Alx,

      Thanks for commenting. It means a lot buddy.

  2. Thanks for sharing your story Eric. I know this can’t be easy.
    I have a very similar story except mine took place 11 years ago.

    I just wrote about it this year and it seemed to help me work through my feelings about it a bit. I hope it does the same for you. The hurt never really goes away, but it does seem to change over the years.

    1. Hi Sandy,

      I was able to find and read the post about your daughter.

      Thanks for dropping by and leaving a comment. Feel free to reach out if you ever want/need to talk.

  3. I’m really sorry, Eric. My thoughts, prayers, and hugs go out to you.

    Thank you for the courage to write and publish this post.

    1. Hey Bryan,

      Thanks for leaving a comment. It was nice to finally talk about it outside of just Sara and I.

  4. Thanks for sharing what I’m sure is a difficult subject, Eric.

  5. […] those who don’t already know, my daughter died last year. This event alone was very sad, but unseen to many were the effects that it had on my relationship […]

  6. I came to your story through a worm hole that began with Design Thinking. Here’s some delicious irony (and I don’t care if it’s real irony or Alanis Morissette irony). I’m writing an article about DT, and I searched the nugget: “To understand recursion, one must first understand recursion” to see if I could find an original author. I found your blog, and then this article. Here’s the irony piece: the thing I love the most about design thinking before the embracing of recursion at any and every stage is the fact that Empathy is one of the pillars, is the basis of any good design. And so how can I read your story without feeling extraordinary empathy for your family, and appreciate that were brave enough to share it. I am leaving this comment because I feel you need to know that you and your family didn’t endure that trauma for know reason. The story needed to be told, and I am sending you care and compassion to those people in the past, and to who those same people are now. Blessings for Scarlett.

    1. Hi Lisa,

      Thank you very much for your comment.

      I also like your nugget about recursion. 🙂

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