Parenting Personal

I lost a child…

My son’s urn and box of keepsakes. The teddy bear was donated by another family who lost a child. We will do the same at some point.

Today was the day my son was supposed to be born. Instead, he was stillborn on June 17 – the day after Father’s Day. We found out a little over four days earlier that he’d died. We have ideas about exactly when his heart stopped, but don’t know precisely. Whatever the exact moment he died, his mother1 – my wife – was admitted to the labour and delivery ward at the Lois Hole Hospital for Women on Father’s Day, June 16, 2019. Our son, Henry John Kelly-Snider was born, still, in the very early hours of June 17.

Today is the day he was supposed to be born, alive, and the fact that it’s Thanksgiving is something we only realized a few weeks ago. What a thing that would have been to be thankful for – a beautiful, health baby boy. Instead, I’m writing this the day before you’ll read it, with tears in my eyes.

I have never shared this so publicly before. Most of the people in my life know, although there is an outer circle of colleagues and acquaintances who may never know that “how many kids do you have?” is a very complicated question.

We thought about going away this weekend, to try and distract ourselves from the sorrow we’re going to be feeling. We ended up staying home on Sunday, but allowed our family to think we were out of town (uh, sorry about that, everyone). It seemed easier to just keep things low-key at home, rather than making a big thing out of Thanksgiving this year. Subsequent years will probably be hard, too, but Thanksgiving won’t always fall on the 14th, so maybe we’ll be able to separate the date from the holiday. I’m hoping I can do that for Father’s Day next year, if only for my daughter’s sake.

Right now, though, things are tough. We had a little mini version of Thanksgiving dinner with just the three of us – chicken (with compound herb butter made from stuff my wife and daughter grew in the garden this summer), duck fat baby potatoes and roasted vegetables. It was good, and we had pumpkin pie (because I love it but only eat it around Thanksgiving to make sure it remains a special food), but it didn’t really feel like Thanksgiving. There was no turkey or stuffing and no extended family. But maybe that’s OK just this once. It’s hard to know for sure anymore.

This is one of the last “firsts” since Henry’s death. There’s still Christmas, but most of the big milestones have come and gone, so maybe tomorrow will be a better day. Maybe each day will be a little easier than the last. More likely, it’ll be like it’s been since the day we learned he died. Some days are better than others. Sometimes it feels like a million years ago and that everything is OK again, and then the next day it feels like there’s no way things could possibly get worse. Grief is a funny beast and it doesn’t follow a linear path.

That’s part of why I’m writing this and putting it out into the world. It helps with the grief. Putting the emotions into words is healthy and I’m far better at communicating through writing than speech. Some people talk things through; I work through things by writing them down and, often, by sharing them even if I’m not necessarily seeking feedback.

I’m also writing this down to help other grieving fathers. Stillbirth and pregnancy loss is already something that’s not talked about enough (though that seems to be changing; we’ve heard many stories from people in our lives since this happened to us – but they’d probably never have shared them if we hadn’t gone through something similar). When it is talked about, fathers are sometimes overlooked. But this experience touches us, too. The father loses a child too and, with that, a part of himself. I don’t have any words of wisdom, because I’m still in the midst of it, but I want other fathers who’ve lost a child to know they’re not alone.

Finally, these words are to honour the memory of my son. Mere words can hardly do him justice, especially not ones written in the depths of grief, but they’re all I have left to give him. Together with his mother, I gave him a name. And I can give him words and a place in my heart. I don’t get to give him anything else. So I’ll give him what I can and hope it’s enough.

1. The fact that my wife is mostly absent from this story is not an oversight. It’s not my place to tell her story, so I won’t be doing so. This will focus on my own thoughts and experiences, which are understandably quite different from those of the person who carried our son in her body for five months.

Book reviews

Utopia for Realists: a review

I recently finished reading Rutger Bregman’s book Utopia for Realists. It was quite good and a surprisingly compelling read, given that it’s full of charts and graphs.

Rather than attempting to write my own review, I’ll just send you to a review Neil Howard wrote for openDemocracy. It points out the highlights and covers many of my own criticisms of the book, and does so much succinctly than I’m able to.

Read the review. If it sounds interesting, read the book.

Food & Drink

There’s no magic bullet diet

Even the much touted keto doesn’t work for everyone. As Neil Swidey writes in the Boston Globe:

In the low-carb group, some participants lost 40 to 60 pounds while others gained 10 to 20. And in the low-fat group? Just about the same wide variation. Neither diet was better, and researchers had no success in predicting who would do better on one versus the other.

All of this suggests that your co-worker who won’t stop yapping about how keto will change your life might be completely right. Or he could be entirely wrong.

This much we know: No diet will work for everyone.

Diet advice changes by the minute. How are we supposed to figure out what to eat? – Neil Swidey, Boston Globe Magazine

The few things that do seem to work for everyone are to reduce or eliminate added sugar, reduce processed and refined carbs, and eat healthy fats. Everything else seems to be a toss up and depends on personal metabolic traits.

Trial and error will probably be necessary, but by avoiding processed foods (itself a vague term — do bread or pasta count, if we’re being careful to make sure they’re made from whole grains?) you’ll probably be off to a decent start.

Book reviews

Logan’s Run, the novel

Did you know that the cult classic movie, Logan’s Run, was loosely based on a novel of the same name? I had no idea, until the book came up in the search results when I was trying to find the movie in my local library’s collection.

The book is quite different from the movie and, in many ways, a lot sillier. It doesn’t really rise above a pulp sci-fi adventure story, but it’s a very entertaining read. It’s quick and punchy, and at only 167 pages it’s a pretty quick read even for a slow reader like me.

Where the movie has a pretty straightforward plot, the book is wild. It’s still a linear plot, but it goes all over the place with a bunch of bizarre characters and subplots along the way. It’s got murderous children, a mentally unstable cyborg ice sculptor, and a giant maze of pneumatic tubes that rapidly take cars to all known parts of the inhabited world, including a mostly abandoned underwater city.

It’s hardly a masterpiece, but it’s very entertaining. If you like weird, sci-fi adventures, I recommend it.

One of the co-authors wrote a couple of sequels, likely to capitalize on the success of the film. Of the two sequels, the first sounds intriguing (though generally not as well-reviewed as the original) and the latter sounds like a an excuse to re-write the first novel.

Microblogging Writing about writing

Maybe posting daily isn’t realistic

Maybe posting daily isn’t a realistic goal. I’ve failed at it, so far, but I also wonder if there’s any point in posting just for the sake of it. If I have nothing much to say, why make a post?


Bowling Day

Author’s note: Yes, I forgot to post on Friday. It takes time to change habits.

It’s bowling day. Last year, some friends and I formed a (five-pin) bowling team and joined a league. This is now our third season, after playing in the fall and winter leagues last year.

It’s a cliche to say that Monday is the worst day of the week, but I actually look forward to Mondays because Mondays are bowling nights.

In addition to being a good excuse to drink beer and hang out with friends, I’ve started to actually care about being good at bowling. I’m pretty mediocre right now, and I’m mostly OK with that, but I do hope that I’ll get better the longer I play.

Thursday last week was our free pre-season practice night. We bowled three games. I played hilariously bad at first, then got OK. I felt some weird over-stretched-ness in my calves the next day, but hopefully having got that bit of practice in last week, I’ll play half-decently tonight and not walk up with a “sports injury” the next day.

Regardless, it’ll be a fun night.

Microblogging Personal

I don’t know what to write

But I committed to posting something every weekday in September. It’s literally only day two, and I’m out of ideas. Partly, this is because I’m incredibly tired. I haven’t been sleeping well this week.

On the plus side, tonight is pre-season practice bowling and league play starts on Monday.

Writing about writing

It’s been a while

It’s been a while since I’ve posted anything. I want to change that. I think I might challenge myself to 30 days of blogging again, as I did a while back.

It won’t always result in stellar posts, but it’ll at least get me back in the habit.

So I’ll do it. Not 30 days, exactly, but every weekday for the month of September. I might post on the weekends, as well, but I tend not to open my computer on those days and drafting blog posts on my phone isn’t ideal, even with the aid of the official WordPress Android app.

Anyway, I’m going to try posting regularly. Likely, this will mean a mix of personal diary entry type stuff — the old school of blogging — and some of the more political and/or newsy stuff that I had been posting last year.

Let’s see how long this experiment lasts…

Media & Journalism Technology

Whining about Netflix

This article strikes me as very odd, claiming that Netflix is going to be terrible in 2019 because they’re removing some older shows from their catalogue and focusing more on original content.

Netflix wants to start streaming more original shows and movies and focussing less on acquiring programs they did not produce. That means they are taking away the very reason why most of us subscribed to Netflix in the first place and they’ll eventually become just a really expensive glorified TV channel.

Enjoy it while you can, because by the end of 2019, Netflix is going to be horrible. 

While I certainly don’t want to subscribe to multiple different streaming services to get all the shows I want to watch (at that point, I might as well just pay for cable again), I think competition is good and I think it’s a little odd to suggest that most Netflix users are subscribing to the service so they can watch old episodes of Gilmore Girls. I mean, it’s possible that they are — Netflix tends not to release viewership numbers — but most people I know are subscribed to Netflix at least as much for the Netflix Originals as they are for the other shows.

In my house, most of the shows we watch are produced by Netflix or through some sort of partnership agreement with a cable network (e.g., Riverdale, which is published weekly on Netflix after airing on the CW network). Most of the non-Netflix shows could disappear and I’d still be pretty happy with the service. In fact, for the few non-Netflix shows I watch regularly, it’d still be cheaper to keep my Netflix subscription and buy those shows on Google Play than to subscribe to cable.

The same can’t be said for movies, on the other hand. Most of the Netflix Original movies I’ve watched have been terrible and I would definitely be upset if they started dropping popular movie titles from the catalogue at a greater rate than they already do.


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