“Growing up I always had an image of what a husband and/or father should look like. Much like a superhero, I thought they should be someone who has all the answers, someone who is never defeated, someone who is rock solid while everything around them falls apart. Yet there I was, speechless as I stared into my wife’s heartbroken eyes while our whole world seemed to crumble before us. The next 48 hours that followed seems to now be somewhat of a blur. Though I don’t like to bring myself back to those dreadful days, there are a few snapshots that are vividly engrained within my memory. I would like to share a few of them with you.
The night after finding out that our little boy no longer had a heartbeat, I sat by myself in the dark hospital room as my wife slept. As I quietly wept, all I could think of doing was to write down my thoughts: ‘Shocked, sad, confused, speechless, sick, numb… I feel like there are so many, while at the same time literally no words describe the feeling of watching your spouse’s heart tear in two. It is a feeling I wouldn’t wish on anyone. My heart aches with sadness as I sit here once again feeling utterly helpless.
The last 8 months keep running through my head over and over. From finding out my beautiful wife was pregnant and giving each other the tightest of hugs, to watching blue paint fly across the sky from the airplane as we found out his gender. To then discussing over and over what his name should be, to sitting in the doctor’s office trying to hold Toni’s hand as she broke down after being told that our little Ren would be born with Down syndrome. And then for the months to come with each and every hospital visit, echocardiogram, and ultrasound where we were able to watch our little boy’s heartbeat and his little body squirm all over the place.
Nothing could have prepared us for the moments that would come as we watched that last ultrasound. As they moved across his little body and stopped on that little heart, I looked down at Toni and could see the life drain right out of her face. The very worst thing that could have happened was confirmed. Our little boy was gone.
I now laid there as Toni was in the process of being induced. As I look at her while she tries to get some rest, I’m overwhelmed with emotion knowing what she is going through. Right now, she’s peacefully sleeping. I wish more than anything I could take away the nightmare that will come back to her when she awakes. She doesn’t deserve this. She’s been through so much as it is. Between the tubal pregnancy, to finding out Ren has Down Syndrome, and now this. When is enough going to be enough? I guess it is not up to us to know. For now, we will trust in His plan and continue to push forward.
Ren Michael Register was born the next day at 3:45 p.m. on April 5th, 2019, weighing 4Ibs 5oz at 35 weeks and 6 days. Prior to Ren making his appearance, the room seemed to be filled with tears and grief. But the moment Ren came into this world, something changed. Yes, there was sadness, but there was now an indescribable peace that filled the room. Ren was welcomed into the world with unconditional love from family members that literally filled the entire hospital room. It truly was a beautiful thing to see.
Soon day turned to night and once again it was just the three of us. I will forever remember witnessing what love looks like in its purest form this night. As Toni looked at his little face, she turned and asked me to hand her a wet washcloth. Confused, I then watched as she folded the washcloth into a square and began to softly dab Ren’s little dried up lips. I sat down and continued to watch her in amazement as she nurtured and cared for our little boy’s fragile body. I truly couldn’t help but to be in awe and have so much gratitude to this woman that brought this perfect little child into the world. I couldn’t help but think of how strong she is. Not only did she say hello to him for the first time, but soon, she was going to be forced to say goodbye for the last time as well. The thought of that haunted me.
The following day was the hardest day of them all, and is the one day I have a toughest time thinking about. I find myself hovering over the keyboard in tears because of how difficult it is to write. So please, bear with me through this. It was the day we had to hand him off. There was a knock at the door and both of our stomachs sunk. We both knew what was to come, but we definitely weren’t prepared. For a good while our eyes would go back and forth from Ren to the little box the man had just brought in. After being pressured a few times by staff, we both knew what we had to do. With tears coming down both of our faces, Toni turned to me and asked if I could do it. Though I didn’t want to, I knew I had to be the ‘superhero’ during this moment. With tears flooding her face, Toni kissed him for the last time and handed him to me. As I walked him to the box, I was flooded with emotions.
As a father, I felt like it was my job, my duty, to protect my son. Yet here I was, placing my son in a box and handing him off to a stranger to care for his body. Though I was trying to be strong as I thought I should be, I could feel myself begin to break. I truly felt like I was failing him as a father. I then bent down and set him in the box, kissed him on the head and whispered, ‘I’m sorry, buddy.’ The man came in and just like that, Ren was gone.
On April 12th we held his funeral. Though I was told countless times that I didn’t have to, I wanted to speak despite how hard it was going to be. I felt that as a father, the least I could do is stand up and speak on his behalf. The music began to play and it was now time to carry Ren into the chapel. The casket was pearly white and was much smaller than I had imagined. After placing him on the small flower-filled table in the front of the pulpit, we sat down for the service to start. Our family friend spoke first, followed by another family friend singing, ‘Here I am, Lord’ by Collin Raye, a song that we had dedicated to Ren from the beginning. Both were perfect. It was now my turn. As I approached pulpit, I turned and looked at the crowd, then looked down and whispered to my son, ‘I love you Ren,’ and began my talk:
One of the best memories I have growing up is my dad (Grandpa Register) teaching me how to ride a bicycle without training wheels. For about a week straight he would patiently push me and not let go. Though I didn’t want him to let me go, he didn’t want to let go even more. He knew that if he did, I would fall. He knew it was a risk. But he also knew that it was a risk we both had to take so I could grow. As he pushed me one last time, he let go. I peddled as fast as I could, just as he taught me. As we got further and further down the street, I could still feel his hands tightly gripped to my back. I couldn’t help but wonder why he was still pushing me. To my surprise, as I turned around to ask, I saw him down the street with his hands raised in the air in excitement. As I sit and think whom it may have been that held onto me as my dad let go, I can’t help but know it was someone who deeply cares and loves me on the other side.
Renny boy, though it breaks my heart to not physically have you here with your mamma and I, I am relieved knowing the love and protection you entered into as your mamma and I handed you to those that love you on the other side. I know they will take care of you, love you, prepare you, and have you help them continue to guide and push your mamma and I through this life until the day we return to you. We may not have been able to experience your physical presence much in this life. But throughout these last eight months, you have impacted so many and your spirit has been so strong within each one of us. Some of us can even say that your spirit has been so strong that it feels as though you actually have physically been here with us.
Ren, I will always hold onto that spirit you give me. You have made me, and continue making me, a better man. I will strive each and every day I am on this earth to make you proud. I promise that as you send your siblings our way, I will forever remind them of the big brother they have waiting for them on the other side. I promise to care and love them and your momma with my entire heart. And as you prepare for us, we too will be preparing for you. Though it seems like forever away, I look forward more than anything to the day your momma and I will once again be reunited with my little hero. Until we meet again, Ren Michael.
I love you,
If you’re reading this for the first time, you may assume that Ren’s short life had little to no story. But this is far from the truth. After finding out that Ren had Down Syndrome, my wife decided to start a blog in hopes of being that vessel to someone else in a similar situation. Little did we know, this would not only be Ren’s story, but this would also be the link that would connect the three of us to the thousands of readers even after he was gone. If you would like to read the entire story as it happened, visit www.downwithren.com.
Thank you for reading,
This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Tommy Register of Sequim, Washington. You can follow his journey on Instagram. Do you have a similar experience? We’d like to hear your important journey. Submit your own story here. Be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories, and YouTube for our best videos.
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