Tommy Riles – father; audience warm-up comedian on The Ellen DeGeneres Show; and founder of Life of Dad, a social network for fathers – recently shared a beautiful goodbye letter to his son who died at 20 weeks’ gestation. His words are accompanied by a picture of his son’s tiny, perfectly formed hands. Together, they remind us all of the beauty and miracle of life inside the womb and love between parent and child.
He tells his son, whom they named Scotland, that he is proud of him and that it was an honor to hold him that one and only time. Riles recalls the moment his wife called to tell him that they had lost the baby and he tried to comfort her. He tells the story of the 10-hour labor process and how incredible his wife is. But Riles focuses on the moment he got to hold his son for the first and last time. He writes:
I’m proud of you, son. Even though you only made it halfway through the pregnancy, you have left a mark on our family that will last forever. […] I felt both happy and devastated to be holding my second son in the palm of my hands. We cried. I told you about your brother and sister. We visualized you running through open fields somewhere, free, happy, and full of life. We sang to you. After singing the final line of “Silent Night” to you… “Sleep in heavenly peace…” we knew it was time to say goodbye.
Riles promises his son that they will bring his ashes with them when they travel to Scotland.
On his podcast for Life of Dad, Riles talks about miscarriage and how it affected his family. He calls it the hardest time a parent could possibly imagine and talks about how important it is for people going through the loss of their unborn child to realize that they are not alone. Riles says that he is sharing his family’s story because not every doctor will tell their patients that delivering their child after a miscarriage is possible. He says you can go to a clinic where they will “take care of the situation,” or you can go to the hospital.
“She was 20 weeks so there was a baby that the week before was alive inside of her who had hands and feet and elbows and shoulders and everything,” explains Riles. “So the option we went with and our doctor was very supportive and also because of our faith was to, and honestly, I didn’t even know this was an option and I feel like a lot of guys probably feel that way too. But my wife said no we’re definitely going to the hospital and I’m gonna deliver the baby.”
Riles says that looking back he is so thankful that they were able to deliver their son and hold him. While it was devastating to go to the maternity wing and go through the labor, it was also beautiful. He says that even though their son wasn’t alive, life never felt so amazing and sad and powerful. He and his wife know that they gave their son the same love and respect that they show their other children, and because of that, they have no regrets and were able to say goodbye and both grieve and celebrate their child’s life. They sang to him, had a priest baptize him, and spent an hour holding him.
Riles now sings Silent Night to his daughter and son each night. Being able to spend that time with his baby was an amazing gift – one that every parent who loses a child through miscarriage should get.