Being a parent is one of, if not the hardest job in the world. Taking care of a child and making sure they grow up in a healthy and loving environment while still getting things around the house done or going to work everyday is no easy task. It’s even harder for single parents. Just ask this single dad who is the father of triplets.
Chris Whitmer from West Town, Chicago learned exactly what tragedy was when he was just 33 years old. He was always a positive person and never believed in bad luck. However, this turn of events would make his world come crashing down.
Love at First Sight
While Charlie was working in finance, he laid his eyes on Kathryn and fell in love instantly. They met at Wrigleyville bar and were inseparable after that. Little did they know what their romantic love story would hold for them.
Planning the Wedding
The two knew that they had found their soul mate. Chris proposed to the love of his life and they started to plan their wedding for August 2016. However, their plans were suddenly interrupted.
Charlie liked to stay active, so he would go out on runs often. One day, he felt very tired, more than usual. On top of fatigue, he started to notice bruises on his body.
When Charlie was a teenager, he was diagnosed with aplastic anemia. He had to go through a bone marrow transplant and has gone through many treatments. Unfortunately, his symptoms reappeared just before his wedding.
Going on Medication
After talking to his doctors, Charlie decided to go on medication for his condition. There was one serious side effect, though. It would lower the couple’s chances of getting pregnant when they wanted to have a family. So, Kathryn went through fertility treatments.
After many tries and fertility treatments, Kathryn found out she was pregnant in December 2017. Miraculously, there were two embryos growing inside of Kathryn instead of just one.
After an ultrasound, Kathryn came home with even bigger news. The two embryos were now three! The couple was having triplets.
Up until Kathryn’s 27th week of pregnancy, everyone was going well and the babies were healthy. Then on Memorial Day weekend, she woke up with an intense headache. It was so bad that the couple decided a hospital visit was necessary.
As Charlie waited in the waiting room for news about his wife, one of the nurses came out and said, “Your wife has a big bleed in her brain.” Unsure of what exactly that meant, Charlie was determined to stay positive.
Kathryn and Charlie had dreamed of having a happy and loving family. Little did they know that their family would start off with hurt and grief.
The Babies Are Born
The triplets, named Bobby, Arden, and J.P., were born on June 4th. Unfortunately, they weren’t as healthy as Charlie and Kathryn would have hoped. They required intense care in the NICU, needed CPR when they were born, and were severely underweight.
The Headache Returns
After Kathryn gave birth to her triplets, the headache returned two days later. The doctors took Kathryn in for brain surgery immediately.
After going in for surgery, Kathryn never woke up from it. She was pronounced brain dead. Charlie couldn’t believe what was happening. His wife, the mother of his children, would never hold their triplets or watch them grow up.
Holding the Triplets
Charlie insisted that the doctors let Kathryn hold her babies at least once. They placed the triplets in her unconscious arms. Miraculously, the nurses noticed tears streaming down Kathryn’s face.
Kathryn’s doctor had initially told Charlie that it would be impossible for her to be aware or even feel her children against her. “I can’t explain that medically,” Dr. Kim had said in response to Kathryn’s tears.
Day of Tragedy
On June 8th, just four days after the triplets were born, Kathryn was officially announced as deceased. Charlie had no idea what he was going to do next with the three babies. He looked at his children as a last and eternal gift from his wife.
Kat did more than just introduce three new lives into the world. She also saved six other lives with the donation of her organs. Her memory and kindness would be remembered for years to come.
First Father’s Day
The day after Kathryn’s funeral was Father’s Day. Charlie spent the day in the NICU with his new babies. It was an emotional and difficult weekend for him to say the least.
Quitting His Job
Charlie decided he needed to leave his job and figure out what was going to make him happy. “You have to find hope, and you have to find some kind of joy. All of this happened for a reason. It’s my job to find that,” he said.
March of Dimes
Charlie, along with friends and family, became involved with the March of Dimes. This march focuses on the health of babies and their mothers. With the help of kind donations and word of mouth, Charlie raised $80,000 for his “Team Kathryn.”
Changing His Ways
The perfect thing about Charlie and Kathryn was that they had opposite personalities. Charlie was an introvert while Kathryn was an extrovert. When Kathryn passed away, Charlie had to learn how to be the people person and accept help from others when it was offered.
There isn’t a day that goes by where Charlie doesn’t think about Kathryn. He remembers how much she loved life, how much energy she had, and the inspiration she provided to everyone she met. “She had figured out the important things in life. There’s still more for me to figure out,” Charlie said.
Chris Martin from Melbourne, Australia also had to figure out the hard life lessons just like Charlie. Chris, while in his twenties, was introduced to a woman named Rennee by a friend.
At first, Chris and Renee didn’t get along. However, after years of meeting up at parties and through friends, they realized how much they liked each other. It was at a friend’s party where they had their first kiss.
Chris and Renee fell madly in love. Their so-called honeymoon phase never seemed to end. They were head over heels for each other and couldn’t wait to spend the rest of their lives together.
Starting Their Lives Together
The couple soon got married and had their first child, a daughter they named Grace. A couple of years later in 2011, Renee found out she was pregnant once again. This time they were expecting a little boy.
During Renee’s pregnancy, she was diagnosed with kidney cancer. The couple’s world was turned upside down with this news. Instead of trying to figure out how to welcome their new baby into the family, they had to tell six-year-old Grace that her mother was extremely ill.
Chris recalls telling Grace about Renee’s cancer. “I remember the day telling Grace that we didn’t know whether we were going to be able to beat the germs in mum’s belly. If we couldn’t, that meant that mummy’s body wouldn’t be able to live anymore and she’d die.”
A Difficult Conversation
Their son, Alibi, was born in 2011. It was a joyous occasion welcoming the baby boy into the family. Sadly, Renee did not make it through her cancer battle for much longer. She passed away at a young 39 years old.
Putting on a Brave Face
Chris knew that he had to stay strong for his children, even though he had just lost his soul mate. He had to figure out how to balance being a father and filling in a mother’s place.
The Saddest Part
“I miss the companionship, the shared load, the daily debrief. Those little moments in life are the things you tend not to think about, but they’re the things you miss the most,” Chris recalls. This may be the hardest thing that he will ever go through.
Living for a Purpose
If it weren’t for Grace and Alibi, Chris would have had a hard time finding a purpose to keep going. He realized that he had to be there for his children and give them the lives they deserved.
Just a Dad
Chris decided he needed to find an outlet for his grief and share his stories as a single dad. So, he started a blog called “Just a Dad” three years after Renee had passed. Single fathers from across the world read Chris’s blog.
Building a Home Again
Chris wrote about how he was putting his family back together after the loss of his wife. He also wrote about the struggles he faced. He always made sure that he and his children would never forget Renee.
It’s true that time heals broken hearts, but they are never completely fixed. In 2018, Chris realized how happy he was with his children something he never thought he would feel during his time of grief.
One day while Chris was reading through Renee’s email inbox, he came across something interesting. He opened up multiple emails between Renee and his family.
It turns out that Renee had been planning a surprise party for Chris on his 40th birthday, which wasn’t until 2014, with his family. He couldn’t believe that even while battling cancer, his wife was still thinking of nice things she could do for him.
Chris suddenly felt extreme guilt after finding the emails. “The tears flowed and I felt terrible guilt. Guilt that I hadn’t thought or felt these things for some time. Guilt that I had seemingly forgone these feelings in the pursuit of normality and, dare I say it, happiness… Guilt that I’m here and not her,” he wrote in his blog post “Mourning Guilt.”
Chris reminds his readers that “like everything else in life, [guilt] too passes.” He compared the feeling to a hammer coming down on his kneecap. The pain eventually subsides as time passes.
Chris recognized that there is no way to speed up or change the grieving process. “There are no answers. No solutions or not ways to manipulate the grief journey. It just has to happen. However it pans out, I just have to trust that I’ll be okay,” he wrote.
Without Renee, Chris would have never become the man he is today. “Even writing this all down has been cathartic and I feel lighter already. So I guess I should say thanks, Renee, for still helping me out after all these years,” he wrote in an ending to one of his blog posts.
Forming a Community
Thanks to Chris’s blog and sharing his thoughts, widowed fathers everywhere took comfort in his words. They were able to connect with Chris and each other to form a sort of community that helped each other through such difficult times.