Phil Seo | Finding True North

By | August 16, 2019


This is a love story. Not your typical one though. You see it starts with my love of math. I love math so much that when I got into Sauder, I thought I’d fall in love with accounting. Unfortunately accounting didn’t love me back. I was horrible at it, and this is very crushing for a guy who posed with his calculator in his high school grad photo. But luckily I’d fall in love with a girl named Mary, who sat three seats down from me and fortunately she would love me back. We ended up becoming friends, dating and eventually even getting married on national TV. I told her from a very early age I always wanted to be a dad. You see I volunteered for kids for over 20 years now. These are a few photos from my camp counselor days. The middle one I will explain. I was trying to be a face painter, and I was really trying my very best to draw Pikachu on that little girl in case it wasn’t clear. But so with this background, my story tonight is about how I wanted to become a dad. So a few years after we got married, we got the good news one day that my wife got pregnant. I went to the first doctor’s appointment, and it was amazing to hear my child’s heartbeat for the very first time. Basically sounds like “wow wow wow wow”. I couldn’t make it to the second doctor’s appointment because I had a work meeting. So then I checked my cell phone after and I got text from my wife. It said “there’s no heartbeat”. And I said, “what do you mean?” “They just can find it?” No, that’s not what it meant, we had a miscarriage and our baby had passed away. Luckily a few months later though, my wife would get pregnant again. And this time, I was gonna go to every single doctor’s appointment. So a month passed, two months past, three months passed. Did you know that 99% of pregnancies that last until they get to the third month make it all the way to the end of full-term? But we were the 1%. We were told that our baby was not viable and would die soon. My wife had to actually deliver our dead baby, and we got to see her. Her hands, her feet and her face. I asked why. Why is this happening? The doctor said it just happens by chance sometimes. We can conceive. We had in the past. That it just happens. I remember one night sitting in my car. My mom had called and I just started crying, just started crying in my car. My mom reminded me of a conversation that we had when I was a UBC student. You see, she was in the hospital going into a pretty serious surgery and I told her you have to survive because you have to see your future grand kids grow up. I said you can’t lose hope. And she told me now you can’t lose hope too. The days would turn to weeks and weeks to months and months to years. And nothing. Then one day, last year, my wife would get pregnant again. Made it through the first trimester, the second trimester and this photos from the third trimester. And the night that my wife’s water broke, we got to the hospital and they said Sorry, we’re full. You can’t deliver here. So this was in December in the middle of the crazy winter storms last year. We finally found a hospital that would take us and they said good news and bad news. Bad news is you’re too late for epidural. The good news is you’re fully dilated. Amazing news was we had our baby. We could celebrate… So I wanted to share the three things that I learned from our five-year journey. The first thing was talk it out. After the first miscarriage, I didn’t talk to anybody about it. And that was not healthy. I was in a really dark place. After the second one though, my wife and I joined a married couples church group where we met first weekly and then monthly thereafter. So we shared what was going on and we realized that miscarriages actually happened more often than people care to talk about. It actually happens about one out of every five pregnancies or so. I actually applied the small group concept to work and co-created a new managers group with five other managers, and we ended up meeting monthly and it’s been a great way to share and just talk through things because we’re going through the same things. The second thing I learned was don’t lose hope. I learned that sometimes dreams don’t happen exactly the way you picture them to be. Sometimes they take longer and sometimes you’ll face obstacles along the way. From talking out though, I learned from a friend that they tried to have a baby for ten years and they had their little baby. They had a boy. Who’s now nine years old and full of energy. I decided that I was going to grab on to the testimonials of other people and believe if it can happen to them it can happen to me. I reminded myself that everything works out in the end. If it hasn’t worked out, it’s not the end. The third thing that I learned was there’s strength in vulnerability. I grew up with a fear of failure. I hated talking about anytime that I failed. I could talk about the good times, but I could – I just hated talking about the messy times. If I hadn’t shared with others though about a miscarriage I wouldn’t have learned about the friend who tried to have a baby and had one after 10 years. Now this is a very public forum to be talking about such a personal story. But the reason why I’m sharing is because I hope that by sharing my story, it helps other people open up too. Because what I learned is, by opening up and sharing the struggles that I was going through in my life it helped make a safe environment for others to share as well. So the three things again that I learned were to talk it out, find safe people, don’t be an island on your own. When you reach your goal, you have that many more people to celebrate with you. Don’t lose hope, other people are potentially going through the same thing as you are. And the last thing is strength. There’s strength in vulnerability. Be real and share what’s going through your life because who knows, you might be sharing this in a Pecha Kucha presentation one day. So this is a more recent photo of my baby. She was very excited that I was going to do her talk about her tonight. In reality she’s actually excited almost all the time anyway. Her name is Amy. It means beloved because we knew that we would love her so much. And we will be celebrating her one-year birthday next month. I started by saying that this is a love story, and I’d like to thank Mary, my wife who’s here in the audience, for being incredible wife and an incredible mother. My heart is full of love for my wife, for my baby, for our family. And I want to thank you for listening to our story of how we pursued happiness. Thank you very much.

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