It was the 11th of November 2017 and my partner, Stacey, had left in the morning to head to Manchester for her baby shower, she had said she felt a little unwell but no more than had been usual during the pregnancy. I stayed at home to carry on with decorating for our new arrival. Later in the day, I got a call from Stacey, she was feeling worse, had passed out and had some back pain so her dad was bringing her back home and we rang the hospital straight away. The hospital made us an appointment for a check-up as all signs seemed to suggest a UTI and they just wanted to check everything was ok. As we headed to the hospital for the appointment the pain was getting worse. After an examination, they just wanted to make sure everything was ok with the baby but while checking they couldn’t find a heartbeat, even before the nurse said anything, I knew something was up I could see it in her face as she kept trying to find a heartbeat. It literally felt like my whole world was crumbling at this moment. We were taken to a suite as they wanted to do a scan to double-check everything. I remember just following them all as they wheeled Stacey to the suite and her cries as we were led down the corridors. It was absolutely heartbreaking to hear the person that I love in that way and in so much pain. We arrived at the suite and they started to do the scan, I could still see the screen and just looked in hope that I would see the heartbeat but sadly that was not to be. Again, I could see it in their faces before they even told us, that we had lost him. We both broke down, but this wasn’t over, Stacey was still very unwell and they still weren’t sure what had happened.
It turned out Stacey had suffered pre-eclampsia and that had caused a placental abruption and it in turn had caused internal bleeding and she had got sepsis. So after finding out we had just lost our little boy now being told the women that I love is very ill, it felt like my world was falling apart. I was devastated that we had just lost our son but worried and scared that I could lose her as well. I know that Stacey’s auntie had died of sepsis so knew it was bad. They hooked her up to antibiotics to try get it under control but also started the process of inducing her to deliver Harry. As time went on she was just getting worse and I remember the midwives doctors nurses coming in and out and they were timing the observations and the medication for inducing. The times kept creeping down and they were coming in more regularly, we didn’t know what was happening until they then came in with an emergency form to fill in to perform an emergency c section as she wasn’t getting any better. While Stacey was being taken down to theatre me and my mother in law were shown to the Serenity Suite. The Serenity Suite is a special bereavement suite like a little contained flat and we were told we could stay in here while recovering and to spend time with Harry in a cold cot. It felt like forever we were sat waiting and worrying then a midwife came in and told us Harry had been born he was beautiful but as much as they wished they could, nothing could have been done to save him. She told us there had been complications and it would be a while yet before we could see Stacey. Finally, we were allowed to see Stacey in post-op, they told us she was in the middle of her third blood transfusion. Seeing her hooked up to all the wires and bags was scary, but then she shouted at her mother for gripping her hand and hurt where her cannula was it was weird but we both kind of laughed knowing that she was ok. Stacey was moved onto the close observation ward to be monitored then finally moved into the Serenity Suite. During this, we also found out that Stacey was within thirty minutes of potentially dying while in surgery and had a collapsed lung. This was just another thing we had to deal with along the way.
Men are stereotypically seen as the ‘strong one’ and people were telling me this at the time, that I must be strong for Stacey. However for me this was not the case as much as I tried to be as strong as I could for both of us I completely fell apart, I’d try and put a brave face on for Stacey but I know even as much as she was ill and suffering, she could see right through it and we comforted each other like the team that we are.
We had over a week’s stay in the hospital between close observation and the special bereavement suite where we received a memory box and had Harry with us in a cold cot. We could spend time and create memories, not the ones we had ever imagined for us but so helpful. During our stay the staff were all brilliant, we couldn’t have asked for any better people to care for us not only did they care for the health of Stacey but also checked how I was doing and feeling and never once pressured me that I should be the strong one. While in the hospital I was sat looking through the lovely memory box that we had received and I found details of the charity that supplied them and proceeded to contact them to thank them for putting together something that can help so much and received a reply from founder, Jo, who was just brilliant. There was something else that caught my eye also a leaflet for jewellery that could contain hand and footprints of our little one, I again messaged the owner and spoke to Adam, someone I’d never met, about something that felt like it had just destroyed my life. He was so nice and comforting and I still even chat to him to this day nearly 3 years on.
After the hospital, it was time to get back to reality- back to the real world outside of the bubble we had created in the suite full of supporting staff. We returned home and it just hit us all over again walking through the door and in the front room stood a pram, that I’d only just built up the week before and a room full of boxes with a cot and bedroom furniture. I’m not going to lie the door to that front room got shut and was only opened if we desperately needed something from there as I hated going in and seeing the things we had bought for him. Grief has no timescale and can creep up on you at any moment, sometimes without warning. Harry’s furniture is still packed up, it has moved rooms but remains unopened and the room which should have been his is unfinished. I made myself a promise that no matter what I was going to finish the room as we had planned but, as of yet I’ve still not fulfilled this promise to myself. Every time I try to start doing the room the day it all happened comes back to me and it’s just crippling. I’ve had offers of help from a few people but I just believe I need to do this myself it sounds silly but I still feel as if I need to.
I did not return to work straight away, I was looking after Stacey who was still unwell and I just felt I needed to be there for her no matter what. I was really struggling myself and had to visit the doctors and have my medication adjusted to try to help me as I knew I had to be there to care and support her as much as I could. Even though we were back home I think we had just created yet another bubble and felt safe we had friends and family sending messages of support but a lot just didn’t know what to say or do. I did however find some comfort in a friend that messaged me and he had been in a similar position and it was so helpful to talk to him. I think I was lucky that i had another male not afraid to talk and just knew what to say, as up until then I just hadn’t felt that others had understood what was currently going through my head.
As a whole, I was really struggling to keep it all together – be able to look after Stacey, be strong and go about life as normal as possible. I’d looked to see if I could find any type of groups for dads who had suffered loss but at the time sadly I could not find anything. During all this time we had still stayed in touch with Jo who was a great support and actually got in touch with us regarding a support group for parents she was partnering with, so we went along and met Jo for the first time along with another mum and even though I was the only dad there it did feel like it helped. We continued to attend the meetings doing arts, crafts and even box making session decorating and putting together the same memory boxes we had received, I found this especially helpful and felt as if I was giving something back and helping other families in the same position we had been in. During these meetings, we found out Jo was organising a fun run in memory of her son Luke and to raise funds, so again we joined in we took part in the run – being overweight, unfit and asthmatic wasn’t stopping me trying to do as well as I could in my son’s name! We had a great response with sponsorship and raised a good amount of money which we were really proud of and it was a good day and fun was had by all.
As much fun as the fun run was, we also had some other special news the day before that we were expecting again and as exciting as this was it also brought a lot of fear along with it. Was it all going to happen again? We contacted our bereavement midwife straight away and the support we got was brilliant from her and the continued support from the Friends of Serenity team which we had also now become part of as trustees. Over the course of the next 9 months and a few complications, many visits to hospital, extra scans and appointments, and a hell of a lot of stress we welcomed our Rainbow Baby Noah to the world.
Throughout this all I found support in different ways from the hospital both with Harry and all of the extra care and checks with Noah. I found Charlie’s Childloss Charity dads group on Facebook when expecting our rainbow. This is a great place and is a safe and supporting group of dads who have all suffered loss and I’d highly recommend any bereaved dads to join here. Some men don’t feel they can talk about it to their mates or family cause you’re meant to be that stereotypical man but this is a place you can go and talk to other men in the same position you are in. Minds Matter is another service that I used for counselling for both grief and personal issues, they are always available to contact and can help greatly. Finally, Friends of Serenity from receiving our memory box and the funding they put into the hospital for the bereavement suites for our stay after losing Harry allowing us to spend some time with him. Then the continued support personally from Jo and through the Butterfly Group Meetings and the other angel parents we met along the way and I could not be more proud to become friends with these families and to be a trustee of FoS and work alongside these kind and thoughtful people to help families get through the hardest of times that we all share in common and to do all of this in the name of our son, Harry.