It’s Baby Loss Awareness week (9-15th Oct), and bereaved parents are being encouraged to speak up and help break the silence around baby loss. I am a bereaved father. I would like to share something of my experience.
*trigger warning – baby loss*
In January 2014, we went into hospital expecting to give birth to our boy/girl twins. The pregnancy had been exceptionally healthy and there were no known issues with the babies. During labour, our daughter fell on her own umbilical cord and died. Our twins were delivered just after midnight. Our daughter was stillborn. Our son was perfectly healthy. We believe that our daughter would also have been perfectly healthy, had it not been for the terrible accident she suffered in the hours before her birth.
The night of the birth was traumatic, devastating, joyful, wonderful, and everything else in between. I still cannot properly describe the mess of emotions we went through that night.
We were very lucky to be surrounded by an amazing team at Gloucester Royal Hospital. I will never forget the level of care and understanding that we received there. After 48 hours, we moved to a smaller maternity unit, and a day or so later, we went home. Leaving the hospital with one child is usually the best feeling in the world for most parents; for us, it was the most bewildering mixture of the deep love we immediately felt for our new son, combined with an almost unbearable pain, impossible to comprehend.
I can now safely say that through most of the first year after the birth, we were in a state of shock. I am forever grateful to the support and counselling we received from our GP, our bereavement midwife, Footsteps in Gloucester, TAMBA, and Child Bereavement UK. We were also (obviously) supported by our wonderful families and friends, and continue to be.
Returning to work, for me, was unknown territory. I learnt a lot about myself, my limits for suffering, and about the importance of working with people that care about your emotional welfare. Two months after the twins were born, I went back to work as musical director for a short tour of the UK. The management, touring crew, and my bandmates were so understanding and supportive, it felt like coming home to family.
It is now two and a half years later, and we are stronger and more at peace.
I read once that love is knowing the beginnings of grief. I didn’t really understand that before, but I think now I do.
If you are a bereaved parent reading this, please know that my heart goes out to you. Maybe time does heal, maybe it doesn’t, but at the very least, time will give you more breathing space between the moments of grieving. I hope you find more peace and less pain.
Advice for friends and relatives:
- If you are a friend or relative of a bereaved parent or sibling, and you don’t know what to say, just say “I don’t know what to say”. That is good enough. Being present is what matters.
- Please don’t tell people “you’re doing brilliantly”. People in shock/grief can look really good from the outside – don’t let that fool you.
- Please don’t say “you should be feeling better by now”. There is no timetable to this. Allow people to be bereaved, it’s a permanent part of who they are now.
- Don’t say “well at least…” There is no good way of finishing that sentence.
- Do bring food, even if you just leave it on the doorstep!
- Do help with laundry, dishes, cleaning etc. It really helps.
- Be consistent with your support. Call once a month for six months rather than six times in one week.
- Put dates in the diary for future shared events. It really helps to have something to look forward to.
Thanks for reading. I hope it helps in some way. John Garden.