I’m a brand new Dad and I’ve lost my son: my wife and I have just had to say goodbye to our first born, Elvis, at 18 weeks into the pregnancy. He was a much longed for baby. We’d been trying for a couple of years; two IVF consultants hadn’t managed to help us, but a third took a different approach prescribing some ovulation treatment. Six weeks later, we were over the moon to discover that we were pregnant.
Our first 15 weeks had their ups and downs. We had some scares and even ended up at some emergency scan appointments. On each occasion though, Elvis was fine. As we passed the 12 week marker that I had always assumed was the point at which you could more or less assume all would be well, we had both completely relaxed into being excited and happy expectant parents.
It was at the 16 week scan that we first found out that there was a problem. It was picked up by the sonographer, who noticed irregular blood flow in the heart. She was concerned enough to refer us to a fetal cardiologist, who confirmed the diagnosis two days later.
In layman’s terms, Elvis was growing two right sides of a heart instead of a left and right and had further complications with organs in the wrong place. The odds of this happening, we learned, were 1 in 10,000, prognosis of life very slim, and not without significant medical intervention.
Our world fell apart that day. We were ushered into a side room down the corridor in the ward. We were both in tears, completely out of hope. We stood sobbing and hugging until a midwife appeared. All of a sudden we were in a different process, out of the happy cycle of scans and midwife checks and slotted into a new process called termination for medical reason.
The weeks since have been the most harrowing of our lives. That day when we first found out he was poorly I felt was the worst of my life. That was then replaced with the day that we found out my wife would have to give birth early to our baby, and that he would be stillborn. Then it became the day she bravely endured a 14 hour labour, then it was the day of the funeral. We still have his ashes to scatter and a post mortem to come.
Throughout it all, I have wrestled with what role that I should play as the man in the marriage during this sorrowful time. I had in my mind an idea that the stereotypical husband should maintain a stiff upper lip and provide support for his wife, whilst managing communication flow and visitation diary of extended family, before returning to work a week or so later, acting as if all was ok. I felt the need to be that guy, and I’ll admit that before we actually knew Elvis was poorly, I was that guy.
I was the “don’t worry it’s probably nothing” archetype when my wife would report any twinge or unusual pain, and when we did make appointments for emergency scans or took a trip to A&E to get checked out, I was always on the optimistic side of everything will be ok, I can just feel it.
When we found out Elvis wasn’t going to make it, I cracked and went to pieces and have stayed that way since. I’ve talked about how I’m feeling, I’ve cried the tears, taken all the hugs offered and when people ask how I’m coping, I say that I’m finding it really tough.
I’m glad that I did that. We’re nowhere near through our pain, but I do feel better for acknowledging that the pain is there. We’re talking lots, to each other and our family and friends. We’re sharing what’s happened to us, and how terrible we feel. I feel that by talking and sharing our pain, we will ultimately find a way through. I’m very lucky that this experience has coincided with a scheduled period of time off work for me, but I would have really struggled to go back, not just for myself, but because I wouldn’t have wanted to leave my wife.
I guess this is my point, and why I’ve decided to write this: we men all had a son or daughter on the way that didn’t make it. We didn’t give birth to them, we can’t imagine the experience through our partners’ eyes, let alone be affected by the hormones that run through them. But we are dads who have lost our kids, and we need help to get through that too. I thought for a long time before writing this. I do think it’s helped me, and I hope that anyone reading this might find some solace too.
So my message is, don’t worry about how you should behave and what you think will be expected of you. Do what comes naturally and don’t worry about anything else. Cry if you feel like it, talk to your partner and anyone else you feel like talking to. Don’t feel you have to say you’re ok if you’re not. Support and be supported. I hope this helps anyone reading it. Best wishes to you all.