The loss of a child; from a husband and a dad’s perspective.
Firstly, I’m not much of a writer so I do apologise if this doesn’t read as well as it
should – here’s hoping my wife Ruth will give it the once over! I suppose the best
place to start is back in 2015. I remember coming back from my weekly football
game to Ruth greeting me with a little package. Inside it was a pregnancy test that
read positive. Those little two lines – my wife carrying our first baby. As this was our
first experience of pregnancy the overwhelming feeling was one of sheer excitement
and pure joy. This is what we wanted more than anything and naively all we had was
dreams of what we assumed the future would hold; that in March of the next year I
would become a dad and Ruth a mum. From that moment when your wife/partner
tells you that life-changing news your whole outlook changes. Sadly, our outlook
changed for the worse.
Fast forward to a holiday with our friends in the Lake District when our whole world
came crashing down. I remember it so vividly. We were returning from a walk when
Ruth suddenly felt a pain in her tummy where she knew immediately something was
drastically wrong with her pregnancy. This pain turned out to be a ruptured eptopic
pregnancy which went undetected and left Ruth internally bleeding for 10 days. It
was only when I rushed her to hospital and she collapsed in the waiting room that
the enormity of the fact that actually I could lose my wife really hit me. What hit me
the hardest was how helpless I felt in this nightmare. First of all I had to watch Ruth
go through the heartbreak of losing our first baby but then I watched as she
collapsed in front of me, began fitting and was rushed into emergency surgery. Her
veins were collapsing due to such heavy blood loss and they struggled to find one to
be able to put the anaesthetic in. I was terrified watching this huge team of doctors
and nurses around her.
I never really talked about my own feelings during all this, I thought keeping strong
and supporting Ruth was my job now. However, the grief had to be let out somehow
and all the emotion, heartache and anger at the world would finally catch up with me.
Binge drinking with friends and gambling became my outlet – the grief had to come
out somewhere. Then one day, for various reasons, I hit rock bottom and I finally
realised that all this was doing was hurting my one constant – us. I crashed hard.
With support of family and some good friends I came back. I’d say it took a good
year to get back to my recognisable self (and for Ruth to be in a better place too) and
I know without Ruth by my side I would have definitely sank.
January 2017 arrived, we were back to trying again, and I was happily cooking a
meal downstairs when Ruth called from upstairs. My ‘moaning’ at being called away
from my culinary expertise quickly turned into a rollercoaster of emotion. A positive
test, Ruth was pregnant, the chance to have a baby and be a family again. Yes,
there was overwhelming joy but also the fear of going through this again was
crippling. But we had to stay positive, this is what we wanted more than anything and
surely this was our time? Due to Ruth’s previous eptopic pregnancy we were going
to be really looked after and we were scheduled in for an early scan at 6 weeks. This
was comforting but also very scary as we desperately tried to talk ourselves out of
the worst scenarios. The scan showed our baby, in the right place with its little heart
flickering away. We then continued with an early scan fortnightly with each scan
bringing new hope and reassurance. Then we got to 12 weeks, such a huge day, the one every parent waits for and it was a truly day of pure love and joy to see a healthy
baby. We couldn’t wait to tell the world our news after such a difficult 18 months
As the weeks passed we got more excited and the trips to Mothercare became more
frequent. I would find myself talking a lot more about the excitement to come and
starting to image that we were actually going to bring this baby home. Obviously, I
was still a stressful pain in the arse – constantly asking Ruth if she was ok. Is that
feeling normal? Should you be doing that? But after a while I settled into looking to
the future and that all was going well. We got to the 20-week scan and what a day
that was. The moment you got to really see your baby and when you would find out
the gender if you wished. All the checks were fine and after a bit of a delay from
someone not wanting to reveal himself (!) the sonographer finally revealed we were
expecting a boy! A son. This all seemed very real now and any lingering fear had
pretty much gone. Everything was going according to plan. Three more weeks
passed, and the nursery was now completed, the pram was bought, and every kind
of outfit had been put away in the nursery. We had a name ‘Dexter Bear’ and he was
going to be such a legend!
The weekend before I received that ‘phone call’, the one that in the back on my mind
I had always been dreading, we knew something wasn’t quite right.We had phoned our local hospital, but we were assured as long as we kept an eye on things
everything was fine. We had every reason to trust what they said so we’d tried to
push our worries away. Then the Monday arrived. I was on a school trip when I
received a call from Ruth. I knew straightaway before answering something was
wrong and when I was met with her crying my worst fears had come true – something
was very wrong. Ruth said her waters had broken and she was being rushed to
hospital. She was only 23+5. Nearly a two-hour taxi journey later I rushed in to find
Ruth and our baby in the hospital being checked. Dexter was still ok but there was
no fluid around him. It was decided, and we agreed, that the best situation was for
him to hopefully hold on as long as possible and Ruth to build up her fluid again.
Our little legend held on until 24 weeks and 1 day when sadly he decided it was too
much. I will never, until the day I die, be able to wipe those words from my memory…
“I’m sorry there’s no heartbeat”
Then complete silence.
How quickly those 24 weeks of dreams and plans were just snatched away from us.
This was the most painful day of my entire life, not just for me but as a husband
having to watch the person I wanted to protect from any more hurt and sadness
having to go through it all again but on a much greater and more painful scale.
Having to watch Ruth be so strong and give birth to our beautiful boy knowing no
sound would be heard was indescribable. Where she found the strength is
something I will never understand. Having to watch her walk out of the hospital
without her son, with just a box, was one of the most heartbreaking moments of my
life. One of the most frustrating things is the helplessness of just having to watch
someone you adore have to endure such a shit and cruel fate.
Regret is something I have suffered from about the days we spent with Dexter. I
didn’t even want to look at him or hold him at first, I was scared I suppose. Ruth told
me I would regret it for the rest of my life which would have been right. I held Dexter,
I talked to him, I made promises to him and I watched as his courageous mummy
nursed him and tried to make memories with him. I wish I had taken more photos, I
wish I had created more memories, read to Dexter, anything really but actually no
amount of photos or memories we made that day would ever be enough. I have just
one photo of Dexter and I, I thought I was smiling, I in fact look like a broken man. I
was. But the photo of Ruth and Dexter is one I will treasure forever and always be
thankful that Ruth made me take it.
So this is our story. Yes, there are absolute utterly shit days where you are just angry
at the world and frustrated at why this happened to us. We didn’t deserve this……but
then who does? And the sad truth is that baby loss is more common than we are led
to believe and what people need is support, to be able to share their stories and not
feel like a taboo. Dexter isn’t a taboo or a secret that should be shied away from. He
was, is and forever will be my son.
However, the most overwhelming feeling I have from all of this is one of pride and
hope. Proud of my amazing wife that makes me howl with laughter daily and I grow
to love her even more every single day if that’s possible. I have such pride of the
legacy Dexter is leaving through the random acts of kindness, the raising of
awareness and the love he brings to family, friends and anyone touched by his story.
Then hope, the hope that we will have a family one day, a baby that we will get to
bring home and tell them all about their big brother Dexter. But in the meantime, I’ll
continue to get what’s known by my tattooist as the ‘sad sleeve’ finished (my
optimistic other arm is ready!!) and although there may be some days where I just
want to shut the door on the world, there are still many days of full of love, laughter
Thank you Hannah for letting me share Dexter’s story – it is an absolute honour and
privilege to be part of the ‘Dad’s Grieve Too’ blog series and for that I am so grateful.
To everyone that has taken the time to read this – thank you, it means the world.