Thank you to Hannah, who has very kindly given me the opportunity to share my experiences and to attempt to articulate my feelings about losing my beautiful son, Percy.
Needless to say, losing your baby is devastating and life changing. My son Percy Theodore Deane was born asleep at 21+5 weeks on 5th January 2018. There is still a Taboo surrounding parents who lose their babies and I hope that being open with my feelings and experiences as a grieving father will encourage people to broaden their perspectives and try to break the taboo.
My name is Dave and I am married to Helen. Finding out that Helen was pregnant was an incredible feeling. I can honestly say that finding out that I was going to become a father made be the happiest I had ever known. We attempted to be cautious with our optimism and paid for an early scan at 8 weeks. On this scan we could see the bright flashing of a very strong heartbeat and seeing this brought happy tears to our eyes. Our baby was tiny of course so we came up with the nickname “Peanut”.
At our 12 week scan we had a wonderful view of our baby and again saw his strong flashing heartbeat. Percy was kicking his long legs with so much energy. I like to go running, so I was immediately thinking that our baby would grow up to become a quick runner! Once you get past your 12 week scan, society dictates that you are out of the “danger zone”. In fact it goes further than society, medical professionals say the same thing. We were the happiest we had ever known and dared to dream of a happy future. I cannot imagine ever being able to feel so elated, ever again.
I was unable to make the 16 week midwife check to listen to the heartbeat. I wish I had been there to hear that strong heartbeat and even typing this now brings me to tears because I still feel guilty that I was not there.
People often say that fathers do not bond with their unborn baby, but that was never the case for me. I would talk to our little peanut, saying “Hello Peanut, daddy’s home.” I would worry so much about Helen and our baby when we were apart, for no reason. I felt so protective and so much overwhelming love for our little Peanut.
Our 20 week scan was booked for 27th December 2018. Both Helen and I love Christmas, but it couldn’t end soon enough for us, as we were desperate to see our baby again. We wanted to find out whether what we were having. We were blissfully unaware that minutes later the world for us, would change forever.
The radiographer started looking for our baby and for some time couldn’t find him. With each second that passed, we knew that something was wrong, not that the radiographer was engaging with us in any way. I watched my beloved Helen’s face slowly change and could see her heart breaking. All I could do was hold on to her hand powerlessly watching. Eventually the radiographer found our baby and said coldly, “that’s your baby’s head”. This scan was like no other before. We couldn’t make out our son’s body, just his head. Eventually the heartbeat was found. But our baby was far too small and had very little amniotic fluid.
As the rest of the world celebrated the New Year, Helen and I talked and researched about what might happen next. We suspected we would be offered an amniocentesis and be faced with the decision of whether to terminate our pregnancy. I felt utterly powerless and distraught, our happiness had been shattered into oblivion. I couldn’t the bare the thought of losing our baby or to see Helen heartbroken.
After an agonising 5 day wait being kept in the dark, we finally saw a consultant, despite being promised we would see someone 24 hrs after the scan. He explained that due to our baby’s size and lack of fluid the lungs would not have developed properly and that he had no chance of survival. We were to be faced with making the decision that no parent ever wants to make – do you terminate your baby’s life in the hope that they will not suffer? We were prepared to make what we thought was the right decision, but that decision was taken from our hands. The Consultant conducted another scan and found our beloved Peanut. However this time there was no heartbeat.
Helen returned to the hospital two days later, to give birth in a special delivery suite. The Bereavement Midwife’s were incredible. I get quite emotional when I think how well they supported us. Helen was in Labour for 12 hours and deliberately limited pain relief because we had read advice on SANDS that sometimes mothers have little memory of their time with their baby. I am still in awe of her. I did my best to support Helen, rubbing her back, getting help from the Midwife’s when I felt we needed it and keeping in touch with family.
The moment of his birth is a very vivid memory. There was very little sound and a flood of intermixed emotions that to this day are hard to fathom. The sadness and feeling of being rock bottom were there, but it was more than that. There was relief that Helen was unharmed and perhaps the thing I was not expecting was the feeling of love for my both my wife and our baby. I don’t think I’ll ever be able describe this knot of feelings in an eloquent way, but I think the thing that many struggle to comprehend is the huge amount of love and fragment of joy that made the next few hours so special. Our baby was born asleep, but the time we had with him is the most precious time I have so far had on this earth.
I spoke to Percy and told him all about the people who loved him and how much he means to everyone. As strange as it might seem, I could tell from the time we spent with Percy that he would had a strong but kind and loving soul. I could tell that he loved his mummy and daddy and that he was as devastated for us as we were for him. Walking out of that room and leaving him behind was the hardest part of all, not helped by the sight of a mother with her healthy baby in the corridor.
Two weeks after I returned to work. My Manager was great and supportive, for which I am grateful. Each morning I drive to work and talk to Percy out loud. I can’t bear the thought that he might be able to hear me and if I don’t say anything he might not realise that he is always on my thoughts. My grief will always be a part of me, which is hard for people to accept. Percy is mine and I am his and that will never change. I am proud to be his father.
We had a beautiful service for Percy’s’ cremation, engulfed in love from close family and friends. Carrying him was an honour, for I felt so helpless and this was something I could do for him. After 4 months waiting for post-mortem results, we finally found out why Percy had died. He had a rare genetic abnormality called Fetal Triploidy. Which means he had an extra set of chromosomes and therefore his condition was incompatible with life.
We have had much support from family and friends who have been incredible. I’ve also experienced many people who have said nothing to me and many who have avoided me (even by crossing the street) but now might speak to me about other things. I’ve also had some well-meaning but misguided words that were not comforting.
We have recently celebrated Percy’s short life by hosting a remembrance barbecue with family and friends on his due date. In doing so we have also raised over £350 for the charity Aching Arms. I will also be running the Great South Run this October in Percy’s memory and raising money for SANDS I’d be very grateful for any donations no matter how small. Please follow the link for my page: https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/running4percy