First of all thank you to Hannah for allowing me to share my story with you all. I am Andrew and my first child, Henry, was born on the 23rd March 2018. This is the same day that our best friends son was born in 2017. My wife and her had said how nice it would be for them to share a birthday as they could have joint birthday parties and with Henry being due on the 1st April it was not completely out of the question. However as it turns out him being born the same day brought no such joy to our heart because Henry’s had already stopped beating.
Growing up whilst most children want to be astronauts or actors, all I ever wanted to be was a father. I just wanted to live comfortably with the woman I love and two or three little children running around. I lived to express my love to my children to help them become happy well rounded individuals.
I married my gorgeous wife Sophie on April 2015 and after we got back from honeymoon later that year we decided to start trying for our first child. You hear all these horror stories in school as a child that if you look at a girl for more than 2 minutes then she will get pregnant. Truth is it isn’t that easy. It took 17 long depressing months of worrying before we finally found out Henry was on his way. Before the positive test i felt like a worn out punching bag and we had both just about given up hope on having a child.
When we saw the test read positive we were both in total shock and could not believe it. It had finally happened we were going to be parents. I was going to be a dad.
The pregnancy was in no way an easy ride, we were in hospital at least once a week for either fluid scans, growth scans or because of reduced movements. Sophie was carrying a lot of fluid but it was just below the dangerous limit and Henry seemed to be growing quickly, but again he was always below the 90th percentile. Every time we went into hospital we came out feeling reassured with a happy healthy baby kicking Sophie like crazy.
When you do something so many times and the outcome is the same, you begin to take it for granted and stop worrying.
Throughout the pregnancy it had felt like it was never really happening for myself, we were preparing for a child but I guess that I would not allow myself to get too invested because something could go wrong. It was not until we met with the consultant at 37 weeks gone and she booked Sophie in to be induced the next Monday that it really sunk in. I began to feel incredibly excited, nothing could go wrong now, we were only days away from induction and then maybe a few days away from birth. Henry was healthy in the right position and we were not made aware of any major risks with the induction method. We would see our son soon.
Monday morning I was finishing work before taking my paternity and annual leave, this was it, in my mind, the start of birth. We were both excited and nervous about the induction, but we just could not wait to see our little man. The evening came and we set off to the hospital for induction, nervous and excited we arrived to be put on a monitor just as a formality to check everything was okay. Everything was fine, as usual, our son was asleep at first and it took a while before he moved enough for the midwives to be fully satisfied. We were then called in for the induction and Sophie had a balloon fitted, it was awful to watch as it seemed to be quite painful for her. Although once in everything seemed fine, our boy was moving around and there was no sign of distress.
We went home that evening and it felt like Christmas Eve. We understood that it may take a few days for anything to happen but the midwife told us more often than not it is only the balloon that is necessary in induction. There were multiple kicks during the night and Sophie struggled to sleep at first because of how active he was, they said there would be more movement as we would expect. The movements continued on Tuesday morning until about 11am, Sophie didn’t feel anything, a couple of hours passed and we had tried the regular tricks like they always told us, eat something with high energy, drink and lay down etc. There was still nothing so we went to the hospital, we were due to go only a few hours later to have the balloon removed anyway so we packed the car because we would be staying in and we should be coming home as a family of three.
When we arrived at the hospital we left all of the bags in the car, went to the waiting room and sat in the all too familiar room. We did not wait long before they called us up to the labour ward to be checked, it made more sense to do it there as we would just have to go there after anyway. As Sophie started to get comfortable we remembered we had brought red pillows that were still in the car, to indicate that Sophie was suffering from pelvic girdle pain. As they started to hook Sophie up I went to go and get the pillows. As I returned Sophie and the midwife were walking towards me in the corridor. Sophie said to me, quite calmly, that we had to go downstairs to check as they thought the machine was not working great and could not clearly hear Henry’s heart. She seemed so calm I thought there was nothing to worry about.
We arrived downstairs at the ward and after 3 more midwives had checked on various machines we were told that Henry’s heart had stopped beating. I felt like someone had pulled my heart out and was suffocating me.
How could this be?
How can we get so close, everything be okay and then suddenly, BANG! Everything goes wrong?
It took an hour or so before it sunk in, we were put in a room for the evening, which I spent the majority of the time curled in a ball, soaked in my own tears. Sophie was in shock at this point, I was just broken. It is incomprehensible, what happened? What did we do wrong? What did Henry do wrong to deserve his life to be taken from him?
We were told later that evening that Henry would have to be born naturally to prevent any problems in future, and that Sophie would have to carry him for a few days until he was ready. I cannot imagine a worse kind of torture then being told your son has died and that you have to carry him for another few days.
Throughout the labour and birth, Sophie was absolutely incredible, I am so proud of her, she fully enjoyed giving birth to our son and cherishes that time with him and the bond they have. I could not cope, the moment Henry came out my heart shattered again. He should have been crying and wiggling but when I saw him come out he was silent and still. I still see that day now, it was not how I could have ever imagined it to be.
Since Henry was born, we spent time with him in the hospital and in the chapel of rest. We visit his “forever garden” most days, but every second of every day he remains in our hearts and thoughts. I have tried to channel some emotion through writing a blog of my experiences.
If you want to know how I cope each day, the answer is I don’t. Every day is reminder of what should have been.
There are a few things I feel guilty for (I know I should not, but that is not how grief works).
1. Not embracing the pregnancy fully and having worries about it going wrong.
2. Leaving Sophie to get the pillows and not being there for her at that time.
3. Not being able to take the burden of the physical pain and anguish form Sophie
4. Not being able to hold my son for the first day.
I can never fix these things, I need to learn to accept that I am not responsible and that Henry is and always will be in our lives.
When you lose a baby your whole future plans are erased and replaced with despair and darkness. Hopefully soon I will feel strong enough to start re-writing our future and keep remembering the light that Henry brought in the time he was here. I am so proud to be a father to my gorgeous son.
If you gave me the choice to have never had Henry and never felt this pain, or to relive this again.
I would relive it all over again, it is horrible, traumatic, indescribable, but it is only all of those things because of the strength of the love we have for our babies. I could not imagine a life where Henry had never existed.