A Dad’s Journey (part 1 of 2), when the unthinkable happens and your baby dies
Amanda asked me a couple of weeks ago if I would like to tell my side of our journey, at first I was a little hesitant, I didn’t think that anyone would want to hear what I had to say, but after thinking about it I agreed, I have written it in honour of my little man, a little baby who is now with the angels, jumping on clouds and sliding down rainbows, Liam, my son who was and is loved more than anyone can imagine.
As a wise person once said (I think it was that great literary genius Pooh Bear), the best place to start a story is at the beginning so here goes:
When Amanda’s water broke that night, I was in a state of both shock and then massive action, “right here we go” I thought to myself. Amanda didn’t need to confirm what I already knew was happening and I was out of bed, getting dressed (I had left a change of clothes near our bed in case of this event occurring overnight). I called Mum to come and look after Alethea so that we could go to hospital. Everything happened smoothly and we were off to hospital and arrived in around half an hour, with me constantly looking at the clock to time Amanda’s contractions. Just before we reached the hospital while we were in the car we had the radio on and we listened to an advertisement for SIDS and we both looked at each other and said “that’s not good timing for this advertisement” yet we never thought that something could go wrong. At the hospital Amanda’s contractions started to get stronger and more painful, I tried to remember what to do to help which was to pat her back, get her anything she needed and generally try to be helpful while generally feeling helpless. The midwife was nice, but stressed due to the amount of ladies giving birth. After putting the CTG monitor on Amanda she notices the strange decrease in Liam’s heart rate as Amanda contracts. I remember her prodding Liam to get his heart rate back up and me thinking that the little guy (I always thought Liam was going to be a boy) really didn’t like the contractions but no one seemed too stressed about it, so I assumed it was fairly routine. Once the Dr was called though we realise that Amanda would be having a c-section which I was cool with as our first birth was a marathon that started early Sunday morning and finished early Monday morning so I thought it would be good for Amanda not to have to go through that again.
The doctor examines Amanda and looks at the CTG and his preference is to do the operation and get the baby out, which is a no brainer for us, I remember saying “ do what ever is best for the baby and whatever Amanda wants” so a C-Section it was. Everyone was still very calm it was like there was nothing to be stressed about, I was having a chat with the Doc while Amanda got her epidural and then we were off to theatre. When we got there I was sent away to put scrubs on and then I had to wait in this little side room to the theatre for what felt like ages but was probably 20mins and all I can think of is “I wonder how Amanda is doing, hope it doesn’t hurt and I can’t believe I am going to be a Dad again, please just be a healthy baby”.
Amanda has written about the actual surgery and I cannot hope to compare to her words so instead I will not go through all the details but simply my thoughts and feelings during this period.
When they lift Liam out of Amanda and carry him to the table, he looks a little grey and limp with no sound, the sound doesn’t bother me (as Alethea didn’t make a sound when she was born), but the lifeless figure wasn’t a good sign. I went through an emotional roller coaster, it started with them telling me it was a boy, and the elation I felt, then I watched in slow horror as he wasn’t moving, then the staff attitude changed from casual to very stressed. As I sat there watching my little man only a couple of metres away from me, with multiple people trying to help him I felt helpless and lost, all that I can think of is that I am the dad, it is my job to project my family and I can do nothing to help him. As the minutes, then hours ticked by, I prayed for him, I willed him with more force than I ever knew I had, I bargained for him, with so many promises; if only they could bring him back to me, healthy and alive so I could hold him in my arms and keep him safe. I failed. I looked at my beautiful wife, and I wondered how I was ever going to get her through this, she was hyperventilating, our beautiful baby that she had carried in her belly for 9 months was dying in front of us, how was I going to be able to support her, how would I tell Alethea, how would I get through this horrible nightmare myself. I looked at Amanda and she was white as a ghost, her eyes were puffy from crying and hyperventilating and I was in shock, I was shivering and someone put a warm towel around my back, how did it go so wrong, only a few hours ago we were laughing together, excitedly anticipating our baby and now we were in the depths of despair….how can this sort of thing happen in today’s society, what couple watch their baby die?
The decision to stop his breathing support and let him pass away in our arms is without doubt the hardest decision we have ever had to make, at the time the easiest decision would have been to let him live but I knew deep down that he would never return to us. Amanda didn’t want to make the decision for us and more than anything else in the world I wanted my little man to live but a small part of my brain that was still functioning told me that he was never going to make it and we would be selfish to prolong his agony. We had to let him go. I got to cuddle my little man while he was still alive and for that I will be forever grateful, I was able to hold him in my arms, I might have failed to protect him but I got to give him my love and I can only hope that it helped him and he felt my love before he left us.
Shock is the best way I can describe the time in theatre, I could do nothing but hold Amanda and cry with her at the cruelty of life, and the thought of having to tell Alethea that Liam wasn’t coming home was truly devastating. She had so wanted to be a big sister, every day she gave mummy’s tummy a cuddle and a kiss telling her little brother or sister that she loved them and how she was going to look after them for us and how she was going to play with them. It breaks my heart every day to think of the pain that my beautiful daughter has had to go through, all I can do is give her big cuddles, lots of kisses and spend as much time with her as possible (even if it means pretending to be lions and having tea parties!!)
Before Alethea woke that morning I had to call my mum and let her know our horrible news, so as not to get Alethea excited, never has a phone call been so hard to make and all I remember saying to mum was that ‘we had a little boy but something went wrong and he has died.’ I had walked a short distance away from Amanda as I knew I was going to burst into tears again and I didn’t want Amanda to be too upset for me. Telling someone for the first time that your baby boy has died is truly one of the worst experiences that you can go through, it brings it home that this “horrible nightmare” is actually real and that you have failed as a parent to protect your child.
When the hospital staff gave us the choice of sending Liam “downstairs” or taking him back to our room with us, I knew I wanted him with me. I had so many hopes and dreams for my little man that I couldn’t say goodbye like that. At first, Amanda was against the idea, I think she thought that it was too horrifying to have a dead baby with us reminding us constantly what we were missing out on, and normally I agree with most things that she wants, but I really wanted Liam to come with us, so when I voiced my opinion and she realised how much it meant to me, she agreed to let him come and she is now forever grateful for that special time we had as a little family in our own part of the world within that hospital room which seemed far removed from the real world.
I remember someone offering to take Liam and pop him in a crib to walk back to our room but I didn’t want to let him go, somewhere deep inside I knew that I only had a short time with my son and I needed to spend it with him so I carried my son through the hospital and to our room. That walk seemed like a marathon, every part of me hurt and it was a physical effort to put one foot in front of the other and follow Amanda’s bed as I felt like a beaten old man. As we walked past the delivery suite it dawned on me that we were going to the maternity ward, I remember thinking “why us, why do these people have a healthy baby and we don’t”. We had been on such a tough journey with the many, many miscarriages that it felt like we were due some luck but instead I was carrying my dead son through a ward filled with sounds of life.
When we got to the room, we met our two nurses who were lovely, they helped us with our tears, they protected us from the outside world and they were on call any time for anything we needed, big or small they made it their job to help us and I hope they understand how grateful we are.
One of the nurses asked if I would like to give Liam a bath, initially I was hesitant but I felt like it was something I could do and Amanda was supportive. To gently bath my little boy and wash him clean from all the blood was an amazing experience, after feeling useless and unable to help him, to be able to bath him for the first time as I had done with Alethea was both a surreal and priceless memory. I felt like I was helping, and I felt like it was a way of showing my respect and honouring him, he fought so hard to live, if I could wash him clean from the trauma in some way that would help him know how much I loved him, how proud I was that he fought so hard, and that he was part of our family.
My beautiful wife, she was in so much pain that morning without any pain relief medication after the C-Section, I’m not sure how she survived it, and on top of that she had the pain of being a mum to a little boy who would never take another breath. She is my rock, my soul mate and my best friend and I knew that I needed to help her during this time, whatever she needed I needed to do for her. My job now was to help her. People talk of strength, and I had a number of mates text me that I needed to “be strong, and be stronger for Amanda”, I didn’t need to be told, she is the person I will spend the rest of my life with, without her I am nothing and right at this moment she needed me now more than ever, and I needed to step up and be there for her.
Those couple of days we spent with Liam will forever be in my heart, I am so glad we got to spent just a small amount of time with him. I was able to sit him in my arms for many hours telling him about my dreams for him and how much he was and will be loved. Most of all I got to say my goodbyes to him and I got to watch him being cuddled and loved by his mum who should have been the most important person in his life which had been taken from him.
Apart from feeling numb and not really believing what had happened to us and then having the numbness wear off and the reality set in while we were in hospital, there are a few things that I do remember, firstly our 2 lovely nurses who looked after us, the sympathy and empathy that they had for us, secondly the Heartfelt photographer, she was beautiful, she didn’t say very much to us, I think she didn’t want to risk upsetting us too much, but she gave us memories that will last us a lifetime, which we proudly display throughout our house, then there were the ladies from Twinkle Toes and Smallprint who came to us on a moments notice to give us treasures we look at/and wear each day.
Saying goodbye to my little man on that last day was beautiful, surreal, horrible and devastating all together, to know that I had to take my wife home to an empty house, with an empty nursery was horrible, she was still in pain from the c-section and the life in her had disappeared, I needed to be strong for her and I felt that I wasn’t even capable of putting one foot in front of the other, but knowing that she needed me was what kept me going, it gave me a job and something to focus on and pulled me through those first horrible days and nights.
- Posted in: The First Weeks