Blissfully unaware

If there’s one thing that losing your child does more than anything, it is that it totally robs you of any innocence or naivety you may have had surrounding pregnancy and childbirth. What I’ve discovered since we lost Henry is that the vast majority of people who haven’t experienced baby loss have no idea of the scale of the problem.

As first time parents, despite the high-risk nature of Briony’s pregnancy (insulin-dependent diabetic, over the age of 40, entire pregnancy in a mobility-restricting Ilizarov frame, pictured below), the whole thing seemed like a doddle.

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I don’t know about the rest of you, but in my head it was “12 week scan, all good, tick”… “20 week scan, its a boy, all good, tick”… “plain sailing from here on in”. In my head at that point, all we had to do was pick a name, buy a load of stuff, and sort out his room. I was in Spain with work for the 20 week scan, so Briony made the sonographer write the sex of our child in a little card, and kept the envelope sealed until I got home.

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Our son was always going to be called Henry. My best friend from school was called Henry, and he was killed in a car accident when we were 14. I always knew my first son would be named after him.

Hen

So we concentrated on getting important stuff, seeing as the whole thing was going as smooth as you like:

This photo would have been taken in early April 2014. I think it’s one of the last photos we have of either of us looking truly happy and carefree, with no idea of the gathering storm that was just over our horizon.

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That’s one of the things that losing a baby does to you, it leaves you inherently sad – even when you’re having a good day, you’re only a moment or a trigger away from feeling completely broken again.

It hadn’t even entered my head that there was even the remotest possibility that Henry would die. Stillbirth as a concept hadn’t even registered with me. I knew lots of women suffered miscarriages of course, but I didn’t know anyone who had suffered a stillbirth. Even when I set off for work on the morning of Wednesday 30th April, my last day before paternity leave, it wasn’t on my radar. In fact, it was so far off my radar that NASA would have struggled to pick it up.

It was one of those things that happened in the old days, right?

Or in the developing world?

It doesn’t happen to white, middle-class families in affluent areas like Harrogate, does it?

It sure does. One in every 200 pregnancies in England ends in stillbirth. Ten babies in England today. 10 yesterday. 10 tomorrow. Every day, 10 more families in England have their world smashed into a million pieces by stillbirth and are left to spend a lifetime putting them back together.

My friend Jessica, Leo’s mum, covered this in her amazing blog The Legacy of Leo, so I’m just going to quote her, because she absolutely nails it:

It occurred to me today, after reading this article, that really Baby Loss is a cause that is rarely fought outside the group it affects. Yet, it is a women’s issue. And a man’s issue. It is everyones issue. But where is the fight? The fight is in the homes of the bereaved parents, in the fundraising, and in the tireless work of the incredible charities – more often than not, set up and funded by the bereaved families…

Stillbirth is an every person issue.

When baby loss affects 1 in 4 pregnancies, it is an every person issue. There are so many layers to it, so many different debates, strategies, methods of change. But ultimately, people need to fight. They need to recognise this isn’t about me not being able to get over it, despite it being a year already. It isn’t about it not being meant to be or it wasn’t really a baby. It is about there being an avenue for change and we need to fight to make sure it happens. Not just in the UK, but worldwide. There is so much variance, and sadly the UK is nowhere near the top of the table.

You see, losing a baby doesn’t just take away the child you’d hoped excitedly for, the child you’d smiled at as he kicked your head away from your wife’s tummy.

It takes away every birthday, every Christmas, first words, first steps. The first smile, even knowing your child’s eye colour.

It takes away the first night they slept through (I’d give anything for a sleepless night because of our baby crying, wouldn’t bother me in the slightest).

It takes away the first tooth coming out, first day at school. First game of rugby – Henry would definitely have been a scrum-half.

First day of exam stress, first girlfriend, first break-up. Driving tests and university graduations. First jobs, first homes, even first grandchildren.

Losing your baby takes away every. single. hope. you ever had.

Once you lose that innocence, there’s no way of ever getting it back.

Stillbirth is an every person issue.

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11 thoughts on “Blissfully unaware

  1. Everything you ever write makes me so sad for all the families suffering with the bereavement, grief, heartbreak of stillbirth or miscarriages. The way you write gives everyone an insight into how it feels to go through stillbirth and opens people’s eyes to how commonplace it is and how important it is for more research to be done on how to prevent it happening. So well written and so heartbreaking. Thank you for sharing, and for educating me.

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  2. Beautifully written post. It is so true that stillbirth feels like something that happens to ‘other people’ – in a different time and in a different place – except that it doesn’t. If can happen to anyone. Four years before we lost Findlay, our best friend’s son was stillborn. So I knew about it; I knew that babies died; I had seen a family fall into the depths of despair; I had watched them piece together a ‘new normal.’ And yet, I’m ashamed to say, despite all this, I still didn’t think it would also happen to us. Thank you for sharing xx

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Hi there … my name is Sunshine. My fiancé Peter and I lost our baby Ollie last 6 April 2017 he was born sleeping. Your blog/ article is very touching and helpful. I do agree that people should be aware about it and let the health system do something about it in doing research on ways on how we can lessen the numbers or eradicate this issue. Losing a child is like losing a part of a puzzle once it’s gone there is an empty space on that structure and it won’t be filled anymore.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Sunshine, I am so sorry for the loss of your precious son Ollie. I think awareness and healthcare is improving, but we all need to keep making sure our voices get heard. You’re absolutely right, I hope you find in time as I have that you just have a different jigsaw puzzle now, not the one you were doing before. Always here if you want to talk. 💙

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  4. Today is my Son’s birthday.
    This morning I had a birthday breakfast with his married twin Sister before she left to go to her dream job. I then went onto the florist to buy flowers to create a display by the altar of our Church for him.
    It’s 23 years since my darling babies were born. I was lucky to have four days with my baby boy before he died in my arms due to a congenital medical condition.
    The pain doesn’t hurt everyday now, but today I have to be happy for my Daughter but I’m breaking up inside.
    I have seen his Sister grow into a beautiful, happy and fulfilled grown up and I will always wonder what he would have become…

    Liked by 1 person

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