Wednesday 28 June 2017

A father's story: I didn't think anything could go wrong

Fachtna Kelly

I didn't think anything could go wrong. We had been here before. We knew how it went. There'd be a few scans and a few months later the hospital would hand us a baby. And some of that happened. Fiona had a scan. We were given a date, March 17. Though he didn't arrive that day or any other day. Later I'd think of him as Patrick. Though we never talked about what to call him. Or even found out if he was a he. There was none of that.

One day we were expecting a baby, the next we weren't. Fiona had a constant feeling of sickness and exhaustion, and was concerned this would affect the baby. That had happened before, during the other pregnancies. And things were alright then. You gave yourself over to the doctors and you learned to let go a bit of the fear that came with expecting a child. And somehow things were okay. Except, of course, this time they weren't okay.

The grief was awful. There's all that expectation, that potential and then a line is drawn through all of that. Your son's heart or your daughter's heart just stops. Like light from a distant star, the information takes a while to reach you.

Things were compounded when Fiona became ill, a bad reaction to the drug they gave her after the miscarriage and she had to be taken into A&E. I remember walking into the hospital, almost following the exact same path I had taken when visiting Fiona after our daughters - now aged two and three - were born. Except in this ward there was no cooing or gurgling, and you didn't meet anyone's eye for fear of intruding upon their grief. I remember thinking how unfair it was that she had to share a hospital with women who had their babies placed into their arms.

The circumstances meant there wasn't too much time to focus on what had been lost. Fiona was in a hospital bed and our daughters were at home, there was enough to be thinking about. I remember a feeling of helplessness. Before you have a child you know what you're meant to do as a man and a father - protect them. With miscarriage you've lost before you've even had a chance to fight.

People were kind, if they knew. And the kindness was difficult also. Sure what happened? There was a child lost, but not one we ever knew or got to hold. To lose a child like that is surely beyond any grief we were experiencing.

And then some other men would tell you their stories. Fellas with grey hair telling you of babies they lost. That star winked out a long time ago - yet you could see in this hushed moment they still felt the light on them sometimes.

What did we do? What didn't we do? What do we do next? All these questions you ask yourself afterwards. But there wasn't much time to think about all that, thankfully. We had a family and a future. You have to keep the show on the road. You can rail against the capriciousness of the world but then you've got to make the school lunches. It's like all of these things that happen to you; at the start you think about it all the time and then a little less as the days go by, time abrading the edge of the emotions.

We felt we had to mark the loss. The only record couldn't be a few notes in a hospital file. So we bought a tree, an apple tree. Something that would grow and bear fruit.

When we moved house, the tree was the last thing to come with us. I dug it up in the failing light and swaddled it in tarp for the drive, worrying that it wouldn't make it. Time goes by, the children grow and our family has grown too. And in the garden the tree has begun to bud.

 

* INM is putting together a dedicated section on independent.ie where women and men of all ages can share their stories of miscarriage, stillbirth and neonatal death. The section will serve as a testament to the women and men who share their stories, a memorial for the babies lost and as a resource for other people who have gone through or are going through the experience.

Your stories can be anonymous or on the record and nothing will be published in any format without prior consultation with you. If you would like to be part of this and tell your story, email Yvonne Hogan at yhogan@independent.ie

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