Stillbirth

A father's experience of stillbirth

Daisy looked like all newborns do to their dads. She was pink and warm; her skin was perfect, soft. But Daisy never breathed. I never heard her cry. I have precious few memories of my second daughter. I watched my wife’s tummy grow as she grew. And on the cold, grey fuzz of ultrasound I watched her struggle for her life. After four days of battling, her failing heart finally stopped. The life was literally squeezed from her by a horrible illness. She was born the next day. I’ve attended the births of my other three children and heard their first cries.

Nothing could have prepared me for the silence when my baby girl was born dead. I’ve never felt as helpless as during my wife’s labour with Daisy. The drugs she was given to bring on the contractions made her vomit repeatedly and the labour was slow; we were in a room off the gynaecology ward (away from mums having live babies) for around 14 hours.

That whole time, I could do little but hold Cathy’s hand, help her to the toilet and watch her suffer for our little girl. Daisy’s stillbirth turned my world upside down and inside out. In a few days I went from decorating the nursery to planning her funeral. I’d never done it before and I hope I never have to do it again for one of my children. We expect death to rob us of the past, but when it takes the future it seems especially cruel. Soon I felt a very real, very tangible pain deep in my chest. I guess this is how it feels when your heart breaks. My dreams for my family were in tatters. How would I care for my other children and my wife when I didn’t feel able to care for myself? Over the next weeks I went from shock to intense pain, from numb acceptance to depression.

I had to go back to work but I couldn’t concentrate. In fact, in some ways many things that had once seemed important did not seem so any more; I stopped playing football, I didn’t read, I couldn’t even watch TV much of the time. All I could think about was Daisy. People kept asking me how my wife was doing and I wanted to scream. Why couldn’t they ask how I was doing?

Two and a half years later, the pain hasn’t gone but I’ve found a place for it, to contain it. I can now see the good things that she left me. I believe I’m now a better father and a better husband. I’ve learned to appreciate and value what is truly important and try make every day as good as it can be for all of us. The anxiety that virtually crippled me during the pregnancy with Daisy has gone; perversely perhaps, my mental health is better. She gave me that. But I still wish I had her with me and I guess I always will. 

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