Over this last 12 months I thought I had learnt a lot. I spent 10 months learning about construction to build an extension on the back of the house, which I pretty much completed two weeks before Lenny was born, it seems pretty pointless now. However, since the 18th December 2021 I have learnt so much more and have changed so much as a person. Firstly, I really didn’t think that babies died, well that’s a stupid comment, I most certainly did, like most people I had blocked out the idea and thought it wouldn’t happen to me……. how wrong was I?
During Mim’s pregnancy, I found it difficult at times to realise that we were going to have a child, mainly because I didn’t suffer from any of the physical symptoms or have any of the biological changes. It was certainly much more real for Mim, she had developed a more intimate relationship with Lenny because she had held him for 9 months. Pregnancy is obviously just very different for partners, hence time after baby loss and the grief is naturally going to be different. I had tried as much as possible to develop relationships with the baby, speaking to him frequently, decorating his room and talking about him. Although I wish I had done more, there were many occasions where I had my head up my own ass obsessing over my building project, what an idiot! Mim definitely had a more special relationship with him, which I’m really happy about, but I wish I had that too, hence her pain is different in some ways to mine… I think.
I was present throughout Lenny’s delivery, his mum, Mim was incredible. I was so unbelievably proud of her, she walked in to hospital fully dilated and gave birth to our beautiful son (he looked like me) Lenny within 90 minutes. She had about 5 puffs of gas and air, for a good proportion of the active labour the nozzle had fallen off from the gas and air supply, so Mim was breathing air through a plastic tube for her pain relief. I am so so glad I was there to meet him and see such an amazing event.
Mim didn’t even tell me she was in labour for the majority of her early labour because she knew I would get worried. She woke me at 1am with strong contractions, I was really excited because I was going to meet Lenny. I knew the different stages because Mim and I had done an online birth training course which I’m really glad I did! – I didn’t really want to learn about birth via my usual method of learning, Youtube! But I knew that I wanted to be involved as much as possible. Also, it’s actually mad complicated!
Lenny’s birth was amazing! I saw him being born. If blokes say its disgusting, honestly get real! Its not! Its mint! And yes you can go there again! You will have a new found respect for you partner and her body. Unfortunately, the emotions of joy in meeting my son are mixed with complete terror. After Lenny came out via a natural delivery he wasn’t breathing and it was clear he was tangled in his cord. I knew that some babies need resuscitation, so wasn’t overly overly concerned, the room got increasingly populated with medical staff and then ‘the excrement hit the fan!’ 20 mins later the anaesthetist turns to me and said that there is nothing more they can do. I will never forget the look in his eyes. I asked everyone to leave the room. Lenny was lay dead on the trolley, Mim was in complete shock and had just given birth…. what the f**k do I do?
I cuddled Mim for a while, I realised there is nothing! I cant fix this! I was just thinking lets get home, I just wanted to reset the day and come back and try again. Everything felt too much! The staff obviously knew that was a terrible idea, they put us in a special bereavement room, which was actually much nicer than it sounds. Unfortunately, there was no Gin in there – probably for obvious, good reasons. Mim got offered a selection of drugs to deal with her pain…. I got nothing! I really could have done with some heavy prescription narcotics. I wanted to support Mim as much as possible, but I was battling myself, I needed to find a balance of being supporting and processing the situation myself. Fortunately, we have been able to continue support each other via strong communication and we have received a huge amount of support from friends and family.
The single hardest thing that I have done in my entire life was driving home in the car from Chesterfield hospital with an empty car seat and the knowledge that my beautiful son lay in the mortuary on his own. I cried all the way, full on wailing, I could hardly see and drove ridiculous slowly. It was quite astonishing the amount of fluid that came out of my face that day. I have cried a lot, especially in the early days. After the first few weeks, I got to the point that I literally couldn’t sustain the amount of tears and crying. So now my brain has become more tactical with its tear use, saving them for special occasions. I totally get sometimes men don’t cry and society doesn’t allow men to cry, phrases like ‘man up’ really don’t help. Before Lenny, I used to prize myself on my inability to cry, I would say things like my tear ducts are blocked and don’t work! This is obviously BS, I had just done a great deal of bottling and put those emotions in a place that I didn’t go.. It was hard to learn emotions it takes time, I learnt them in 2018 and it cost me £2000- a story for another blog post. When Lenny died, I honestly don’t know how I would have coped without letting these emotions out, I had to cry, I had to be angry, I had to be sad, I had to be happy, I had to feel EVERYTHING! When your child dies just after you have met them – the emotions are intensely powerful and confusing.
Mim is amazing and so kind. She said so early on, ‘why not us? when I was saying ‘why us?, 4 months after Lenny’s death I’m still not at this stage. I still see a complete unfairness in the world and a complete injustice. We put so much thought into the decision to have children, were so careful throughout the pregnancy and then actually it all just seems out of our control. The world has become a very fragile place. I carry lots of anger, which is one of the waves of grief, an absolute tsunami at times for me, mainly because seeing Mim in pain is so upsetting and its something that I can’t fix.
Work is a difficult one for Dad’s because you are entitled to your 2 weeks paternity leave and the 2 weeks bereavement leave. Mum’s are entitled to their maternity leave and rightly so – its the very least they need after such a devastating loss and the physical effects of a full term pregnancy and labour. All I’m gong to say on the matter is that I think its important to take time to grieve – chuff knows how long, probs not 2 weeks or 5 days in Christiano Ronaldo’s case.
Grieving is hard and tiring, its quite active, you have to put energy in to do it. I drank too much alcohol in the early days to ‘cope’, this was a bad idea, it numbed pain but didn’t allow me to feel. I often had a felling of not wanting to live, these feeling were not feeling’s of suicide but more like, ‘I wouldn’t be a annoyed if I was dead’, which are two very different scenarios. I felt scared of the intensity of these feelings at times and shared them with Mim who said she felt the same, but she asked that when we feel like that to share it with each other to keep us safe. We also reminded ourselves of a pact we made in hospital – to survive this – together. However, as the days go on these darker thoughts become much less frequent, there seems to be more hope for the future, I have more ideas of doing things for Lenny, like this website and finishing the house, but there are still so many days of feeing intensely sad.
I didn’t realise the impact that losing a child would have on my whole perspective. I have previously had very little experience of grief. However, when I was younger I worked in a nursing home and, as you can imagine, old people died. This is the natural order, yes people die, this is a fact of life, life is not life without death, however, child loss seems so much worse, because there is so little life. I don’t only grieve for the beautiful tiny baby, but EVERYTHING else. Teaching him to ride a bike, taking him to school, helping him with homework, going for his first pint and going on so many exciting adventures. Its not only hard seeing Dad’s with their babies, but all fathers with their sons regardless of age, because I’m jealous of them! Even if we are fortunate enough to have more children in the future, I will always grieve for Lenny because he should be here and can’t be replaced. I Just don’t know whether this gets easier, or goes away, hopefully it does because I really don’t like being a jealous person. But I know the feeling of missing Lenny is permanent.
I have always been a very independent person, from the age of 18, when my parents emigrated to South Africa, I have always sorted my own stuff out and never relied on anyone. So this has been a steep learning curve with respect to asking for, or accepting support and I still find it extremely difficult. I think this is very true for most men, however, I couldn’t have got through the last 4 months without the amazing support I have received from friends and family. Early on, lots of support was offered, sometimes an overwhelming amount of support – at one point we had to turn down meals because our freezer was full. As time goes on, people naturally return to their normal lives, and we are stuck in a limbo world of sadness, where it feels like I’m in a mixture of the Truman show and Groundhog day. I hope this changes.
For most Dad’s who have been given this to read by their partner and have skim read it as fast as possible, to get back to watching youtube videos of stuff getting crushed. Here are my top 5 key points that have helped me so far…. might be totally wrong.
- Accept you can and need to feel all sorts of emotions, not just anger!
- Communicate the f**k out of your relationship. Talk to your partner a lot, don’t ask them if they are ok?, they are obviously not!
- Take a good amount of time off work to grieve, some say work is a distraction but you need to give yourself time to grieve. Nothing will ‘distract’ you from the fact your child died. It is too big.
- Accept all the support you can, friends, family medical professionals (although there is naff all for dad’s here)
- Be active, but don’t be a dick about it remember your partner probably can’t do much early on, look after them too, don’t sit in bed and eat McDonalds or do if that gets you through the day.
I will keep you posted on how my feelings change and any other things that have helped me.