“The problem with being a dad to a stillborn child is that people assume that because you are a man, you are somehow less affected by the loss,” Nick told me the other night, “I’d like to write a blog post about it one day but I don’t know where to start. How do you begin to talk about it? How do you find the right words?”
“You ask questions,” I told him.
So, I asked him questions. We sat down and I asked him about life after loss from a father’s perspective. It is so important that father’s feel that they are able to talk about the loss of their baby. Yes, they are strong and they are men. But they are grieving parents too and I am so thankful that myself and Nick are able to talk about Evalyn on a daily basis. I am proud of the way in which he himself is bringing the subject of stillbirth out into the open and showing people that dad’s matter too!
Nick. Tell me about our daughter, Evalyn?
Evalyn was so desperately wanted and loved from the moment that we found out we had managed to fall pregnant again. We used to talk in bed at night, excited at how we envisaged Ieuan and our new baby would be together.
If she were to develop into anything like Ieuan, she would have grown up to be kind, thoughtful, cheeky, VERY loving and sensitive. Ieuan is a mummy’s boy and Evalyn would have been a Daddy’s little girl. She would have had me wrapped around her tiny little finger!
It’s an unspoken rule amongst parents that we wish for our children to grow up healthy and to do better in life than we have done ourselves. We hope to teach them the difference between good and bad, right and wrong and how to treat people kindly as we would want to be treated ourselves.
Evalyn didn’t have this opportunity, so in turn I can only hope that she continues to teach me to be a better, kinder individual and to think more of others and how I can make their lives better through simple gestures and mindfulness.
I think it’s fair to say that the past months have been completely up and down for us both. How have you coped with your grief?
I have had encounters with grief in my life. We’ve met a few times. He came, said hello for a little while and then left again only to reappear during songs, or conversations. But this time he’s kind of moved in for good. Some days he’s less of an arsehole than others but generally he’s never far.
In the early days since Evalyn’s passing, I used to dread going to bed at night only to lay there in the dark with silent tears, too upset to show you that I was crying. I didn’t want to upset you but knew only too well that you were crying too.
I used to hate waking through the night for the house to be silent, no cries of our beautiful daughter needing comforting or feeding. Thinking that never would the day come where you or I wouldn’t be having nightmares through the nights and never craving daylight to come so soon.
And then there was the waking up, not sure if you had slept or not or what that day had in store.
My marriage to you is stronger than it ever has been and only grows in strength. I’m not sure how I would have coped without you and we have been blessed that we have always laughed, cried and now grieved together. We have never not been on the same page and that’s been important.
The hardest parts have been having to watch you suffer and grieve knowing that the only offering I had was comfort and reassurance. But the fact was that we had lost our baby and there was nothing I could have done about it. As “The Man” of the family it’s our responsibility to care and protect, but I soon came to realise that if I let that mentality overcome me, I would be fighting a losing battle.
I have often found that alot of focus tends to fall upon the mother after baby loss. Do you agree?
Yes, a lot of focus rightly falls on mums as they have been through a process that the dads haven’t. The carrying of a baby and particularly the birth and all that entails.
I think that alot of people’s assumptions are that ‘dads are ok’, ‘dads don’t want to open up’, ‘dads don’t like to be seen to get upset’ etc. And that may be the case for some father’s. But from the dad’s I have met both physically and online, most of us do want to talk about it and want to be open about our babies.
At the end of the day yes, it’s upsetting. But when a man loses one of his parents or grandparents do people think that they don’t want to talk about that person ever again because we are men? But I think that is part of the taboo that we are trying to break. If someone dies other than a baby people ask questions and reminisce. But when it comes to baby loss, the topic is somehow different.
Yes, we don’t always have the memories of our babies living and breathing in our lives, but they were with us for 9 months and we had had visions of who they would become and how beautiful our lives would be with them in it and sometimes we would just like to talk about it too.
As Evalyn’s father, how would you encourage people to treat other dad’s who have experienced baby loss?
With gentleness and openness.
Just ask every now and then “How are you?” Sometimes the answer will be “fine”, but be prepared for the time when they will just turn around and say, “I’m feeling like shit actually and could do with a hug.”
Every day we hear of new parents who have lost their babies and it always breaks our hearts that someone else is beginning their journey of life after loss. What would you tell the father whose heart has been broken today?
Love and support your partner with every ounce of energy you have and allow yourself to be loved and supported too.
Cry. Cry a lot. Even as I type this whilst thinking of Evalyn, my eyes are filled with tears. Not through total sadness but because I just miss her and that’s ok!
Be gentle with yourself but always remember to love your partner. When the storm has passed further by and the waves have eased – of which there will be many – you will still need someone to swim by your side.
In time, your heart does heal a little but not completely. It will never be complete again but the parts that are left, share with the world. Realise how delicate life is and if you have children already, love them more than ever.
EVERY night without fail, I tell Evalyn that I love her and from the stars I feel her love too.