Billy's Daddy's Story
Hi everyone, Hannah’s hubby “Mr Protein” here (can I just add, I never came up with that name; I’m the furthest thing from the ripped adonis that the nickname suggests, but I guess I’m stuck with it now).
I’ve been wanting to say a few words for a while now, the baby loss journey from a dad’s perspective and I hope to add more blog posts if my better half allows it as I have found it quite cathartic.
The events of what happened the day our lives changed forever have previously been documented far better than I ever could in Hannah’s earlier post (see https://www.lifelossandlipgloss.com/home/2018/11/27/the-day-i-become-a-mother); but I had a different experience those first few days that I wanted to share.
Firstly, it would help to give some context of the kind of person I am, a stress-head and worrier generally; my mind usually jumps to the worst possible scenario that could happen in any event instead of focussing on the positive in blissful ignorance.
After learning Hannah needed to have a planned C-section because our baby was in a breech position, I immediately pictured being taken to a waiting room by a doctor to be sat down and told that sadly there were complications and my wife didn’t survive the surgery. Two versions of this joyful little movie were made in my head; one where the baby didn’t survive and the alternative ending where he did, leaving the poor sod to be raised by an incapable widower (in the sequel the child and our dogs were taken from me by social services).
This went on for weeks and the fear eventually grew stronger as we approached the due date (something I didn’t share with anyone). Jump forward to 29thAugust to the moment we were told by the sonographer that there was no heart beat and everything turned to shit. I felt the exact same feelings Hannah did at that moment, but I remember within the first few minutes saying to her “I’m not strong enough to get you through this” (and there it is, perpetuating this myth that dad’s don’t suffer when losing a child and that they have to be the strong one).
A few hours later when Hannah went into theatre, after countless failed attempts as her adrenalin was through the roof and the anaesthetists struggled to numb her properly via epidural or a spinal, she was told she would have to go under general anaesthetic and my mind instantly took me to a dark place. I’d just lost my son and now I was going to lose my wife (my absolute world who I couldn’t live without) too? Are you fucking serious?
I was quickly escorted out of theatre to a private room (I didn’t get chance to say a proper goodbye but in hindsight, if I’d stayed any longer she would have sensed my fear and noticed something was wrong so it was for the best). First thing I did was call my mum, a call that still haunts her and I to this day. She knew something was wrong immediately, all I could say was “the baby didn’t make it” and then I completely fell apart.
I feel completely guilty for what I’m about to say but at that moment, I wasn’t upset over losing my son, all my tears were for Hannah, the thought of losing her also too much to bear but so very real after what had happened that day already. I had to end the call as a midwife came to talk to me.
Starting the sentence with “I’m so sorry...” to a man who has pictured being told his wife died on the operating table thousands of times before this day wasn’t the best opening line but she didn’t know. For a second or two I felt my legs go numb, the colour drain from my face and the life start to drain out of me. I honestly thought she was telling me I’d lost my wife.
Perhaps it was the intense sense of relief from that moment that got me through the first few days of losing Billy. Sure, I was completely devastated (and things would get so much worse before they’d get better) but that feeling of being so thankful and relieved that Hannah survived really took the edge off those harrowing few days in hospital for me.
I spent some time with our son while Hannah was in recovery. Many newborn babies shall we say, haven’t grown into their looks yet, but my god was he a beautiful kid (this isn’t just me being biased, I prayed that he would take after his mother and not me and he did!). He was perfect.
I was too scared to pick him up though, something I now deeply regret but he just looked so fragile and peaceful that I was scared I might do him some damage (I’m shit at holding babies at the best of times, holding them awkwardly as the poor mother watches their babies head roll around unsupported). You look back on these things with regret but you do what you think is best at the time.
Hannah’s mum (I spell it correctly, unlike H who you have probably noticed says mom, bloody Brummies thinking they’re American!) and sister arrived just as she was wheeled into the recovery room, it was unexpected but a total godsend having them with us and I don’t know how we would have got through that first day without them. Shortly after Hannah came round the midwife brought the baby into the room with us, it wasn’t long after we decided to name him Billy (a name that was on the table along with several others, many I wasn’t in love with) – sounds like a cliché but when your child is born you just know what their name is, he just looked like a Billy. The hours we spent with him that day were very surreal but a treasured memory looking back.
I spent some time alone with Billy while Hannah was recovering just watching him and willing him to take his first breath. Each time I tried to leave the room I felt something pulling me back, it absolutely broke my heart having to walk away from him.
The three days we spent in hospital whilst Hannah recovered we were both just stunned and in shock by what had happened. Our son had died. WTF? Our world changed forever, we went from leaving home with Hannah in labour thinking we were bringing our son home to signing post mortem consent forms.
On the last day we said our goodbyes to Billy together, we told him how much we loved him and he would never be forgotten and would always be our much loved baby and always a part of our family. Then we made the journey home with an empty void in the back seat of the car where our newborn baby should have been, faced with dealing with all manner of things that we never thought we’d have to; registering his death, arranging his funeral, attending the funeral (on the same day as his due date) and trying to see a future when everything just felt so bleak now.
I remember those first few weeks feeling as though a crushing weight was on top of me all the time, the grief manifested itself physically as I was having joint and back pain for no apparent reason and had a horrific stye on my eye the size of a ping-pong ball for about a month, looking like I’d been punched in the face. I was eating my feelings whilst Hannah could barely drink a cup of tea and whacked on 1.5 stones in a few weeks, stopped exercising, stopped shaving (I’m now rocking a shit patchy demi-beard after deciding to stick with it) and generally started shutting down. As easy as it would have been, I didn’t turn to alcohol – it’s never the solution and just makes you feel worse than you already do. Seriously, just don’t do it.
The last 6 months have been the most difficult period of our lives, after going through so many emotions on the grief rollercoaster all I can say is that your days will eventually start to get brighter and you will find strength you never knew you had. We’re still on the rollercoaster but hopefully we’ve done most of the big drops and loops, but it’s a rollercoaster you never get to get off.
The loss will never “get easier” but you learn to live with it, you will still fall apart and have difficult days but you’ll find that it happens less frequently as time goes on.
I knew we’d turned a corner recently when we’d stopped counting in weeks since Billy died and it’s now months – seems like such a simple thing but it shows you that your mind is allowing you to focus on other things that you forget to keep count of the weeks its been since you lost your child.
We still have so many milestones to get through this year (Mother’s day, Father’s day, Billy’s birthday, his due date/funeral anniversary) and we think about him every day and miss him terribly, but we’re doing as much as we can to keep his memory alive and although he might not be here, Billy had made us become better people and we’ll spend the rest of our lives trying to be better for him.
We’ll make his little life count.
Thanks for reading
Daz - you probably know me better as Mr Protein