I’ve written before about how so many great blogs and Instagram feeds have inspired me to share not only my parenting journey but to share my own personal experience about baby loss. This is a conversation that needs to happen, there is a deafening silence surrounding baby loss in the wider world away from the baby loss community.
Poppy made me a Father and I’m so thankful she did. She was sadly only in the world for 3 days and then my world came crashing down around me. I struggled to find Dad’s that were sharing their own experiences about losing a child. This is a major reason why I want to be open and honest with Poppy’s story. I want to talk about baby loss from a Father’s perspective so it can help other Dad’s, inspire them to share and together along with the Mum’s that are doing the same: Break the silence and make baby loss less of a taboo subject for people.
It can really feel so lonely and isolating in the days and weeks, even years, after the death of your baby. After Poppy died Emily and I never had to ask each other how we were feeling because we just knew how each other felt. We got the pain we each felt. We always seemed to be at the same stage. We each had good days and bad days, thankfully if I was having a bad day Emily wouldn’t be and vice versa. Our home became our safe place, the sofa was our comfort blanket. We could stay there and cry and shut out the world that was continuing to turn. We’d sit with BBC news or just BBC 1 one. Save channels with hardly any baby stuff on, no adverts for nappies, nothing that could remind us that we’ve just lost of daughter.
The world continuing after Poppy died was such a hard thing to deal with. While Poppy was in the NICU at Leeds it was the weekend. The hospital was quiet, hardly anybody was around, we didn’t have to see parents and their healthy babies while our little girl was fighting for her life. Taking Emily to and from the post natal ward hoping to avoid someone asking how Poppy was. Poppy died on the Monday and we had to leave on the Tuesday. We’d met another family in the NICU who’s baby was born premature. After we’d come to the post that nothing else could be done for Poppy the other Dad spoke to me. Aside from our family he was the first person I had to tell that our little girl wasn’t going to make it. It broke my heart and I just cried on his shoulder as he gave me a hug. Even though he didn’t say much the hug meant a lot at that point. I remember just saying to him in the rush to get back to Emily before I completely lost it that I hoped his little one pulled through. I just couldn’t bare the thought of someone else having to go through this awful pain.
We had to now walk out the same doors as other new parents were. While it was the same door we were on different paths, we had to leave without our baby girl. I felt angry that people seemed to be so normal after my world had come tumbling down. The rest of the world sadly keeps going and you are now spinning on a different axis, I had no idea if I’d ever get back in the same cycle as the rest of the world. I still don’t think I am. I’m running parallel yet I’m still on a different axis. The world still looks very different to me. We were leaving the hospital feeling broken, shadows of who we used to be and who we were going to be.
The world does keep going and I’ve had to find my path back into it. A path that takes you away from triggers that are going to make my cry, fall part or just feel like utter shit. I’d find myself trying to avoid situations that would make me die again inside. How do I carry on how do I move forward without Poppy. Why me, why us, why has this become our life now. A side from family and friends nobody else knew that Poppy had died. People on our estate had no idea we had just had this bomb dropped on our life and destroyed our hopes and dreams in one go. The fear we’d bump into them and they’d ask where Poppy was and how she was. The fear of not knowing how they’d react. The fear of just completely breaking down in front of a stranger. The sun hasn’t just set its been ripped from my sky and been replaced by a massive black hole of nothingness. The rest of the world has no clue whats just happened.
The world becomes a really frightening and scarier place. I’d be so scared people would ask about how I was doing, did I have children or how’s the baby. I was scared for a few reasons. I was scared that I’d have to say I’m actually doing shit, or say I have daughter called Poppy but she has died. In the early few days and weeks the thought of saying Poppy had died just floored me. It still didn’t seem real, it was like walking in a dream. Just floating around in a bubble. A bubble that had a dark cloud hovering over it constantly. Don’t get my wrong still saying it brings tears to my eyes and breaks my heart, yet at the same time talking about Poppy brightens the day.
The other reason was fear of how people were going to react to me telling them Poppy had died. Would they give me the pity look, the look of having no clue what to say. I was scared I’d collapse in a teary mess on the floor when somebody asks me how I am. Scared to say what I really feel. That I’m doing rubbish, my heart is broken because my daughter has died and my heart is breaking seeing my wife so heartbroken. You are scared to cry because telling someone Poppy has died and that making me cry more tears is just met with fear by people.The fear of going into a mobile phone shop before Christmas and waiting for the question that will lead to me explaining about Poppy. You tell somebody your baby as died and it just creates a wall of silence. People seem to pull away from you, they want to end the conversation. No don’t end the conversation.
Asking a bereaved parent how they are feeling is the worst thing to ask them. There are 2 main things that people should know about what to and what not to say. Don’t ask how I’m feeling about it, I feel like shit, I feel broken and half the man I used to be. What you can say is tell me about Poppy. Mention my daughter’s name and while the pain and tears will be there I’ll happily talk to you about my first born, my number 1 daughter.
I’d not thought about it until listening to the latest podcast episode of Happy Mum Happy Baby featuring Elle, Feathering The Empty Nest, and Michelle, Dear Orla. When your baby dies it really is like you are kicked out of the parent club. Kicked out for being a different type of parent now. I was no longer the Father of a beautiful little girl called Poppy. I was now the Father of a beautiful girl called Poppy who has heartbreakingly died and left me a fraction of my former self. You are shoved out the parenting club door because sadly the wider world doesn’t know how to talk about baby loss. You do become isolated and by hitting a brick wall when people run away from talking to you just makes the situation worse. What I’ve learnt by sharing my feelings and Poppy’s story is that there are parents and people out their that really make the effort to say something. It can just be writing Poppy’s name and calling us her Mum and Dad. Just by saying Poppy’s name and calling me her Dad makes my day. That means the world to me and it means the world to any parent that has suffered the loss of their baby. Just by trying to have the conversation even if you say the wrong thing is so so much better than just shutting down because I’ve told you Poppy has died.
There is a baby loss community on Instagram that I’m proud to part of. A community that together can change the world and make talking about baby loss easier for people. I’ve also found how amazing and understanding the wider parenting community on Instagram is. They like the posts about Poppy, they mention her, they share my posts. You don’t hit the wall of silence, it gives me hope the more we raise awareness the better it will be in day to day life to talk about baby loss.
It is so hard fitting back into the world after the death of your baby. You do find it hard to go back to the same supermarket that you bought most of your baby clothes from. That place is filled with hopes and now I’ve got to move forward without those hopes having the chance to come true. By saying nothing and running away from talking to me makes it so much harder to get back into the world. It is isolating and makes you feel like shit. It’s like I’ve got the black death, my daughter has died and I just feel shit. I don’t need to be met with awkward silence that just makes me feel worse.
Talking about Poppy makes me happy, having people acknowledge Poppy makes me happy. Yes I might cry but why wouldn’t I, my little girl has died. Through the Instagram squares I’ve met other bereaved parents that feel the same. We just want our children acknowledged, because they existed. Don’t say nothing, even if you don’t know what to say. All you have to say is something and let me when I’m ready talk to you about Poppy. Don’t shy away when her name is mentioned thats just not on.
Every Mother and Father that has lost a child is still a parent and their baby is still their child. Baby not being here doesn’t stop them being a parent, we are just parenting in a very very different way. That shouldn’t stop us being able to talk about our children. Together by sharing our stories, by talking openly and honestly, by raising awareness we can break down the wall of silence. We can make it easier for others to share, to help them through and by helping the world understand how to talk about baby loss.