Trevor shares his personal story in the hope that it will encourage others to talk about their loss and to use the help that’s out there
*Trigger warning: Please note this piece covers a sensitive subject that some may find distressing*
Trevor Foale is a dad and Aching Arms volunteer. Aching Arms is a charity that offers support to parents after the loss of a baby, whether it was during pregnancy, at birth or soon after.
It was a sunny day in July, I was in a meeting and my phone rang. I couldn’t answer it immediately but I jumped out the session two minutes later to find a voicemail from my wife. At that moment my life changed. She was just under 20 weeks pregnant, wasn’t feeling well and had taken herself off to the local hospital for a check-up.
Less than four hours later our baby girl, April, was born asleep.
We were shell-shocked. Our lives changed forever in an instant. We couldn’t comprehend what had happened, why it had happened or what to do next.
Friends and family gathered and provided support and we both took time away from work. My wife’s employer provided comprehensive support, but mine just wanted me back in the office as soon as possible. I struggled to cope to say the least.
I sometimes can’t remember what happened last week or what I had for breakfast – but I can remember exactly what happened that day, minute by minute, second by second.
We attempted to move forward with our lives. In the next few years we suffered a couple of miscarriages. Then, five years after the loss of April, we were expecting again and had exceeded the 20 week milestone that had hung around our necks.
This time it was a cold and dark, mid-October evening. My wife started to feel uncomfortable, we took these signs seriously and headed to our local hospital to find out she was in labour – she was 24.3 weeks.
Nathan was born on that Friday night. My wife and I held him for the first, and only time on Sunday night. His life support was turned off with him in my arms and he died a few minutes later.
Unlike last time, I was provided with support in the workplace. This proved to make a huge difference to me as I felt comfortable talking about our loss. Also, I wasn’t pushed straight back into work. We found that it’s not just company policy that’s important, colleagues played an important part in reaching out to show that they cared; sending a card, an email or a text or just giving a hug.
In conversations I always use the names of April and Nathan, which some people may struggle to comprehend. However it’s important for me, and other parents, to hear their names so that they aren’t forgotten.
During both of these experiences I found that although we were both deeply traumatised, I took the stereotypical “male” role in the aftermath - I was the one arranging the funeral service and informing family and friends, I was the one trying to be positive while my wife had to deal with the physical and mental trauma.
Looking back this wasn’t done on purpose or because I am stronger than my wife - far from it. I just think it was my way of coping in the short term. I thought I was better keeping myself busy and I put on an act to show that I was OK.
A few months later I dropped the act - I wasn’t okay. The real pain and enormity of what had just happened hit me like a truck.
It still took time to heal and I’m happy to admit that I’m not the same person I was after these experiences. Even writing this post I have tears in my eyes. The pain NEVER goes away.
Unlike fairy tales, not every story has a happy ending and this is something that people need to be aware of when speaking to parents who have suffered a loss. Please don’t say ‘it will be okay’, as unfortunately there’s no way you can guarantee that it will be.
It’s surprising how many people have been affected by miscarriages, stillbirths or a neonatal death. As a society we don’t often talk about it, and that’s why I feel that Baby Loss Awareness Week is critical to ensure that those who have been impacted know they aren’t alone and know where to seek support.
Fortunately for us, unlike many parents, our story didn’t end on that October night. I guess we do have that fairy tale ending as we now have two energetic, healthy boys aged 5 and 2, John and Andrew. To say it’s been a rocky road would be an understatement though, as both John and Andrew were born at 30 weeks and spent time in Neo-Natal Intensive Care (NICU).
I have four children – April, Nathan, John and Andrew but I can only tuck two of them into bed every night.
The Supporting Arms service is run by bereaved parents and gives parents the opportunity to talk to someone who has an understanding of what they’re going through.