Even though Azriel’s not here, his name carries weight

After 8 years together, Chris and Aisha from Essex were overjoyed to find they would be welcoming a baby boy, Azriel Hezekiah. Devastatingly, on 14 October 2021 Aisha experienced a second-trimester loss at 23 and a half weeks. As musician Casj, Chris has released 2 tracks paying tribute to his son a year on, and reflecting on his journey as a grieving father. This is his story.

We got married in 2019 and Azriel was our first pregnancy after nearly 2 years of trying. Aisha found out she was pregnant in May 2021 but she didn’t tell me for weeks – it was an early birthday gift for me in June! 

2 days after my birthday we got the first ultrasound. Everything was great. At the 12-week scan everything was fine too. The first time I felt our baby kick was the 2 of October, it was amazing. We didn’t know that a few weeks after that it would all go downhill.

Aisha had been complaining about a toothache for days, then on the 13 October she went to work but was in so much pain she had to see a dentist. They said they couldn’t do anything because she was pregnant, she’d have to wait until after the baby came.

She went out to the carpark and sitting in the car, her waters broke. I was at home and got a call from a stranger ringing from my wife’s number, telling me to get there quickly. I ran as fast as I could. I could see she was in distress and no one around her knew what to do. 

An ambulance came and we got to hospital where a scan showed that the baby was fine but there was no fluid around him. They gave her magnesium sulphate and some other treatments for preterm labour, and everything seemed ok. They talked about moving us to another hospital the next day but wanted to make sure the bleeding had stopped first. 

Around 10pm she fainted in A&E. I caught her mid-faint. That’s when our baby’s heartbeat had gone. It happened so quickly. She was losing a lot of blood and I was really worried for her safety as well as the baby’s. 

Our sleeping angel Azriel was born on the 14 October at 7.28am

We were devastated. As he wasn’t quite 6 months, we sadly couldn’t even register him. 

He seemed as big as some babies I’ve seen born alive, it was amazing to see how big he was.

But not to be able to take him home or get to see him open his eyes and smile was so painful. 

I wanted to make sure my wife was ok. It all impacted me in a different way to her, it hit me a bit later on. My main concern at first was just making sure she was fine or at least able to take steps every day because it was just so difficult. 

Aisha wanted me to speak to someone but therapy was just so booked and busy for months.

Thank God, I found a group of Dads who had formed a football team in Essex, united through baby loss – FC Vilomah. I reached out to them in December, getting to meet gentlemen who’d been through the same thing and talk as well was great. I then got injured playing – I’ve been out for a few months! But we have a WhatsApp group too, there’s always support there. 

People always think men are the strong ones. It just hits us in different ways. My wife thought it was a case of me not wanting to talk about it, but it was more a case of me not wanting to replay the scenario because it was too traumatic, seeing everything she went through. I see it in my head when I go to bed. I’d rather stay away from it. But the more I spoke, the better I felt.

Music helped me to do that, it gave me drive

I wanted to create a legacy for Azriel and my family. It’s a helpful way of putting all my pain and energy into something and expressing myself, sharing how I feel, telling a story. It’s also a way to help other people heal. Everybody goes through their own struggles and art helps us express ourselves. Going to the gym helped too – a different avenue to take my mind off stuff. 

I reached out to Tommy’s to share my story because I know many Dads don’t talk about loss, although I think things are changing a bit. I understand why, but I think more of us need to talk.

I’m glad there’s a lot of support for mothers but there needs to be more for us too. 

Men want to be there for their partners, and we neglect ourselves, we push it aside to make sure our partners are fine. Some men just don’t like talking about their emotions generally, as well. It’s seen as weakness rather than strength. Be open to opening up though, that’s the start of the healing process. 

You’ll never forget your baby, but you’ll be able to start healing

In Azriel’s honour I made 2 tracksAzriel, to talk about him specifically, and About Mine to encourage people to know they have support around them. It shows how grateful I am for the support of people around me. Whether we’re blood or not, they’re always there. It’s to give people encouragement and hope.

The first track was really difficult to write, I usually write fast but it took months. I didn’t want to disappoint and wanted to get my feelings over in the right way while showing the pain we have as Dads. It pays tribute to him and it’s hopeful too – it’s not the end, that’s a key message in the song. 

Hope isn’t lost, and we definitely want to try and have another child.

Even though he’s not here, I hope that his death helps people through this music. That’s what I want his legacy to be, even though he’s not here his name carries weight.