My advice to any man going through baby loss would be talk, vent, then talk some more

Paul, 38, and wife Georgie, lost their daughter Maddie at 7 days old. They live in Hampshire with daughter Willow, 4 and are expecting their third child in July.

Paul's story

We’ve been together 7 years and had always wanted a family. Then, after a perfect pregnancy, our perfect daughter Willow arrived. She was 3 when we decided we wanted another and the second pregnancy was perfect all the way through. 

We arrived at hospital and really thought we’d be home with another baby the following night. There were no consultants or doctors on the ward, just 2 midwives and Georgie in the birth pool.  One of the midwives then noticed something, put a heart probe on Georgie’s belly and said she needed to get out of the pool immediately. I was petrified. 

From that moment on, there were more midwives, then a doctor and consultant and Georgie was rushed for an emergency C-section. I was put in scrubs and sat outside the theatre door but never got in the room. It felt like hours but, probably only 15 minutes later, they came out and told me our baby had been born without a heartbeat but they’d resuscitated her and she was on life support.  

I can’t put into words how I felt, I think I grabbed the surgeon and gave him a cuddle, I know I was crying.  

I saw her for 30 seconds on her way to intensive care, then my knees buckled. She looked so poorly and I felt so powerless. 

Our next steps 

The midwives offered to tell my wife, but it wasn’t their job. When Georgie came around from anaesthetic, I did tell her the baby was ill, that she was in intensive care and I didn’t know if she’d get better.  

I was able to go see Maddie and Georgie was then able to as well before she was transferred to Southampton at 6.30am the following morning. The transfer team were so on it, yet so compassionate. 

At that point, I went home to tell my daughter Willow and the grandparents. In my head, I was optimistic. When I got back to the hospital and saw Maddie she looked so much better, but the nurse said that had a lot to do with machines. I dismissed it, but looking back I was too optimistic. At the time, she looked so tall, so pink and so perfect. 

From then on, every day a doctor would come to talk to us about ‘Maddie's future’ and I just wanted her to go away, not yet, not yet. 

The focus for me was the MRI at 7 days. I just wanted them to 100% give her a chance. One day I went in and she grabbed my finger which gave me hope. Please, just give her a chance. 

She had the MRI and there was basically nothing to see, so we were moved to Naomi House, a lovely place where you get to spend time together as a family.  

Making the right decision for Maddie

You want the best for your kids and that sometimes means making hard decisions. The doctors are all science so it’s the nurses and midwives that help you make the right decisions. I see it as the doctors are the ‘head,’ the nurses ‘heart’.

It’s the hardest decision I’ve ever made, but it was 100% the right one for Maddie. When they took her off life support she hung on for 7 or 8 hours. At first she was breathing normally. In those moments, she was there in our arms and you’re thinking, ‘she’s alright’, but a couple of hours later she’s gasping for breath. 

I was reading a story to Willow at about 11.30pm, a story about the moon and the stars. Half-way through, she suddenly said, ‘My Maddie is gone to the moon’. I went into the other room where my Mrs was holding Maddie and she had gone. I asked Willow how she knew and she simply said, ‘I know my Maddie’. That broke my heart, absolutely shattered me. 

Finding support in the darkness

Luckily I got a lot of support from work. I’m in the army, but actually my bosses were mostly women. I did emotionally shut down until the funeral and, after that, I did end up finding in music. Maddie’s funeral song was ‘Stand By Me’ by Oasis and I found Liam Gallagher’s music very comforting. 

I still don’t talk about it openly, I don’t know why, I think that I just feel like it’s inappropriate, I try and spare other people’s feelings. I’m a soldier, I’ve got a medal on my chest and everyone asks about that but nobody asks about my daughter. There’s no medal for losing a child, maybe there should be. 

My Mrs and I have fallen back on each other, but men really shouldn’t feel like they can’t talk more openly. The bereavement midwife told me about a football team for fathers who have lost children but sadly I’m not a fan of football. It makes me think there should be more options.   

In the end, I was encouraged to go on a stag do and some good friends helped me to talk. Good friends always know when something is wrong and get it out of you. 

Finding our new way 

My wife Georgie is currently pregnant, due on 19 July, and I’m getting more nervous as the time gets nearer. I’m not an open worrier so the outside world doesn’t know how I feel. This little one is a rocker, dancing in Georgie’s belly every time there’s music on, which is mint. 

We have reassurance scans regularly and I want to give a shout out to the Rainbow Clinic who have been really amazing. Tommy’s is really important for families, absolutely priceless. Without them, Naomi House and Rainbow I wouldn’t be speaking out now. 

There needs to be more out there for Dads. I have found positives. I know now that if you hit rock bottom, you can make your way back to the top. 

I miss Maddie every single day. This morning we were talking about what we’re thankful for and Willow said, ‘I’m grateful for our new baby and I’m grateful for Maddie.’ She’s still a sister, I’m still a dad-of-two.  

We are so lucky to have Willow, she’s pulled us through, she’s so intelligent and such a character. I can’t imagine what it is like to go through the loss of a child without having a living child. 

My advice to any man going through baby loss would be talk, vent, then talk some more. Don’t keep it all in, there are people there, like Tommy’s, who will support you.  

That’s why I’m supporting Tommy’s, so they can continue to support us. 

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