Don't bottle it up; a message from one stillborn dad to another

Steven Chidgey - father to baby Avery, who was sadly born sleeping last year - has an important message for other dads who’ve suffered the heartbreak of stillbirth.

Tommy’s guest blog, 31/05/2017, by Steven Chidgey

Steven and his partner Nicole suffered the heartbreaking loss of their baby girl Avery last year.

Since saying goodbye to Avery, Nicole has blogged regularly about loss and her journey through anniversaries, due dates and the many emotions that accompany stillbirth.

Recently, Nicole asked Steven if he would write a guest blog about losing Avery.

‘I think it’s really important that dads aren’t forgotten, they play a huge part in the baby loss grieving process –  I for one would NEVER have got through the heartbreak of losing Avery without Steven. Despite going through it himself, he has been my rock and we are stronger now than we have ever been.’

Steven has written his story in the hope that it brings some comfort to other stillborn dads in knowing they’re not alone in their pain.

Here is his story

I’m sure you have read about our little princess in Nicole’s previous blogs.

I’m so incredibly proud of her for creating this blog, not only so Avery’s life has meaning and will hopefully help others, but because I think it’s an incredibly strong thing to do and seems to really help her.

I think we all need to find our coping mechanism.

The reason I wanted to write a blog is to try and help the fathers out there and let you guys know not to seclude yourselves or bottle anything up.

It’s well known that dads can often be forgotten, not intentionally, but with everything our partners have been through it’s hard to focus on yourself or for other people to focus on us.

For me, when looking back and reflecting on the last 16 weeks, the hardest memory for me was the second the midwife put the heartbeat monitor on Nicole’s belly for what we thought would be a routine check.

When the doppler didn’t immediately pound we instantly knew, they always use to tell us ‘if it doesn’t come straight away, don’t worry, it may take a minute to find’, then upon contact we always just heard ‘BOOM BOOM BOOM’, we would laugh and the midwife would say, ‘wow, thats strong’, every single time.

They then scanned and confirmed what we first thought for sure, and my instant reaction was to just console Nic!

I felt empty, but overwhelmed with worry for Nic, telling her it will be ok when clearly I had no fucking idea what was ahead, how we would handle it?

Could we handle it? Was I strong enough? Could life ever be the same?

That night and next 24 hours until we left for the hospital was the worst I have experienced to date.

We were both a mess. I went through every single emotion known to man, I was broken.

How do you console and hold your broken hearted fiancé knowing that the beautiful miracle you created together is no longer with you?

How do you cuddle her without touching the belly you have obsessed over for the past 28 weeks?

Leaving for the hospital I felt paralysed with emotions, distraught that I couldn’t take all the pain from her, there wasn’t anything I wouldn’t have given to be able to go through it all in place of her.

My only option was to completely switch off any emotions I had, it was no longer about me or how I felt or my worry for Nic’s health or my sadness toward our loss, I just knew I needed to help Nic and give her all the support and strength I had in me to get her through it.

Following the birth, Nic then had to go through surgery to get the afterbirth out. Still on auto pilot I just shut off to it all until I knew she was safe.

I remember walking out of the ward (the only time I left her side) while she was in recovery and seeing her mum. 

I can honestly say the wave of emotion that hit me was like nothing I had every felt. I just broke into tears and couldn’t move.

I have always tried to be the ‘alpha male’, in 5 years, Nic had never seen me cry, I believe in being the man and being the rock – I never intentionally held tears back, I just never really had reason too.

But in this circumstance, I knew I had to ride every emotion that came. I can genuinely say by doing so, it has allowed me to be so much stronger for Nic and has also allowed Nic to be strong for me.

So much has happened in the last 16 weeks – you kind of feel like you’re being dragged through the mud repeatedly…

…having to deal with the fact that your baby has gone to heaven, watch your partner go through hell and back, go and sign certificates, plan funerals, attend them, pick the ashes up, for us Christmas and New year, due date, post mortem results – this shit feels like it’s never ending.

But trust me, each time you do something you become stronger, you take another step forward and I promise you, with the love of good people around you, supportive family and friends you will eventually find what we learned to describe as your ‘new normal’.

Everyone grieves differently, there is definitely no right or wrong way but if there was anything I could share with you guys from a male perspective it is to just be there for each other as a couple, remember that you guys are in this together.

Me and Nic share our thoughts and feelings, even if it makes one of us cry or sad, because it’s so important.

Go with how you feel and just embrace it together. There have been days where I have felt positive and Nicole just wants to curl up in bed, so I go grab the ice-cream and bang a film on and we get through it together.

I would also say it’s helped that we have both found a coping mechanism for when we aren’t together.

Nic has her blog, she draws strength from writing her feelings down and sharing them, something I find truly difficult (I started writing this weeks ago).

I have embarked on 12 challenging events to raise money, something I just pound my energy into – things like swimming a marathon with my work team, pushing a car the length of a marathon, trying to set a record, sky diving and many more.

It’s our way of making our baby girls name and life make a difference to all the amazing people who are unfortunate enough to need these blogs.

Find your focus and let it drive you to a happy place together.

As Nicole says, one day at a time... XO Steven

More information

You can read more about Avery at Nicole's blog, My Little Birdy Told Me.

If you’ve found Steven’s blog comforting, you can read more stories from our supporters here.

Recovery after stillbirth is a very personal experience. If you need to talk to someone about what you’re going through, our midwives are trained in bereavement support and available to help in any way they can on our free information line 0800 0147 800. The line is open from 9 – 5, Monday – Friday. You can also take a look at our information on stillbirth and recovery after a stillbirth here.