Having our son taken away so abruptly left us broken, with many unanswered questions

In this story, David reflects on the tragedy of losing his son Harry, the effect baby loss has on dads and partners and how running has helped him cope with his grief and remain close to his son.
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With statistics as high as one in four pregnancies resulting in stillbirth, premature birth or miscarriage, it's likely that someone you have spoken to today has lost a child. It's a sobering thought. With remote working isolating us and perhaps making it easier to hide grief, that loss could be very raw for someone who's suffering in silence.

The loss of a baby is more widespread than we often think - and that's partly because it's such a difficult subject to talk about. In fact, many parents affected by tragedy of this kind would welcome the chance to open up and express their feelings. Which is why I have decided to share my story.

Losing our son Harry

My wife and I found out we were expecting our first baby in February 2017. Although we were conscious of not telling anyone the news until after the 12-week scan, when anomalies are most likely to be detected, the pregnancy progressed well.

But on 22 July, I was out with friends when my wife called me in a panic, telling me her waters had suddenly broken . Friends that lived close by took her to hospital and I jumped in a taxi. The medical staff told us couple they weren't quite sure why her waters had broken so early, but that they would keep a close eye on her.

All of a sudden, things took a turn for the worse, and I found myself sprinting down the corridor as she was wheeled in for an emergency c-section. It got pretty serious and I had to leave them to it. There was an hour of my life where the medical staff couldn't tell me whether either of them were going to make it.

Just before midnight, Harry was born and taken straight into neonatal care and hooked up to a ventilator.

Harry was with us for three days before he died on 25 July. Those precious three days with him opened a window into what being a parent is about - and to have that taken away so abruptly left us broken, with many unanswered questions.

It was months before we were able to put into words how it felt. What can you possibly say?

I had to make those unavoidable calls and the family came together for a service for  Harry at the  hospital. Somehow, we got through those early days and my wife was discharged. We went home - a surreal experience in itself, peering into the chasm of returning to our life as a couple, rather than a family.

Channelling my grief into something positive

But I didn't want my grief to own me. I tried to blot it out with other things. It's a classic  male coping mechanism I'm  sure, but  I  started  running -  I  wanted to run a marathon straight away, but having spent years working at a desk, my body struggled to adapt to the considerable mileage I was trying to cover. I jumped into it too hard and came up against injuries, which made me feel I'd failed Harry.

I took stock, overcame the injuries and, although I've struggled mentally, running is where I spend time with Harry. When I can do that, I feel better.

I run to raise funds for Tommy's, the baby charity that funds research into stillbirth, premature birth and miscarriage. Their cause means so much to me. They strive to find the answers to baby loss and provide valuable support to those who have been through the tragedy. 

I ran a marathon in 2019 and want to run the marathon again next year- and make it more fun. Covid-19 has forced me to pause lots of my fundraising ideas in the short term but hasn’t dampened my goal of raising both awareness and money for an amazing charity that helped me when I needed it most. 

I hope we can create a culture of openness

That grief though doesn't disappear overnight - mine is like PTSD.

I believe that if we can talk and listen to on another, we can help to create a culture of openness, where we all feel more able to talk about our struggles, including the effect baby loss has on dads and partners. 

I try to and hope I do inspire people through my Instagram account @runningwithharry. I want it to be a place of real positivity and support for other people who've experienced baby loss and to show that’s it’s okay to feel the way you do. 

The arrival of our second son Charlie

We will never get over Harry's loss, but the arrival of our second son, Charlie, in September 2018, was a pure joy. Now a two-year-old bundle of energy, Charlie is our pride and joy.

It's hard to explain but there's always a feeling of guilt that you have with another child. It's guilt that I've somehow forgotten Harry. But that is the deal I have with myself: if I'm running, I'm spending quality time with him. Charlie’s only young, but we have a tree in the park he knows is a special tree. We'll explain it to him when he's ready to understand.

Whether you've experienced a loss like ours, difficulties with other problems, or you're simply struggling with the uncertainties of these times, I would urge everyone to spend time away from their laptop, remembering what's important and creating positive thoughts.