Jeeger Dodhia

Father to Aditya, husband to Disha and baby loss fundraiser. This is Jeeger.

Jeeger Dodhia

This is Jeeger’s Story

'As a father you can feel that to become too emotional will be seen as weakness, but the child you’ve lost was as much your child as your partner’s.'

My son, Aditya, my brave little boy, was stillborn in 2016.

We were very excited, we’d done everything parents-to-be do to prepare and we couldn’t wait to see him but, sadly, it wasn’t to be.

We’d discovered early on that there was a problem with the placenta but reality didn’t hit. You try to hope things will still turn out but we lost him at 24 weeks.

At the first scan I vividly recall the consultant saying he’d seen similar situations where they’d managed to deliver successfully and we clung to that, we tried to carry on as normal. You just don’t want to believe that you’ll be a statistic.

Up until the point it actually happened you continue to think, ‘it won’t happen to me’.

Once it did my priority switched to my partner and I started doing things to almost draw a blank in my mind. Immediately after hearing it would be a silent delivery I spoke to funeral directors, almost trying to avoid thinking about what was actually happening.

So many emotions, initially just thinking I’d never actually been able to do anything for my son. For 24 weeks he’d been with his mum but from my perspective, all those things, playing sports, first day at school, I wasn’t going to do any of that. It was a dream and would stay a dream.

One of the hardest parts was telling people, there’s was such excitement and trying to say the due date was now irrelevant now, that was hard.

I did it by writing, almost on behalf of our son, telling them that sadly it wasn’t meant to be but that wasn’t a reason for everyone around him to live with despair and anxiety, without hope. That they should learn from this. That life is precious.

After we lost Aditya, we found so many people, friends and family, had also suffered the loss of a child.

They had never shared that with us before. I think that, as a society generally, if something is positive or uplifting we tend to overshare, if it’s going to upset we don’t tell unless it’s absolutely necessary.

As a mother it’s natural to feel you could have done something differently even though, the reality is, there’s nothing you could have done. Guilt is really the first feeling you have. Everyone tells you, perhaps it wasn’t meant to happen, but you still feel guilty because, as parents, you weren’t able to do what you’re supposed to, you couldn’t protect your child.

I felt so frustrated, even something as simple as social media, seeing videos of dads playing with children.

I’d looked, laughed and thought that would be us, and now I knew it wouldn’t and I felt so hollow. I deactivated social media in the end, not because I had hard feelings for people enjoying that moment, but I just didn’t want to see it.

It sounds self-centred but the reality is you feel you’ve been hard done by. I just wanted to sit in silence and take whatever memories I could, first kicks, first movement, I needed to hold on to that. Watching videos almost removed me from the experiences I’d had and I desperately wanted to hold on to them.

It’s difficult because you try and be strong for each other and, ideally, you both benefit but worse case is neither of you are dealing with your own feelings.

Living as an extended family helped a lot because, although everyone is feeling the pain in their own way, in quieter surroundings than ours it must be harder to see a future. Having so many people in the house, there was noise, we talked so you felt there was something else and you find a way to carry on.

I can understand why it’s harder for a mother because you’ve carried that child. One thing that gives me so much comfort is the fact my son was with his mum the whole time, someone who would love him conditionally and do anything for him.

As a father you’re expected not to be as impacted by what’s happened, you can feel that to become too emotional will be seen as weakness, but the reality is that the child you’ve lost was as much your child as your partner’s.

My advice would be to try not to get too carried away.

We’d been trying for a long time and we were way too excited which made it harder when things didn’t materialise. I’d just say, don’t get too attached to the ideal scenario, to the dream.

I’d also say keep communicating with your partner, talk about your fears. Everyone says, ‘Stay positive’ but that’s hard when scans show no progress, blood flow reversed. Our spiritual beliefs really helped us to keep going.

Take medical advice and recognise everyone is trying to do their best for you. Everyone we interacted with was genuinely compassionate, they were limited because of where medical research is at, but they didn’t stop trying.

When I hear someone is having a baby the ultimate feeling is one of happiness because you don’t want anyone else to be a statistic.

I’m never resentful but there’s a jealousy, a feeling of incompleteness. You were in the position they are now in and all you have to show for it is a few photos. Yes, you can celebrate special days, but you are celebrating what would have been as opposed to what is.

We remember in our own way, go to the cemetery and pay respects. I’d say try and celebrate, it’s not easy, but that baby will have contributed in some way to shaping your life, will have had an impact and you can try and make it a positive one.

Our son struggled from 15 weeks and persevered until 25. For us the lesson is that, even if the odds are completely stacked against you, you must keep fighting.

Tommy’s make a difficult, sensitive issue more approachable and accessible.

They provide an open forum for discussion and, when you’re part of that larger community, you feel you have somewhere to go that offers understanding. There’s also such a lot of fantastic work around research. They collect all of these voices and are able to be heard.

As a Jain, I believe that every living being is a soul. My son was a soul and that soul goes on, is ever-present, eternal, which gives us great comfort.

After Aditya died we created a religious book and had it published in India which we consider to be a part of his legacy.

Our fundraising is also his legacy. I didn’t know about Tommy’s before we lost our son and I started fundraising because of that connection so I’d attribute that to Aditya’s short existence, he created something lasting in a very short space of time.

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