Kieran, Dad Matters Operations Manager, tells us about his Journey into Fatherhood…

This article contains information about and references to perinatal loss, so please look after yourself.

Hey, it’s kieran…

I’d like to share some of my dad story with you, if you’ll bear with me.
I was 19 years old when I became a dad.
I wasn’t expecting it, neither of us were, but it happened, out of the blue, our daughter Emma was born.
She didn’t live very long, she had an infection called group B strep.
It was really traumatic for us both, and everyone around us. Emma’s mum was just 17, and neither of us knew she was pregnant. She went through something I couldn’t ever imagine and how she is as strong as she is now amazes me everyday. Giving birth and not knowing what was happening, and then seeing your child and not being able to help must’ve been really harrowing and I wish, everyday, that I could have shared that huge burden.
Looking back I was ignoring my well-being, and trying to focus on supporting my partner, but I realise now I needed to be ok to be able to do that. If I had taken time to look after myself and acknowledge my struggles, I would have been better able to help the other people around me who were suffering.
I didn’t speak to anyone about it at the time. We didn’t really speak to each other. I’d been advised not to bring it up in case I upset my partner, and because I wanted her to be ok, and because I wanted to avoid talking about my feelings, I didn’t. It seemed natural to not talk about it and at 18 I didn’t talk about anything emotional. I was never offered any support from the services around us, nor was I asked how I was by anyone. I’m not sure how I would’ve felt about that anyway, I wanted my partner to be ok, so it could’ve felt pretty unwelcome.
I didn’t see Emma, never held her, although I had the opportunity to. I did spend some time with her before the funeral, just on my own, talking. Her mum also had some photos, which I loved to see, but It didn’t feel Real, like an abstract situation that I was managing for other people. I guess it still feels a bit like that now, looking back on someone else’s life.
A couple of years later we had our next daughter, Dharma. It was then that I found out a bit more detail about how Emma had died. There were bright yellow stickers all over the Midwives notes when I attended antenatal appointments that said GBS – and I asked what it meant. Until then I only knew it had been an infection.
My partner was told she should have antibiotics during labour, but then also told she could have them orally as she had a pretty severe needle phobia.
It was only when we were sat after inducing that we realised she hadn’t had the antibiotics. It was a real challenge. The obstetrician was abrupt and dismissive of my partner’s panic at having to have an IV and she didn’t have one in the end. My daughter dharma and her mum had to stay in the hospital under observation for a few days. I could only see them during visiting times, and felt so out of the loop. My partner needed me, and I was prevented from being there.
During the labour I was terrified. What if it happened again, how would I support my partner? How would I cope with losing another baby. I felt so overwhelmed, seeing my partner in so much distress with labour and with the pressure from the doctors about the antibiotics. She was really suffering. I felt helpless.
A similar situation happened when we had our youngest, Erin. There were mixed messages from Midwives and obstetricians, and my partner ended up being distraught over not having a drip – I was again distressed at the prospect of losing another baby, but torn with feelings of love and support for my partner who had to be feeling worse than I ever would. Visiting times were much better, I could and did stay all day until they were ready to come home. I’m happy to say both Dharma and Erin are doing well, 21 and 14 years old.
It’s 23 years since Emma was born, today is her birthday. I still don’t talk about her much, although I talk to her often. I think about who she would have been, how her sisters would have looked up to her, and what her talents would have been. Even though she wasn’t with us, I was a dad, and I called myself a dad. I had her name tattooed on my ankle but kept it hidden for a number of years. Even now the awkwardness of explaining who she is when someone sees it is sometimes unbearable. I still feel totally out of my depth when I think about supporting Emma’s mum, or even talking with her about it. I wish I’d done a lot differently, or could feel and act differently. I suppose that’s why I’m sharing this article.
It’s ok to feel overwhelmed, out of your depth and unimportant. You need to talk about it, with anyone who’ll listen.
I first shared this in 2019 because after 21 years, I realised I need to talk about it, and more importantly I feel comfortable doing so! It’s getting easier, but is know I should have shared this sooner, with more people and not tried to hide away how it affected me.
One of the main reasons I feel so passionate about supporting dads through Dad Matters is that I had a pretty traumatic time; experiencing perinatal loss and then traumatic labour, and all I wanted to do then, and now, was to be able to support the mother of my babies, who was going through far more than I was.
I wish I’d known then that looking after myself was the only way to be able to support my family.
I want to help other dads to know how important they are, to their partners, their babies and in their own right! It’s ok to not be ok, and you don’t have to be strong all the time!
I’m not with my partner now, but she knows I’m sharing this. Today is difficult for both of us, but over the years it could’ve been so much easier if only we’d been able to talk.
If you have experienced loss or miscarriage, and would like somewhere to talk about it, please get in touch for details of our support group, alongside Finding Rainbows
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