Putting my arms around my pregnant wife, I helped her out of the hospital bed and onto her feet.
‘Thanks,’ Aisha smiled. ‘I just need to stretch my legs.’
But within seconds of me letting go, her legs buckled and she fell, unconscious, to the floor.
Catching her in my arms, I looked desperately around.
There was a sudden rush of noise as the midwife and student nurse ran to press the emergency button to call for help.
Aisha regained consciousness within about 20 seconds.
The midwife helped her get back on the bed, when around nine professionals rushed into the room.
‘We’ll scan the baby,’ the doctor said. ‘Make sure he is OK.’
But as they pressed the scanner to my wife’s bump, rather than the familiar, reassuring whoosh of the heartbeat, there was silence. It seemed to stretch on for hours.
I couldn’t stop questioning why this had happened to us.
‘There’s no heartbeat,’ the sonographer eventually said quietly. ‘I’m so sorry for your loss.’
Pain ripped through me, as if someone had physically torn out my heart, and I clutched Aisha’s hand, as we both broke down into sobs.
In that moment, and for weeks and months afterwards, my main priority was to be there for my wife, to help her through her grief and pain. But in doing so, I pushed aside my own feelings. I had no idea how to express them, let alone process them.
Now that I’m finally learning how to do that, I’ve realised that we, as a society, need to acknowledge that baby loss also affects men and partners. And it’s vital that we start talking about this very subject, to support men through it.
The pain after losing our son was the complete opposite to how I’d felt when Aisha first told me she was pregnant.
It was 10 days before my 28th birthday in June 2021 and she told me she had something for me.
Opening up the round box she handed me, I had to look twice. Because in there was a tiny babygro. ‘Hello Daddy, I can’t wait to meet you,’ I read. I can’t describe the joy that surged through my body. We had been trying for two years and it had finally happened.
We laughed and hugged and kissed – and took about another 10 pregnancy tests, just to be sure! I went to bed that night beaming. I couldn’t believe I was going to be a dad.
We were so excited, we booked a private scan and were told our due date was 8 February 2022. It seemed perfect. I’d first asked Aisha to be my girlfriend on 8 February 2014.
It wasn’t an easy pregnancy though. Aisha suffered from hyperemesis gravidarum – extreme morning sickness – from seven weeks till 21 weeks and had to be admitted to hospital for IV drips on more than one occasion.
Even that couldn’t reduce our excitement though. We enjoyed going to scans and telling our families the good news.
He was our parents’ first grandchild, so we wanted to organise a gender reveal and planned our baby shower to share this moment with the whole family.
And on 2 October 2021, I first felt the baby kicking. ‘That’s our little boy inside you,’ I whispered in awe.
But the following week, Aisha started to complain about a toothache. The pain was so bad, it was running up her jaw to her temple.
She got a dentist appointment the next day but after it, she called me. ‘I’m feeling uncomfortable but I can’t get hold of my midwife,’ she told me. ‘I think I’m going to head to the hospital.’
I started to make my way to the hospital but about seven minutes later, I got another call from my wife’s phone – when I answered, it was a stranger speaking. ‘You need to get here quickly,’ they told me. ‘Your wife’s waters have broken.’
Immediately, I panicked. At 23 weeks, it was far too soon for the baby to come.
Not wanting to wait for a taxi, I threw on my shoes and sprinted to the dentist’s car park. When I arrived, 12 minutes later, Aisha was in serious distress.
She was crying, but I could tell she felt more fear than pain – she was bleeding a fair bit and was panicking.
Thankfully, someone had called an ambulance and when we got to the hospital, a scan confirmed our baby was fine but there was no fluid around him.
Aisha was admitted to the hospital and given medication for pre-term labour. She was still bleeding, which they wanted to make sure stopped before they transferred her to another hospital.
But, hours later, Aisha had fainted while standing up and the following scan showed our baby’s heartbeat had stopped.
Aisha and I spent the night hugging one another, sobbing. It was agony.
The next morning, our angel Azriel was born sleeping. We never got to hear him cry, or see him open his eyes. It was devastating.
We put him in a cold cot and our family came to meet him. The doctors and nurses and our loved ones kept telling us how sorry they were, but at the time, it didn’t mean anything. Their kind words couldn’t bring Azriel back.
Of course, my main concern was to be there for Aisha. Having gone through the process of carrying a baby and giving birth, I wanted her to know she could open up to me about how she was feeling.
But while I was concentrating on her, I bottled up all of my own emotions. The truth is, I had no idea what to do with them.
The whole situation was so traumatic. It would replay in my head over and over again. I felt sad, angry, empty all at the same time.
I couldn’t stop questioning why this had happened to us. It was our first pregnancy and we were so excited – it just seemed so unbearably unfair.
I even struggled to talk to Aisha about it. Maybe it was my ego that kept me from talking, because I felt like I had to be strong and I didn’t want her to see how distressed I was.
There are so many support groups in places for mums to deal with losses and I’m grateful because my wife needed them. However, you hardly hear about support groups for men. I didn’t know where to turn.
Aisha eventually suggested I speak to someone but therapy was booked up for months. So her therapist mentioned that I could have a couple of sessions with her to speak about how I felt.
This was what finally gave me the breakthrough I needed. She helped me to understand that although it hurts, I am healing. We will never forget our son but we needed to know that we can’t let the pain stop us progressing.
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Platform is the home of Metro.co.uk's first-person and opinion pieces, devoted to giving a platform to underheard and underrepresented voices in the media.
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So I started going to the gym, to take my mind off my heartbreak. And I also put my energy into music, expressing myself that way. I wrote two songs, one about Azriel himself, the other about the support I have.
I found a group of dads who had formed a football team in Essex, united through baby loss. I reached out to them in December 2021, and getting to meet other men who’d been through the same thing, to talk and play football with was great. We have a WhatsApp group, and they’ve helped a lot with my physical and mental well-being.
So to anyone else going through what we did – please, talk openly about how you feel. Keeping the emotion bottled up could lead to a catastrophic breakdown. No one wants that. Opening up can sometimes be seen as a weakness, especially for men, but it’s the start of the healing process.
Even after such devastating loss, hope isn’t lost and that is what I want people to know. We recently had our rainbow baby, Aniyah, and as I hold her, I finally feel happy. Something I once thought would never be possible.
Baby Loss Awareness Week runs 9-15 October. Find out more on their website here. Tommy’s is the UK’s leading charity funding research into miscarriage, stillbirth and premature birth. Tommy’s baby loss information and resources can be found on their website here, including support for dads and partners. If you would like to speak to a Tommy’s midwife about your pregnancy, or need support and advice following a pregnancy loss, contact the team at email@example.com or call for free on 0800 014 7800 (Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm). A specialist support service is available for Black and Black Mixed Heritage women.
Do you have a story you’d like to share? Get in touch by emailing James.Besanvalle@metro.co.uk.
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