I’ve always struggled with low self-esteem and regularly felt down, often thinking anything negative that happened to me was because I’m a bad person who deserves it.
In November 2017 my wife and I went for a 20-week scan for our 3rd baby, we happily discussed names on the way there and we wanted to find out the gender this time, we hadn’t when she was expecting our 2 boys.
We got to the hospital and it was all routine but then the scan was taking ages, repeated measurements of the head, I knew something wasn’t right. Then the sonographer said we’d need to see a consultant, no more explanation. I felt fear rush over me like I’d never felt before. My wife went to use the toilet and while she was away, I asked what they thought was wrong. She said she believed it to be severe Spina Bifida. I’d heard of Spina Bifida, but I didn’t really know what it was. My wife came back, I didn’t tell her, I didn’t want to upset her but inside I felt like part of me had been crushed.
We went home, we didn’t know when we’d see the consultant and my wife was frantically trying to find other ways of making the process quicker. This was on Friday the 3rd November 2017. On Saturday the 4th we had to take our boys to a bonfire and fireworks display, I really didn’t want to go but it wouldn’t be fair to spoil the evening for a 2 and 3-year-old. Just prior to leaving I read the hospital notes. It mentioned all the things I’d googled about Spina Bifida that basically said the baby would likely be paralysed from the neck down. I didn’t tell my wife, she was feeling positive and thought there’d just been a mistake.
So, we saw the consultant, she confirmed was one of the worst cases of Spina Bifida she could recall and that it was a little girl, I broke down, so did my wife. We were left in a little room to make a choice of having a baby with what was expected to be a very low quality of life or have a medical termination.
We considered our sons, the impact having a severely disabled child may have on them and our little girls’ quality of life. Would it be fair on any of them? We weren’t really given any hope that we should consider anything else. We took the option of termination.
A few days later we received the date it would happen, the 16th November. We were invited in to the hospital and my wife was looked after by wonderful, wonderful midwives on the Heartlands Hospital Eden Suite. She was in labour for almost 24 hours. Naively I hadn’t known what would happen, I didn’t know my wife would have to give birth, and when the midwife told us our baby could be born alive, I was inconsolable, what had I done.
So, after almost 24 hours in painful labour my wonderful wife gave birth to our daughter, ****. It was the morning of the 17th November. She was 23 weeks and was living and breathing.
The midwife quickly took her away and my wife and I cried and cried. I felt so sorry for my wife, she’d nurtured ****and now that was it. The midwife returned and asked if we’d like to see her, my wife couldn’t do it, I understood completely. I couldn’t leave **** on her own though, she a tiny baby and I felt like I’d abandoned her. I held her for 2 hours, watching her tiny gasps of air that came every couple of minutes that stretched to every 5 minutes, to 10 until she was gone. I managed to get her christened in the time she was alive, probably the only nice thing I did for her. I’m so sorry.
Then we had to go through the funeral, something else we never expected. I took care of the arrangements as I wanted to insulate my wife from the pressure, but it was all enveloping me.
Since all of this my wife had a further 3 miscarriages, I didn’t know what to do to help her. Then she fell pregnant again, we have just had our 3rd son, ***** he is beautiful, and I love him dearly but all I see when I hold him is **** I feel immense guilt at stealing her chance of life. I’ve had suicidal thoughts, I’ve cried, I’ve not really known what to do.
I have received some counselling, but it hasn’t helped me, I’m depressed, angry and sad. I’ve put on weight because I can’t be bothered, my business is at risk and that means I’m putting my family at risk.
Putting this here I’m crying again, I don’t like who I am, but I don’t know what to do to change it. I wish there was more help for dads.