Still Loved: Adapting to life after child loss

Chris Mates is talking openly about his experiences of child loss over a three part series. Read part one here, and part two here. 

The last time I wrote about my experiences of child loss it was with apprehension, anticipation and, in a way, guilt. My wife, Jen was nearing the end of her second pregnancy and I didn’t really know how the next stage of our lives would pan out. We wanted a baby so much but always had the memory of our first son Joshua in our minds and how best to move forward with him in our thoughts .

Throughout Jen’s pregnancy she had been under the care of Dr Simson and Dr Bonnie who had diagnosed why we had lost Joshua and had suggested a cervical stitch with the aim of getting Jen and the baby to full term. I’m pleased to say we got there. The pregnancy itself felt long and stressful, with every twinge or lack of movement nearly resulting in a visit to the hospital. I don’t suppose that’s too different for any expecting parent, but it was nonetheless a testing time for us both. I have to say the care of those Doctors and the team around them was exceptional, the NHS may not be perfect but that team were excellent.

As Jen approached full term we were offered to be induced or alternatively wait until the baby came naturally. We chose to be induced. To cut a long story short Jen gave birth to our second son, Jacob Arthur Mates on the 16th July via a emergency C-section. We could have done without the drama but we didn’t care our second boy was here safely.

We were now thrown into a period of our lives that we had waited so long for, a phase that I was looking forward to but at the same time I felt apprehensive as I had no idea how we would cope. After such a traumatic experience with Joshua I was worried how we would feel when we held our new baby and would that feeling of guilt hit us as we were holding Jacob and not Joshua. It was something that I had thought long and hard about and near the end of Jen’s pregnancy it was a subject that we started to discuss. I felt that it was important to talk about how we were going to continue to remember Joshua but at the same time make sure that Jacob had all the love and care that he deserved.

One of the ways I wanted to remember him was to buy Jen a bracelet with his initials. It wasn’t just a gift for Jen it was also for me, I knew that whilst we would be so happy at the arrival of Jacob I wanted to take a moment to remember Joshua. I wouldn’t say it was the emotional moment I had expected, my timing was terrible, I hadn’t counted for how “out of it” Jen would be after her C-section. I know she appreciated it but in future I will have to work on my timing. For me though just thinking about our little boy in that moment allowed me to move forward.

So far we have exceeded my expectations as parents. Whilst we are not perfect I truly believe Jen is a brilliant mum. We have all the usual stories of new born babies such as the bodily fluids flying everywhere, sleep deprivation and I’ve even gone grey, although that’s more to do with the fact that I can no longer afford Just For Men than the stress of being a parent. Moving forward as a family we have our own little ways of remembering such as the Wave of Light, Jen attending SANDS meetings, celebrating his birthday by letting off a balloon and having all kinds of reminders around the house. Truth be told I worried so much about how we would cope but in actual fact we just have. Instead of putting pressure on myself to make sure I remember Joshua I have taken a step back and started to let it happen naturally, that has allowed me to enjoy being a Dad to Jacob who really is everything to me and Jen.

I can honestly say I have loved every moment so far and now is the time to appreciate what we have. I wouldn’t say we have moved on but I would say we have moved forward and adapted. Who knows what the future holds but for now we have a family that we can remember, enjoy and be proud of.

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