Belfast Telegraph

Grieving fathers need help too, says parent whose child was stillborn

John and Claire Haire with their twin sons Charlie, who was stillborn, and Bobby who survived
John and Claire Haire with their twin sons Charlie, who was stillborn, and Bobby who survived
Their hands together
John and Claire pictured with their twin sons Charlie who was still born and Bobby who survived
Donna Deeney

By Donna Deeney

A man whose son was stillborn last year said more recognition needs to be given to grieving fathers when their child dies.

John Haire and his wife Claire from Londonderry were ecstatic when they discovered they were expecting twins in September 2018 but their joy turned to heartache when Claire went into premature labour at 31 weeks.

Tragically one of their little sons Charlie was stillborn and while his brother Bobby survived, he spent five weeks in the Special Care Baby Unit at Altnagelvin Hospital.

To mark Stillbirth and Neonatal Deaths (SANDS) awareness week, Mr Haire said men in particular should be encouraged to talk more about their grief.

He said that while there have been incredible improvements in how families who have lost a baby before or soon after birth are treated while in hospital, more needs to be done to support them when they go home including specialised counselling.

Speaking to the Belfast Telegraph, Mr Haire said: "Ten days before Claire went into labour at 31 weeks, we had a routine scan and all was well with both babies so it was devastating for us that Charlie didn't make it.

"September 24, 2018 will always be a day of such mixed emotions for us, we lost Charlie but we had Bobby and we were thankful for that.

"It was really harrowing, so hard and even now it is still crazy thinking about it.

"We had two days with Charlie in the Lavender Suite in Altnagelvin which is a special unit in the ante-natal ward for families whose children have died where they can spend time with their baby away from a ward where they would hear other people's babies crying.

"We stayed there until Charlie had to go to Belfast for a post-mortem but then we came home and that's when it got really hard."

Mr Haire continued: "We organised Charlie's funeral ourselves which was important to us because we knew there was going to be so few things we would get to do for him.

"While we were doing this, we were trying to spend time with Bobby too so it was a real roller-coaster and it still is.

"Things have improved so much for parents from years ago because then you would have been handed a leaflet and told 'ring this number, if you need to' but there is still so much that could be done.

"When your child dies there is a big focus on the mother for understandable reasons, but fathers have lost their child too and will be struggling.

"Men are expected to be strong and not talk about their grief but that's not healthy.

"When you leave hospital there is nothing out there unless you know how to search for it and when you are in the depths of such grief you are not in the right frame of mind to look for stuff.

"I would like to see some sort of a check up service for parents who have lost their child, even a call a month on to say 'how are you getting on? Do you need to speak to a counsellor?'"

A number of events will be held in Derry to mark Stillbirth and Neonatal Death Awareness week where Mr and Mrs Haire will gather along with other parents in the same position to remember their children.

Mr Haire continued: "Losing Charlie was such a shock to us because he was doing grand in the scan we had 10 days before he was born but the post mortem showed he passed away around four days before Claire went into labour.

"We are still coming to terms with not having him in our lives and every milestone that Bobby reaches, it is impossible not to think about Charlie but that is the way it will always be.

"Bobby has started this funny bum shuffle which is hilarious to watch but while I am laughing at Bobby, in my mind too I am wondering if Charlie would have done the same.

"Charlie is and always will be a big part of our family and that is the same for all parents who have lost a child.

"He is always in our hearts and in our minds but it is good that during a week like this, other people can know Charlie was here too, even if it was for such a short time but while he was here, he made a mark."

A Service of Thanksgiving and Remembering organised by the Western Trust in the MDEC Building of Altnagelvin Hospital on Sunday, October 13 at 3pm and a Wave Of Light gathering will take place at the Peace Bridge on Tuesday, October 15 at 6.45pm organised by SANDS. People attending this event are asked to bring a candle.

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