Granny’s View on losing a grandson
A year has passed and it inevitably brings back memories of the day that Chris, our son, phoned to say that they had just been told that the baby was dead. This was the morning of the expected date of birth. The hospital told them to go home and when they were ready to come back later that day. We rushed up to be with them and the other children.
As an ex nurse I volunteered to go with them to the hospital with some knowledge of what was likely to happen and how difficult that would be for them both. The thought of having to go through the whole of labour, knowing all the time, that at the end of it your baby was dead. Knowing that the hormones, to welcome your new-born son, don’t disappear because there is no live baby. Fathers have hormones too, hormones that encourage bonding in just the same way as the mother, these hormones develop on touching and cuddling the baby. I also knew that he would want to support Beverly all he could, but I knew that he too would need support.
How glad I am that I went. The first midwife was lovely, comforting, supportive and informative but her shift soon finished and her replacement seemed overcome, didn’t know what to say and very much kept her attention at the delivery end. But this left two very distraught parents, on their own, with their own thoughts, feelings and fears. To begin with I was angry with the midwife till I realised that she had never experienced this before that she too was thrown in at the deep end. Fortunately my nursing experience overtook my feelings of mother and grandmother and I was able to use that experience to help.
Beverley was given morphine as there was no risk to the baby but I’m not sure that it helped; she fluctuated between being focused on what she had to do and how to support herself and Chris but then would lose her conscious control and the despair overwhelmed her. Maybe it would have happened anyway but I think the morphine contributed to that loss of focus. It was apparent to us all that the delivery was imminent, when Beverley stopped pushing, I think she didn’t want to have the baby; whilst the baby was inside her it was still hers, and the reality needn’t be faced. Chris who had been strong and supportive suddenly became anxious, shaking, worried about what the baby would look like, questioning whether they could both cope.
At last, after 11 very long hours the baby was born, stillborn as we all knew he was going to be. Fortunately the baby looked as if he was just sleeping. I say fortunate because we could look without being afraid but in a way it didn’t help. It made me question why, made me wonder if he would wake, cry; why not, he just looked asleep. As I held him I became Nanny again and felt a surge of sadness and then strangely a feeling of some bitter relief. Sadness: for Kabel and his lost life; sadness for Beverley and Chris, who at that moment seem hardly able to cope with their own grief; and sadness for the other children who had been so excited about a new baby brother. Relief, what on earth could you feel relief about I hear people say. As I looked at this baby he looked so like his brother Dane, the grandson I know and love, and I was filled with horror at the thought of losing him. So Kabel, I am sad that you are not here to get to know and love, but so grateful that Dane is; grateful that all my grandchildren that I know and love, are.
As a postscript I would like to add how the support needs to go on, how both Beverley and Chris find that time does not make them forget , simply that their mind gets more used to dealing with it. They need to continue to talk about this baby who was, is, so much a part of their life. I think we need to learn and remember that fathers have bonding hormones too and just like the mother’s they don’t disappear because the baby isn’t there to nurture; that their grief is just as profound. And, in a way, men are less used to this type of emotional support, both at giving and receiving. That doesn’t mean they don’t need it.