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A Father's Perspective on Losing a Baby

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Mental health, an issue that has impacted many lives across the globe. Whilst policy-makers, scholars, charities and experts attempt to address this pandemic, lives continue to be lost at an alarming rate. In 2017, Samaritans published a report which found that 6,639 people in the U.K. and Republic of Ireland had died by suicide that year.

Firstly, I want to start by introducing myself as Josh, a 23-year-old from Lancaster, U.K. I would like to share insight into my battle with mental health with the aim of helping others who may be dealing with a comparable situation.

Whilst battling with severe anxiety and depression, I found it very difficult to listen to authoritative figures. In fact, I distinctly remember telling my doctor I was beyond help. I didn’t have much confidence in my doctors because I was often given different GPs each appointment. The array of doctors I met had a flippant tendency to undermine my symptoms, which did not help my confidence or mental health. Each appointment I was asked by the doctor to fill out a generic patient health “PHQ-9” questionnaire. I recall reading the poorly designed questions and slowly losing all faith in medical support. Although, it slightly amused me that medical professionals who specialize in patient health agreed that the questionnaire would drastically help frontline doctors diagnose their patients. I obviously cannot speak on behalf of every person, but I think more time and effort should be spent on properly diagnosing patients with mental health.

It also concerned me how quick doctors were to offer medication for my anxiety and depression. I personally hated the idea of using pills to make me “normal” like everyone else, so I simply declined every time a doctor offered them (which was frequent). A doctor did eventually refer me to cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) which sounded fantastic, but unfortunately, did not materialize. I did not receive any correspondence from the mental health nurse until eight months later and by this point I had given up. I do however sympathize with medical practitioners because they do not have a comfortable ride, especially considering reductions in NHS funding. The news around funding targets, long unsocial hours combined with little pay makes me more worried about the mental health of my doctors and nurses than my own. I have even gone to the extent of not visiting my GP practice because I personally feel a burden on the system. However, I am not advising anybody to avoid visiting their GP if they require medical support. If you need to go, then go, do not hesitate. It is very hard to avoid politicizing the current issues in the NHS, but I do wonder how much better mental health services would be if our government decreased existing funding pressures.

Although I have had somewhat of a roller coaster experience, I remain optimistic. My family, friends and wife have been incredible and have supported me through my triumphs and tribulations. My anxiety and depression seem to be under control, but I use the term “seem” loosely because it tends to rear its unwanted ugly head whenever it feels.

This time last year was exceptionally difficult, making it incredibly hard to control my anxiety and depression. At the beginning of 2017, my partner and I received wonderful news that we were going to be parents! For those of you who have received baby news you will know the excitement we felt. We were so excited and could not keep our mouth shut so we told our families and friends. Finally! This was the first time in my life where I felt in control and that it was no longer about me, but our wonderful little baby. It gave me a real sense of purpose.

The day soon arrived when my partner and I got to see our little baby for the 12-week-scan. We dressed up especially for our little baby, I wore a suit and my partner wore a lovely dress. As we apprehensively sat in the waiting room at the Lancaster Royal Infirmary (RLI) my partner and I discussed baby names. We were called into the radiography unit by a lovely nurse who then introduced us to the baby sonographer and finally we could see our baby. However, it was not good news. We were told that our lovely baby had a condition called encephalocele and would not survive childbirth. My partner and I were placed into the “grievance room” and a medical consultant gave us a detailed prognosis whilst tears fell down my partner’s face. I was completely numb. My partner and I were referred to St. Mary’s Hospital in Manchester for a second opinion because we were simply in denial and did not want to accept that we would lose our baby.

Our fears were confirmed after our appointment in Manchester, so we decided that the best course of action was to accept a medical management procedure at the RLI. Witnessing my partner give birth to our beloved baby is the most harrowing experience I have ever endured. I simply choke up thinking about it.

After the medical management, I tried to remain strong for my partner as she was so brave and deserved somebody to reassure her everything would be OK. However, the experience triggered my depression and I simply did not want to be here any longer. All sense of purpose was removed the minute I learned that my partner and I would lose our baby. I simply could not cope. Upon reflection, I think how incredibly selfish I was for contemplating suicide when my partner needed me most. At the time I was not thinking rationally, but why would I? Our baby had been taken away and there was nothing that could be done to reverse the situation. Since losing our beautiful baby, my partner and I have grown much closer and since married. We are both receiving specialist support and continue to move from strength to strength. Our plan is to raise as much awareness around mental health. Nobody should suffer in silence.

Tragically, so many people out there feel isolated and dread sharing their emotions. Many people are scared to share their own personal mental health battle because of the awful stigma attached. There are too many people out there who oversimplify the complexity and sensitivity of mental health. If somebody is battling mental health, don’t tell them to “you will get over it,” it isn’t helpful. Instead, be compassionate and show empathy. I am not the most influential person, nor do I pretend to be the fountain of knowledge, but I have first-hand experience and can relate to others.

The rate of suicide is alarmingly high, particularly in men. Too many men are “toughing it out,” keeping their feelings to themselves and struggling in silence. We must do something to combat this issue.

Warm regards,

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Lead image provided by contributor

Originally published: March 30, 2018
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