When a new Honeysuckle Room for bereaved parents was opened at Liverpool Women's, Huyton dad Andy Craven spoke movingly of the support he and his wife, Andrea, received from hospital staff after the death of their baby, Lucas.
Andy is now hoping to compile a book about the experience and the emotions men feel at such a time. He is asking other dads who have experienced such tragedy to share their stories for the book.
Andy, who lost his son Lucas on December 30th 2007, can still remember the saddest day of his life as though it were yesterday. He feels that a book in which fathers shares their experiences could offer support and comfort to future dads coping with a similar loss.
The thing Andy remembers most about the birth of his stillborn son is the excruciating, painful silence as his baby entered the world when his wife, Andrea was only eight months pregnant. Only days before, he and Andrea, were elated and excited. "We couldn't wait to meet him. He was our first child," explains Andy, 36. But then they were told that their baby's heartbeat could no longer be detected, on December 30, 2007, at Liverpool Women's Hospital, Andrea, with Andy at her side, faced the unbearable tragedy of delivering a stillborn baby.
"We were treated with great care and compassion," says Andy. "We had never heard the word stillbirth before. We just thought you got pregnant and had a baby. Instead we had to go through the process of registering our baby’s birth and his death."
Throughout that sad time, says Andy, he fought hard to keep "a stiff upper lip" to be strong for his wife and tended to "bottle up" his emotions, even when he had to carry a little coffin. "I was trying to do as much as possible to support my wife after what she had been through, historically, men are supposed to have all the answers and solutions, to be the supporter and keep it all together when they are grieving deeply themselves. Our role as not showing emotion during highly emotional events, such as stillbirth or a neonatal death can be very challenging. How do we deal with that? I tried to be strong to support Andrea. I couldn't imagine what she was going through. But when I was on my own, I broke down."
Andy spoke movingly of his experience when the Lord Lieutenant, Dame Lorna Muirhead, opened the new Honeysuckle Room (honeysuckle means bond of love) for bereaved families. Situated in a quiet part of the hospital, it provides privacy and comfort and the opportunity for parents who have lost a baby to spend time with their lost child and create some memories, supported by family members and friends if they wish. Such facilities are a great comfort to grieving parents, says Andy.
Andy believes there may be other dads who would like to share their stories of their journey through stillbirth or neonatal death and what it meant to see their, wife, partner, loved one and family members grieve at such a loss whilst experiencing it themselves. He believes their stories could be collected together in a book to raise funds for Liverpool Women's Kitty charity and for SANDS (Stillbirth and Neonatal Death Society).
Andy, now 37, and Andrea, 36, who live in Huyton, went on to have another son, Cayden, now aged four. "When he was delivered by caesarean section, all we were listening for was for his first cry. He knows all about Lucas. We've told him that Lucas is his Guardian Angel, always looking after him. When it is Lucas’s birthday we let balloons go off into the sky. He is always in our hearts."
*If you would be interested in being part of sharing "A Dad’s story" please email: firstname.lastname@example.org or call and speak to Liverpool Women's Communications Team on 0151 702 4018.