I got nominated by my younger brother Jack Linford, although I think this is a nice gesture, I don’t think I have done anything that’s inspirational that no other dad or partner would have done for his family. I’ll write a little bit of my story and let you decide.
I was only 18 when my life would change for the better and I would have to grow up quickly. I was young and naive but even at a young age I always put others thoughts and feelings before my own. I didn’t think at 18 that my future would pan out the way it did. At the time me and my then partner, were young and wanted a baby. We weren’t together for long but it felt right.
After a month of trying we conceived our baby. I always wanted a family of my own. I know that’s strange for an 18 year old bloke to want but that’s what I always wanted. This was the start of a little me that I could do father things with. I wasn’t bothered about the sex of the baby at this point, just couldn’t wait to meet them. Not at any stage of the pregnancy did I think anything could go wrong but then I think everyone thinks that.
There was one part that always worried me though and that’s when we went to the scans and you would have the nurse scanning the stomach for the baby and them being quiet for a minute, this always felt like a long minute, felt like forever. Then they would talk and you knew everything was fine.
At the beginning of the pregnancy we didn’t have much support from her side of the family and some horrible things were said and there was so much stress. At one point I was banned from seeing her. I think they did this to make her change her mind about our child, or to make me clear off. But unfortunately for them, I was not going anywhere and I would be there no matter what.
As the pregnancy went on the stress eased and we had our first scan and finally everyone was excited from both sides of the family but not as excited as me and my partner. Everyday I would come home and there would be more baby clothes and I loved it; it made it feel more real. We found out the sex of the baby and we had already picked a name. If the baby was a boy or girl they would be called Riley. At the 20 week scan we got the sex; IT WAS A BOY!!!!!! Riley was a boy. I really couldn’t wait to meet him.
As the days came closer and he got bigger it felt so real, I couldn’t wait for the famous name of Riley that had been lingering around for 9 months and finally put a face to the name.
At this point I started a job in December 2010 as a carer, a dream job. I like helping others and this was a great opportunity to help others and help them live within the community. I was looking after disabled adults, challenging but rewarding and I enjoyed it. If i had a hard day at work there was nothing better then coming home and seeing my partner happy and content, glowing, with yet again more clothes she’d bought for him, it always cheered me up. I can’t remember a day that I didn’t rub her belly, talking to him, planning my dreams and the things we would do when he was born. Every time I would say I love you Riley and kiss her belly with out fail.
On the 15th of February 2011, I received a phone call at work, it was my partner. Before I answered I was shaking just thinking “oh my god it’s time she’s giving birth”. Not in a million years did I think it would be this. I answered and these will be the most haunting words I will ever hear and never be able to forget, “I’m sorry. Shane I’m so sorry”. At this time my partner had gone to Northampton general for a vaccination jab or talking about it as she is allergic to raw egg, so I didn’t think much of the appointment apart from it being normal. I tried calming her down as much as possible and said I’ll be there as soon as possible.
I rang my office to get another carer to take over, but I had to wait 30 minutes until I would get relieved from my duties. I felt so guilty for my partner at this time. All I heard was I am sorry, not knowing what’s happened but what ever had happened she had done on her own. Well I say on her own, her mum was there but I know all she wanted was me but I couldn’t do that and felt like a failure.
I rang my mum and dad and said something’s happened to Riley I dunno what but its not good. Dad picked me up from work and took me to the hospital. I saw my partner and gave her the biggest hug possible. The first thing she said again was “I’m sorry”. I found out from her that Riley’s heart had stopped beating. In that moment my dreams and ambitions had sunk and shattered in a million pieces. I felt even more guilty for her as she had had 3 scans and by the first one she knew something wasn’t right, and she done that on her own and I wasn’t there. At that moment I wanted to just scream and burst into tears but I couldn’t, I had to be strong for her.
The bereavement midwife told us what was going to happen. My partner took her tablet and we went home. When we arrived at home, I made her a cup of tea and I went upstairs into our room and broke down. Riley’s nursery was in our room and seeing his cot, clothes, pushchair everything just made it real that I wouldn’t be bringing him home. I walked over to his cot grabbed his snowsuit, gave it the biggest hug and just fell to the floor and burst into to tears. I didn’t know how long I was up there until my partner came up and gave me a hug and said everything will be okay. I was on my own for over an hour crying.
The following day, 16th we made our way to the hospital again. We went to reception. All we had to do was give our names and she knew why we were there. We made our way towards the snowdrop room which was at the back of maternity ward, so we passed all the delighted parents with their new born babies. All the car seats ready for them to take them home. It was horrible knowing that we won’t be taking our son home and once he was born after tomorrow, that we’ll never see him again. We got to the snowdrop room; it was a nice room considering. It had everything from a bath, kitchen and a spare bed. Even though it was a nice room, it was also a sad room, in the fact that you knew that other parents had been here as well; they had gone through the same sort of ordeal as us, it’s a scary thought. It was a special club that me and my partner would be joining, that we didn’t ask to join but we had to. A horrible club that you wouldn’t want to join in a million years. A club that two days ago I didn’t even know existed. That night we got everything prepared from his moses basket to writing poems on T-shirts. My partner slowly got off to sleep ready to give birth to our son tomorrow. I didn’t sleep what so ever that night just thinking and hoping this was just a dream. I was cuddling her all night whilst rubbing her belly telling Riley I loved him.
The morning came around on the 17th. She was up and down with her emotions which was to be expected but I had to be there and not show my emotions in the slightest; as men we have to be there for support and not to be supported. We were mainly in the bathroom all day, me rubbing her back saying “you’re doing well”. Her saying “I love you”, constantly high off of gas and air, eating straws, it was a picture. There was one point were I got dragged out of the room as I got told I needed a break. I didn’t want to go, I didn’t want to leave. I got ordered by the nurse to get a breather and my partner said I had to go, so I went with my parents outside and waited for them to smoke their cigarettes so I could quickly get back to my family and be at her side again. After the 15th, I didn’t want to be away from her so when I was outside I just felt incomplete. I ran into the hospital and back to her side.
At 14:42, Riley was born. He was perfect, blonde, rosy red cheeks and weighing 7lb 4oz. I gave my partner the biggest hug, me in tears of joy. Yeah I know he was stillborn and not alive but he was perfect. I said “I’m so proud of you. Thank you, I love you so much he’s perfect.” She asked to hold him but we couldn’t as his skull was soft, so I gave her a hug from both of us. I know it wasn’t the same but that’s the best I could do. I was so proud of her.
We would of done anything to give him a cuddle. Riley got cleaned up and placed in his Moses basket wrapped up in blankets. The family came storming in and here came the paparazzi loads of pictures were taken. Her hand didn’t leave his chest apart from the odd occasion stroking his cheek. I just looked at him constantly smiling at that moment I was a dad no matter what anyone said. We had a blessing done and put our jewelry on.
We got ready to leave after telling Riley how much we loved him and giving him so many kisses. We walked back down that corridor towards the front door still hearing and seeing parents giving birth and taking their baby home and us leaving ours there, it was horrible. I just wanted to run back and not leave at any point but couldn’t as I had to be strong for my partner.
After the weeks past with me supporting her constantly and her bursting into tears saying I want him back, what could I do or say. I couldn’t say “me too” or I couldn’t cry with her so I just hugged her saying I know. Every time she said them words it brought a lump to my throat ready to burst, it pulled at the heart strings each time but there was nothing I could do.
I had everything from her wanting to give up on living to just being emotionless. Either way I was always there keeping my emotions away and not telling her how I felt. We planned his funeral and that was huge. We planned it all from flowers to songs and designed his service sheets. When the day came it was a scene from a soap. The hearse turned up. Where they normally fit people over 6 was this tiny blue box in glass with flowers surrounding him.
We got to the chapel and me my brother and our dads got Riley out the hearse and carried him towards the chapel. My partner fell to her knees screaming “nooooo,” now I was in a situation I couldn’t run towards her and pick her up, I couldn’t support her as I was carrying our son. As the doors opened and we placed Riley on the stall, in the middle of the chapel his first song came on, ‘If the moon fell down tonight’ by Chase Coy. Everyone sat down whilst the vicar said a few words, I blocked the vicar out through the whole service just staring at this blue coffin. Riley’s 2nd song was ‘Iris’ by The Goo Goo Doll. My partner had a speech to make, so she walked to the microphone opened her mouth and nothing came out. So I read it out for her and walked her back saying she had done brilliantly. We then listened to the hymn amazing grace. Then the funeral directors came in picked Riley up and walked out with his third song playing; Def Lepard’s ‘Long Long Way to Go’. We got to the grave and you could see how loved this little boy was by the flowers. Even though he wasn’t alive, he left a little a tiny footprint on everyone’s heart and it just wasn’t our dreams that were gone but also theirs. We buried Riley with a song playing in the background knowing this is the last time I will see him, and that my dreams had been buried with him. I walked away onto the main road as I couldn’t read what people had put in the flowers, otherwise I would have broken down.
We tried for 18 months to conceive our daughter. Now this was the next big step apart from our sons milestones in between. We had everything we needed; emergency scans, appointments and they were keeping a close eye on us. The plan of the birth was for my partner to be induced at 38 weeks and give birth naturally so we didn’t go over the 39 weeks and stress out as much.
But every scan every appointment was nerve wracking, but i went to every appointment; she would never be on her own like last time and work weren’t fantastic. I didn’t show that I was stressed out or I was worried, as she couldn’t take my stress or worry on top, but then she never saw my emotions with my son apart from breaking down on the 15th of February 2011.
I did it all; anything she wanted or needed I did. I tried to make it as stress free as possible but the worry was always there even with our birth plan. We got induced at 38 weeks and it didn’t go to plan. My partner had a reaction to the pessary and closed up, they struggled to break the waters, she had an epidural but then we had a faulty machine. We got put on a hormonal drip but she was reacting too quickly, now what else could go wrong. Then we had a heart monitor put on our daughters head to see if she was distressed. She was, her heartbeat was going up and down. This was going on for 30 minutes but I tried to stay calm and be there for my partner but I just wanted to get my daughter out and safe and it scared the living shit out of me constantly seeing her heart dropping lower and lower.
But I stayed calm. My partner was asked to face me, she held my hand, she looked at me all drugged up and said is “she okay?”. I had to say yes, even though I didn’t know and I just stared at the heart monitor getting lower. Then the nurse said we are having an emergency c section, thank god. She got wheeled through to theatre while I got asked to change into scrubs in the bathroom. I rang my parents with my wobbly voice and told them what was going on and they made their way down.
I was in the bathroom almost in tears wondering what’s going to happen. I waited outside the theatre for 30 minutes wondering what was happening. I hated it, every bad thought came into my head, yet again she was on her own. I was thinking she couldn’t loose another baby I can’t loose her either. Finally I was allowed in the theatre and our daughter was born. I cried again she was perfect, healthy and weighing 6lb 13oz. I had to leave first thing once she was born and come back at 10am. I didn’t want to go but it was the rules.
I came everyday first thing without fail until I had to leave. We left the hospital days after, our family was home. I had to do my partners injections to stop clots. My partner went back to work, so I had our daughter in the morning then went to work at 3 and came home the following morning with my sister looking after her from 3 to when my partner came home. My partner didn’t see our daughter a lot so at times it was like being a single dad, I didn’t hate one minute of it though as I built this bond with my daughter not missing a stage.
Even though I was a single parent at times we didn’t do a lot of family things together when we were both off, but there was times she would have her bad days and Riley would take effect, so my support for her was always there. We were planning on getting married in September 2014 but it didn’t go ahead due to choices she made, which made me walk out the family home.
Everything I had worked hard for, for my family was a waste of time, but this gave me the opportunity to finally grieve for my son and think of myself. I fought night and day to see my daughter and continue my bond that I had made. At times my ex partner was difficult in terms of me seeing my daughter and it was her that I felt sorry for as she didn’t know if she was coming or going.
Nearly a year on from leaving, its better now with the access and communication and my daughter is loved and knows what’s going on but its still challenging at times.
I’ve done charity work for SANDS where the snowdrop room got moved to the front on Northampton general instead of the back. Me and other dads got together and worked on the garden for future families so they can sit outside and get fresh air.
With my history and experience with my son and my daughter I am nearly 5 years on. It has given me the opportunity to help other people who may be new with the experiences that I have experienced and that lets me give advice and help them as well as myself.
I am also writing a book on my experience with my past and hopefully one day I will get it published so that dads can read this book from a dads point of view and how the whole process appears sexiest in that there is so much support for mums and not dads and hopefully it will help and let them know that they are not on their own and its okay to show your feelings with the support thats also out there.
I hope any money raised from my book will go to the charity SANDS. I haven’t been a normal 18 year old to now 23 year old person who has had a death of a child, the birth of his daughter, break down of a relationship and not once gone off the rails which anyone at that age may have done.
In 5 years I have been through so much which would be enough for someone in their whole lifetime. I don’t see it as a bad thing, just experience where I can help others in the same boat and wouldn’t change a thing apart from Riley being alive, however I wouldn’t have experienced this had he lived, and would not have been in this ‘club’ that I didn’t want to be in to start with.
This is what has happened to me and what has made me into a strong person that what I am today. This is why I think my brother has nominated me, in my life what happened is now part of normality, what makes me who I am. What I have done as a result is normal, I’m dealing with my losses, supporting my family and carrying on with life despite of all the cruel things that life has dealt me.
Even though it has been tough, I’ve never given up and continued with life in really hard times. My daughter is amazing and in spite of everything she is fantastic and she will always grow up knowing her brother.
Things happen for a reason, we may never know why they happen or understand that reason, but that appears to be life. I have so much to miss yet so much to be equally grateful for and would not change anything.