Father’s of Loss Support Series: Luke’s story
Fathers of Loss Support Series:
Meet Luke, loving husband and father whose first born Son Koa was born premature at 21 weeks in November 2020 and didn’t surviv e
Jemma and I were married in 2018, and within a few months of our wedding we discovered we were pregnant. Devastatingly, it was an ectopic pregnancy that ruptured at 8 weeks and led to Jem having to have one of her fallopian tubes removed in emergency surgery, along with our much-wanted baby.
Having just one tube made it harder to conceive naturally, and after 12 months, we moved on to IVF. This was brutal and exhausting work with all of the drugs and injections. After no fertilisation from our first round, something we thought was impossible, we had to go through the entire process again and ended up with five beautiful embryos. Our first frozen embryo transfer was successful, and we were over the moon, especially after a long road of losses and IVF. Everything went smoothly. At 18 weeks, we thought we were well and truly into the ‘safe zone’ and started sharing with our family and friends that our much-awaited baby boy was on the way. At 20 weeks, Koa’s nursery was all set up, his pram ready, and a car seat was next on the list!
Approaching our 21-week scan, Jem started to feel some pressure around her tummy. We ended up at the Hospital in the middle of the night.
Ultrasound showed everything was fine, Koa was bouncing around as usual. Then the doctor discovered that Jem had started to dilate and the membrane was bulging. We were told that despite being healthy and strong, we should prepare to deliver our Son.
We fought with doctors and specialists in Hospital for days to get them to do as much as possible to prolong the pregnancy, including a painful amniocentesis and preparing for a cervical stitch.
After three days in hospital on bed rest and Jem’s body fighting strongly against infection, we decided that we would let Koa determine if and when he was ready to come into our little world. Jem would get up, and we would see what happens. Within a few minutes of standing up, labour began.
We waited until the middle of the night to transfer to the delivery ward. We kept our space calm, quiet, dimly lit and with a playlist of songs that we had started putting together, keeping all of the important aspects for the calm birth for which we had prepared.
Jemma birthed Koa just after sunrise with only us in the room. It was definitely the best moment of my life. But because he was too premature, he died.
When we were moved back to the ward. The ward where other families go with their newborns. I still remember the nurse saying that we should cover our baby as he might make people feel uncomfortable. That was a huge a shock. That was our Son, our baby, our beautiful boy. We told her ‘no, it’s ok .’
We walked Koa out proudly as any other parent would.
We organised to take Koa home with us for the night before his body was cremated. We weren’t given a cold cot, we were given our Son’s body on ice in a Styrofoam box.
We had a couple of friends who sent messages daily or weekly, letting us know they were there to talk to. But other people put it back on us, texting saying they were here, but that was it. They wanted us to tell them what we needed, but we didn’t know what we needed - our Son just died. Only a few close friends and family showed up, brought food, let us speak…let us grieve. They acknowledged our Son and us as parents. In contrast, some people pretended as if nothing happened.
I did most of my grieving when I went back to work. I drive long distances, so I would sit in my car alone, thinking of Koa. When I was home, my focus was on Jem. She didn’t want to go anywhere. I felt helpless. She was in physical pain, she had just given birth, and her grief only amplified this pain. Her grieving was and still is a deep, deep sadness.
It’s helpful to figure out how to deal with grief, although nothing can prepare anyone for this. IF you can grieve together with your partner. Do it.
For us, Koa is here, just in a different way to how most others experience parenthood and life with their children. We’ve created rituals to honour Koa and keep his presence a part of our everyday lives. Koa was born on 11th November, so at 11:11 every day, we call each other for ‘Koa time’. We stop what we are doing and put all of our attention on him. On the 11th of every month, we make Koa’s special roast lamb dinner and a birthday cake. We invite friends and family who had a connection to him over to enjoy his night with us.
Koa comes to visit us as a Kookaburra, and we’ve found great peace from being in nature. I feel like my eyes have been opened to all the beauty of nature. I wonder now what I was doing before, ignoring it all.
Red Nose 24/7 Bereavement Support Line 1300 308 307
Last reviewed: 30/11/23