On May 29th 2018, my wife, Naomi, and I were gifted with our beautiful daughter, Norah Faith. Tragically, seconds after she was born we knew there was a problem. Our brief moment of ecstasy soon turned into a nightmare as Norah showed no signs of life and didn’t breathe for her first 18 minutes. She was whisked off to the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit where doctors worked relentlessly to find any sign of hope that Norah would improve. But it was not to be. Norah passed away just 10 hours later.
Her last 30 minutes were the most precious of our lives – my wife and I cuddling her, with no machines or wires keeping her alive. I will never forget how beautifully calm and peaceful those minutes were, just the three of us, though we knew they would be our first and last with Norah alive in our arms.
The weeks and months that followed were the hardest of my life. Not knowing where to turn or who to speak to. I wanted to lock myself away and never come out.
It was only when I joined Sands United, a support network of bereaved men who get together to play football, that I found an outlet to talk. Meeting over 30 men who knew exactly what I was feeling gave me the support and space I needed and for this and I am so thankful.
We know many dads don’t really talk, men can hold things in, but you can’t suppress these feelings. I did for a while and it was tough. However through the support of friends, family and charities, I motivated myself to open up and now, I’m comfortable with speaking out.
Naomi and I were lucky enough to be supported by the charities Sands and 4Louis who help bereaved families and fund research to prevent this tragedy from happening to others. Due to their support, I decided to take on nine challenges in Norah’s memory, ranging from the Virgin Money London Marathon to a 135 mile walk which finishes at Norah’s grave.
As well as the two baby loss charities, we also chose to raise money for Iolanthe Midwifery & for Keech Hospice, as Keech have been part of my family since my nephew was treated and died there.
Besides an initial fundraising goal of £6,000 for these charities, my focus was to get more men to talk. But then on 7th April 2019, something magical happened which brought more attention than I thought possible.
Sitting at the FA Cup semi-final between Watford and Wolverhampton Wanderers at Wembley in my gofundme jumper, BT Sport host Jake Humphrey spotted the Nine4Norah appeal featured on my back. Then, in a huge act of kindness, Mr Humphrey sent out a series of tweets to promote #Nine4Norah and what came next was an enormous surge in donations. This tremendous generosity from strangers has now brought my fundraising to above £40,000.
However with more challenges to come, I am working to raise awareness of the support available which helped my family. I am inviting people to join me throughout my six day challenge: a 135 mile walk, which finishes at Norah’s grave, a place where I have spent a lot of time. People who are struggling with personal issues, mums and dads who have been through similar stories – I hope we can come together and share our journeys. These challenges are not just about me doing a run, but for all parents who have lost a baby. Particularly, for bereaved dads – it’s time for men to talk too.
Naomi and I have both (and continue to have counselling) I have been involved in EMDR Therapy and am awaiting WellBeing for Anxiety. I also take sertraline medication.
Naomi and I still have good days and bad days but we are very excited to be expecting another baby due later this year. I really want to emphasise how much talking helps us and that we are so proud to be Norah’s parents – she is and always will be such an important part of our family.
We always believed Norah would teach us far more than we could ever teach her and this has proved to be true, even without her here in our arms.