I am lying on the picnic blanket, enjoying it all. James, 7, is kicking a footy around, Alexandra, 4, is dancing and Elia, 1, is crawling.
My wife Sarina is putting lunch out and keeping an eye on everyone. Just a normal Father’s Day picnic scene that is probably being replicated in hundreds of parks around the country and still my mind keeps drifting back to the son we lost five years ago.
Our second son Thomas was stillborn on the 24th October, 2008. It was a normal pregnancy. All the tests and scans were normal. Sarina was just going to the obstetrician for her last check up before our planned caesarean scheduled the next week. I had attended all previous appointments but this time we decided I would go to work as I was preparing for six weeks of paternity leave and the appointment was not going to take more than five minutes anyway.
I was sitting at my desk when I received the phone call from Sarina telling me there was something wrong and she passed the phone to the doctor who told me our baby had died. From that point on it becomes very hazy.
I organized my parents to look after James and raced to the obstetrician. We decided to have Thomas the next day.
We went home not knowing what to do. My mind raced trying to find a fix, an option, anything that would change the outcome. Nothing. I just sat there stunned.
The next morning we had Thomas. Compared to James' delivery the silence was unnerving; the doctors weren't talking or making jokes, the nurses weren't laughing or asking to take photos for us and there was no baby crying. We spent the next week in hospital spending as much time as possible with Thomas, taking photos, painting footprints and trying to create memories. We were discharged from the hospital on Thomas' due date.
That is the beginning of our story and the beginning of my life as a grieving father.
We all dream about the moment that will be ‘life-changing’ for us. We all assume that it will be a good moment. My life-changing moment was hopefully the worst of my life. I am now defined by who I was before Thomas was born and who I am now.
When Thomas was born in silence I quickly realised there was no ‘fixing’ anything this time. I was now traveling on the official grief pathway which started with denial, moved on to anger and then ended with acceptance.
By the time of the funeral about a week after Thomas’ birth I had accepted that we had now become a statistic, one of the 2000 stillbirths in Australia each year. What no one told me in the beginning was that the feeling of loss was life-long and the grieving process will have to run its course over and over again.