Daddy’s girl

June 27, 2014

The wordpress 101 Daily challenge demanded writing a trilogy around losing and finding things. I chose my overall theme to be loss in childbirth. My first two offerings were

  1.  Birth after loss    http://wp.me/p2bPtK-3G
  2. The premature end of life  http://wp.me/p2bPtK-5z


In the last in this series I am again going to call upon my experience of loss around the time of birth and share another story that taught me a lot about character and extraordinary coping skills in the face of desperate sadness.



Statistically it is the baby who is far more likely to die when things go wrong in pregnancy and childbirth. In the United Kingdom it is indeed a rare tragedy when it is the mother who does not survive.  Medical advances and emergency access to treatment mean that most life threatening conditions can be controlled.  However, there will always be an unexpected event and this particular loss was totally unanticipated.

The birth had been straightforward and there was little indication in the postnatal period that anything was other than normal. The mother concerned was a little bit older than average and she had given birth to more than three children already.  This can put women at a slightly increased risk of complications but all appeared well. This was a new relationship, a new start and the birth of their daughter was deemed a small miracle.

It was the third day after the birth, just prior to discharge from the hospital. Yes, it was in those days where mothers could stay longer in hospital. All was routine until she was found collapsed and unconscious. Emergency treatment failed to revive her and she died quickly.


In these circumstances, everyone searches for a reason for the madness, not least the clinicians who never wish to lose a patient in such an unexpected manner. The cause had to be found, to give some semblance of understanding to such a wretched situation.

An eclamptic fit was at first suspected.  Eclampsia is a condition of pregnancy where the mother’s blood pressure gets very high. It affects the mother’s whole body system causing damage to her kidneys and other organs and can lead to a fit similar to an epileptic seizure.  If a mother is pregnant when this occurs it will have implications for the baby too, but of course the baby in this circumstance was safely in the hospital cot. The blood tests however proved negative for this disorder and so onward the professionals looked.

The family were of course left in shock, unable to take in the fact that such a happy event had turned so acutely. They comforted each other, but were eager for any insight into why such a thing had occurred. The tiny little girl became the centre of the world for this large extended family. The new father was lost in his disbelief, grief and joy at the birth of his daughter, his first child. He spent hours sat on the bed holding her close and just gazing into her face.

Within a very short time a sad social implication of events reared its head. As the couple were not married this traumatized young man had to prove paternity.  Despite vocal vociferous support from his partner’s family, blood tests had to be taken in order for legal custody to transfer to him.

Thankfully early post-mortem results identified the actual reason for the mother’s death. She had suffered a massive intracranial haemorrhage. The mother had shown no pre-disposition for the condition before her pregnancy, there were also no symptoms before or during the birth.  No drugs had been administered that might have led to such a terrible side effect. It appeared a rare out of the blue event that would be very difficult for the family to come to terms with, but at least there was a clear reason to cling to.

And there dad sat cradling his baby. Rocking her gently back and forth as tears flowed and his world refused to stop revolving.

Over the next few days the grandmother and aunties appeared out of the woodwork. Nappies got changed and feeding was done. They made a rota and someone was on hand, it seemed, at all hours to care for the little one.

But then he took a stand. He asked the midwives could they teach him how to care for his daughter.  Yes, family members could help but he needed to know the correct way to ensure he was giving her the best.

He was shown how to change a nappy, what to expect in a nappy and how to dispose of one.  He was walked through how to make up feeds, and what to do when she grew and wanted more. He was taught how to make sure all was kept sterile to ensure his precious little one did not get ill. This new dad was gently taken through comforting techniques when she would cry and be inconsolable. He often expressed that he “couldn’t do it”.  It was a massive learning curve.

This twenty- something man, had taken it for granted that his older partner would do most of the caring “as she was so experienced”. He was not being a male chauvinist he just thought he would have time to learn off her, over time.  But now he was on a crash course in parenting, whilst at the same time coming to terms with her death.

Within a few days he became his daughters sole carer day and night. He won the hearts and minds of all the staff he encountered, as they witnessed him taking on his responsibilities. She would look into her daddy’s eyes and be content, especially when he devised his own way of helping her burp after feeds which involved riding on his knee up and down. She was never sick, despite many a nervous look from a midwife, but she always loudly burped. He would smile with smug satisfaction.

When finally all the legalities were cleared and he was free to take his daughter home, he had indeed become a very competent father within a very short time. He was sharply aware he would have to both parents to her and was prepared to step up.

I remember the photo with the staff before they left, extraordinarily sad but with great positivity. No father before or since has made me feel more humble.


4 Responses to “Daddy’s girl”

  1. Karuna Says:

    Thanks so much for sharing this story. So sad that the mother died, but what a wonderful dad.

    I started my nursing career in Labor and Delivery so it also brought back memories of that time in my life.

  2. singhsnyders Says:

    really beautiful story,had tears in my eyes.can I share it on fb?

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