[an error occurred while processing this directive]
BBC News
watch One-Minute World News
Last Updated: Saturday, 4 February 2006, 01:21 GMT
'My baby died and I was ignored'
By Jane Elliott
BBC News health reporter

Andrew Don
Fighting for a father's role to be acknowledged
When writer Andrew Don's much longed for daughter died in the womb, he felt like his world had collapsed.

For five months he had sung songs to the unborn child, who had been named Lara Jean and imagined what it would be like to hold her, watch her go to school and simply be her father.

But, at five months gestation, the baby died after his wife Liz's blood pressure soared and she developed pre-eclampsia.

A few weeks after the death of Lara Jean in 1997, Liz received a letter of condolence from the consultant. Andrew, 43, from London, was not mentioned.

Stories

The lack of compassion, and a feeling of being excluded from the grieving process, made a deep mark on Andrew.

He decided to turn his experiences into a book telling the stories of 10 men, including himself, who had lost babies.

He said he hoped the book would help change the way men are treated.

"It is all about how men are perceived in the whole process. It is not appreciated," Andrew said.

In his book, he describes how frustrated he felt at being excluded from the medic's condolences.

"I flipped. What was I - a non-person? Lara Jean was my baby, too. I'd read the books and seen the movie. I was prepared for fully-fledged fatherhood. I had signed up for the full deal.

"Even the extended family did not have a clue. My sister's in-laws wrote a letter of commiseration to Liz. What did they think my role was in all this - merely a detached penis that did the dastardly deed?

For five months I had dreamed of what it would be like to be Lara Jean's dad
Andrew Don

"For five months I had dreamed of what it would be like to be Lara Jean's dad.

"Now in cold impersonal letters, the hospital, and even some family, did not acknowledge me or my grief.

"We wanted the baby more than anything in the world."

Hope

He said the book was also intended to show men going through the same experience that things would get better.

"What I wanted to do was to create a book where men who were several years down the line could talk about their experiences.

"You can either curl up and die or get on with it. It is the most awful thing, but you deal with it and find laughter and happiness.

"But it is always there as a dull ache."

Andrew and his wife, who had suffered years of fertility problems and knew Lara Jean was their last chance at having their own child, say they now have created a family with their two adopted daughters.

Andrew told the BBC News website he and his wife were on holiday in Malaysia when they saw children they felt they could help and when they came home they decided to adopt.

Their daughters are 15 and nine.

"We have got the family we wanted."

Catharsis

Elaine Thorp, midwife bereavement counsellor at the Birmingham Women's Hospital and member of Sands (the Stillbirth and Neonatal Death Society), said men were often left out of the grieving process.

"Men put their feelings on the back burner to concentrate on their partners, and society does that as well."

Elaine, who has worked with bereaved parents for the last 14 years, said books like Andrew's could help change opinions.

"I had noticed that there was a gap in provisions," she said.

"But I think things are changing.

"As well as informing, books like this are also cathartic. Men can identify and see this is how these men felt and acknowledge their feelings - it can also help them talk more openly about it."


SEE ALSO:
Families grieve at baby service
22 Oct 05 |  South East Wales
Stillborn memorial is vandalised
02 Dec 04 |  Beds/Bucks/Herts


RELATED BBC LINKS:

RELATED INTERNET LINKS:
The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites


PRODUCTS AND SERVICES

Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific