Our project exploring the topic of fertility began in May 2022 with us speaking to families and individuals who have a wide variety of different experiences of fertility. The primary aim of the piece of work was to raise awareness of different fertility experiences ranging from IVF to surrogacy and including baby loss – giving a voice to topics and issues which are not always made so visible. The project explores 13 people’s stories through interview-based study investigating themes of stigma, mental health, self-perception and support and advice. The work also encompassed identifying what is working well and what could be improved within services across Essex throughout the fertility journey. This is Paul’s Story.
My first child loss was a year before my eldest child was born, he’s now 16, and then I lost another, which is my youngest daughter’s twin, the strongest twin survived. There was no signposting to any support, more a case of “sorry your baby’s dead”; you have to go and deal with it yourself. I didn’t take the news of my first baby loss very well and had a ‘moment’ in the hospital which I regretted.
My wife had lots more friends that helped support her, I didn’t which I think that was the start of my depression. I was so grateful to have seen a Facebook post advertising that the football club, FC Vilomah, were recruiting players, dads who have gone through child loss. After attending a couple of training sessions I’m now on the team. There’s no pressure to talk about your loss if you don’t want to, but there’s always somebody there for you if you need to talk.
I come from a family where it was always drilled into us that to show emotion is a sign of weakness but obviously it’s not, it’s actually damaging to keep your emotions within. For years, I wasn’t able to talk to anyone, I couldn’t, I used to battle it, became depressed and turned to drugs and alcohol but the answer wasn’t at the bottom of a bottle. These football sessions are my counselling and my escape. I’ve actually opened up to a couple of my team mates about what happened to me and the journey I went through. It never gets easy, but it gets bearable.
With me, everything seemed to happen in one stretch of time, the baby loss then a second baby loss, my dad died, then my mum, my nan died the day before my mum, my best friend died in a car accident a couple of days after my mum, and I’ve recently lost my little brother to sepsis because he was an alcoholic.
I would like to spread the word that you don’t need to keep your emotions contained, there are places like this, FC Vilomah, and now other places for men to be able to go and talk. If we’re able to save one person, then it feels like you’ve saved yourself as such.