Poppy’s Story 28/10/16-31/10/16
So this is the story of my beautiful daughter Poppy Evie-Anne Goodchild.
Emily and I had always wanted children and we’d had names picked out for as long as I can remember. Boys names changed every now and then but Poppy always stuck for a girl. When we found out we were having a girl, after being convinced it was a boy, I was so overwhelmingly happy. I think I cried. I was going to have a baby girl. We were having our Poppy. I’d always dreamed of having a girl first, I don’t know why.
The pregnancy was pretty text book if you can say that. I went to all the appointments as any Dad does I suppose. I just wanted to be a part of everything. All the scans to see and hear Poppy, I loved every second. My biggest highlight during this time was surprising Emily by doing the nursery up while she was away on holiday. This was my gift to my baby girl. All the room was missing was her.
Before we knew it the day came. 4:30am on 28th October 2016. Emily started with contractions. Nothing too bad so I went to work pretty damn excited. I lasted 2 hours and then I was home. Things were moving along. I had a mild freak out in the car. It suddenly hit me that I was going to be a Dad. I was going to have a tiny person to look after. But while I was a little nervous I was just so excited to meet Poppy.
After a while at home and the arrival of Emily’s Mum, we made our way to hospital. It took us 9 attempts to let them know we were coming in. By now the contractions were coming 4 in 10. We were sent to triage and Emily was put on the monitor. She struggled due to the contractions and the awful so called bed she had to lay on. 50 minutes later the trace hadn’t met criteria. We know now this was because Poppy’s heartbeat was decelerating but this wasn’t picked up on. Despite them not being seen we should have then been seen by a Registrar but weren’t. It was crazy busy and mistakes were made. Now at the time we didn’t know any of this. I was just focused on helping Emily through it.
After an hour we were moved to a room on the labour ward and they were struggling to find a heartbeat. I wasn’t nervous, all seemed calm and I just trusted the staff. They knew best. Suddenly a Doctor is in the room doing an ultra sound scan and then BAM. Red alert, all hell breaks loose. What seemed like a never ending army of people are in the room and suddenly Emily is being wheeled away for an emergency section. I was dazed, confused and tried to go with her but obviously couldn’t.
When the dust seemed to settle I had a moment. When all the craziness had stopped I had a moment of clarity that scared me to the core. It hit me like a surfer being hit by a wave. Things weren’t good, I was scared. I could lose both my girls here. I took a moment and just got my shit together. Whatever happened I had to be strong for Emily and Poppy.
I think I aged in what seemed like hours waiting for news. Little did I know that Poppy was born with no heartbeat. I had no idea that it wasn’t until 12 minutes old she was breathing. The first glimpse of Poppy I had was her being whisked past me surrounded by a sea of nurses. I just sudden seemed to be pulled along with them like a magnet was pulling me along.
Poppy was beautiful, my heart filled with unconditional love the second I saw her. But things weren’t as they should have been. I couldn’t hold her. She was being cooled and they had no idea what damage had been done to her brain while she wasn’t breathing. What made this even more isolating and lonely was that it was just me being told this. Emily was still in recovery. It was like being in a dream, having all this information thrown at me. I was scared. I had no idea what to do to fix this. I could do nothing to fix my little girl. But again I just go my shit together. I had too. All I could do was be there for Poppy and get Emily through this. Getting my girls through this would help me through this.
I spent the next few hours moving from the neonatal area to Emily’s room. Bring pictures and news of Poppy. I hated that Emily couldn’t see Poppy with her own eyes. I hated we were separated as a family. I just wanted us to be all together. Poppy was being prepped for transfer to another Neonatal unit at he Leeds General Infirmary though Embrace. Emily didn’t see Poppy until 11:30pm. Even then it was just for a second before she was wheeled off to her waiting ambulance. I took the walk with her, telling my daughter that I would follow her there. That I was coming to be with her. The walk back up to Emily was so strange. The hospital was now a ghost town and I just wanted to get back to my little girl and be there with her.
It was gone 3AM when I got to Poppy. Seeing her laying there I felt so helpless. I just pulled up a chair and sat with her. Stroked her, held her tiny perfect hands and told her Daddy was here. I was so scared to touch her at first, scared I’d knock a wire or tube away. Scared I’d make her worse. But the Neonatal nurses were amazing. They told everything they did and why. They encouraged me to touch Poppy and just kept making me feel ok.
I sent photos to Emily and realised I’d now been up for 24hrs so I needed some sleep. I knew I had to be there for Poppy and Emily and to do that properly I needed to take care of myself too. Be it just an hour nap in a makeshift room for me to sleep in. I felt awful leaving her though, I felt like a bad father. So I just mainly sat with Poppy, talked to her and told her Mummy would be coming.
It was so isolating being there on my own. It felt so strange. It was like being in a dream or trance. I just hated that we couldn’t be here as a family. It is also a scary place a neonatal unit. It’s warm, no windows and machines beeping all the time. I would worry it was Poppy’s machine when it wasn’t. When it was her’s my heart would stop until I was told it was ok or it was just that her medicine was low. By the end of it I was immune to it all. For 3 days this was home. This was life.
My Mum was the first person to arrive. It was so nice to have someone there when I was first spoken too by the neonatal consultant Dr English. She explained how things didn’t look good and that the injury Poppy’s brain had suffered was really bad. She was hoping for improvement in 24 hours but didn’t know for sure. I had to ring Emily and tell her this and that was the hardest phone call I’ve ever had to make. Rather than being together I had to call her and hear he break down in tears and I could do nothing. I just felt powerless and helpless. Like I’d let her down.
Finally Emily, her parents and Aunt arrived and we could be briefed together. More importantly Emily could finally see Poppy properly. She could touch her, talk to her. We could be together as a family. We just didn’t know what to do. We spent time with Poppy and would go to the ward down the corridor that Emily was in for her checks after her section. I still slept in the room next to Poppy so I was close to her. This was my Fatherhood. It was to sit with Poppy, tell her we loved her. She was just so brave and so strong.
The next day we received the heartbreaking news that the injury to Poppy’s brain was so bad that he quality of life would be next to none. I felt my heart shatter. It broken and it has never recovered. You just feel sick. All I could do was hug Emily. We then made the painful decision to have 24 hours together and to make memories before we let Poppy pass away.
Poppy was taken off cooling and was dressed in the only clothes we’d ever see her in. God did she look beautiful. Though the bear hat swamped her she still looked damn good in it. We could now hold our daughter. It was a wonderful yet bittersweet moment. Amazing in one breath but earth shattering in another. We sat and held her in turns. I sang a few Disney songs to Poppy, very badly I might add. We’d cry but if we did Poppy showed her disapproval. She’d scowl at us. No matter who it was she’d scowl. She didn’t want us to be sad. I take a lot of comfort in that. She knew I think and didn’t want us to be upset.
We got her footprints and clay prints. We did all we could. I only have one regret and I hate myself for it. All the time Poppy was there nurses would carefully change her nappy and clean her. I wish I’d asked to help. I so wish I’d asked to help. I was so scared I’d knock her wires or tubes. I just wish I’d done more for her. There are moments when I still feel I let her down.
That last night together was so tough. We didn’t want it to end. What was so nice was that the family room was given to us. The nurses got it all set up for us, it was so unexpected but amazing. Emily and I got to be together. We could hold each other and cry together. We could both walk a second out the door and be with Poppy.
I think we got up a few times in the night just to see her. That next day after family had said their goodbyes we had a moment together. Mummy, Daddy and Poppy. We held her and told her how much we loved her. How brave she was and how proud we were of her. Then it was time. I held her in the family room. The breathing tube was taken out and we waited for Poppy to pass in her own time. It was so beautiful to see her without a tube in. While hearing her little gasps were heartbreaking they were the only noises we’d hear her make. We cherished them. Surround by family we cried. Tears flowed like rivers. Then a strange calm seemed to come over the room and Emily took Poppy in her arms.
Poppy passed away on 31st October. Aged forever 3 days. 3 days that changed my life in so many ways. I was a father but a father that had no baby to raise now. This is how I became a Dad. Poppy has and still teaches me so much about myself and life. She inspires me to be the best version of myself. I love you Poppy. Always in my thoughts and forever in my heart.