Six years ago, I welcomed the birth of my beautiful, twin girls with a glass of Laphroaig 10 Year Old Single Malt. Tragically, Molly and Freyja were not born alive.
It was expected.
Molly Jean and Freyja Elizabeth had a difficult but thankfully short life, developing twin-to-twin transfusion syndrome and a series of debilitating chromosome abnormalities: all results of random chance, not genetics or other factors.
Because they died quite late in their development (25 weeks) my wife had to be induced after they passed.
The birth of our first children was both incredibly painful, and surprisingly joyous – to this day I still regard the moment Molly and Freyja arrived into the world – not screaming but sleeping peacefully – to be the happiest of my life. I can’t explain why.
I was apprehensive leading up to the birth, concerned only for my wife – but when I saw the look of pure love on her face as she held our sleeping angels, nothing else mattered.
Our entire world was reduced to a single hospital bed. I will never forget it.
In the time since, my wife and I have welcomed another two – thankfully – happy and healthy children into the world, but both of us have had to deal with the repercussions of that day in our own way.
We both grieved differently, which was difficult for me to understand at the time.
Thankfully, we had plenty of support from both family and professionals. The wonderful staff of the Royal Hospital for Women in Sydney were particularly understanding and supportive; as were the counsellors at SIDS and Kids (now ‘Red Nose’).
We were surprised by how common losing a child suddenly became.
People we knew and even family came forward to share their own stories of loss – previously unknown to us. It was like we had joined a secret club of pain and it wasn’t until we had suffered our own loss that others felt comfortable to confide in us.
It shouldn’t be like that.
As a man and a husband, I took it upon myself to be a rock for my wife.
I ignored any warning signs or cracks in my own armour so that I could be strong for my wife.
In doing so, I denied her the opportunity to help me deal with my own feelings, which I now know was also denying her an important part of her own grieving and healing process.
Although we had lots of support, we were both the parents of Molly and Freyja and no one else shares that unique perspective and connection.
I eventually reached a point when my suppressed emotions began to manifest as anger. It scared me and it motivated me to get help. That was a really hard thing to do, but asking for help was the hardest part: it only got better from there.
I was diagnosed with depression and I eventually took extended time off work. During this period, I had to motivate myself to do something engaging and meaningful and for some reason, I decided to start a whisky blog. Writing the blog turned out to be quite a cathartic experience and it really helped me on my way to becoming well again.
If you have read this far, thank you and if you are a man, please listen to this advice – one bloke to another:
If you are ever in a situation like this, you will know something is wrong even if you do well at keeping it to yourself. Men, husbands and fathers in particular, fall into the role of the ‘rock’ quite easily. It’s comforting to be relied on. It gave me the strength to be strong. But I am glad I reached out when I did.
Don’t go past that point. If that time ever arises in your life – recognise it and act!
Asking for help is not a sign of weakness, it’s a sign of strength.
Every year on their birthday, I raise another glass of Laphroaig 10 Year Old Single Malt and remember how wonderful it felt when I became a dad for the first time.
The six years since haven’t been easy, but I am a better husband, father and man because of it.
If you think you may need help and can’t ask a family member, close friend or your doctor, there are help services that can provide you with advice or at the very least, someone to talk to.
Originally published on Whisky Dad.