The bravery of a bereaved father

When my daughter was three months old she took sick. She woke up one day snuffly, with a high temperature, a piercing scream and a suspicious looking pin prick rash which did not fade under the pressure of a glass tumbler.

My natural personality is set to “bordering on hysterical” anyway - so it wasn’t a surprise that I went into an emotional meltdown as I phoned the doctors to try and get an emergency appointment all the while praying, harder than I had ever prayed in my life, that my daughter - my precious, tiny, 13 weeks old baby girl - would be okay.

We were seen at the doctors straight away - which both reassured me that she was being cared for, and scared the living daylights of out me that this was something very serious indeed. Our GP agreed - she was a sick little lady. She had a temperature of 39, she was lethargic and no, that damn rash did not fade under pressure. Nobody mentioned meningitis but we knew that it was a possibility.

We were sent straight to hospital - to the children’s ward - where nurses and doctors fussed around her, doing tests, setting up an IV line to pump in super strong antibiotics, taking blood tests. And I stood, holding her precious, tiny most perfect hand in the world and trying to will her better. I tried to assure her that it was okay. I listened to her howl and scream and shake as they squeezed blood from her other hand to run tests. I wanted to scream at them to stop hurting her but knew they were just trying to make her better.

After the tests and the IVs and the trauma, they left us for a while. My family came and went. The husband had responsibility for our son so he briefly popped in and out. My parents came and went. We sat around and chatted while my mind whirled with every ‘what if’ in the book. We knew very quickly she would have stay in until the test results were back and while the anitbiotics were pumped through her body, the gentle buzz of the infuser often being the only noise we heard.

So I stayed with her overnight and when I was free to carry her I did, and we walked back and forth in our small room in the darkness and I thought all those horrible thoughts you only think in the wee small hours. She, still so very tiny, cradled into me and I thought of all I had gone through to have her. How despite becoming a mother a full five years before she was born there was something in this baby in my arms which made me feel complete. (Cheesy, I know).

And I started singing to her - the song that my son had sung to my tummy when I was pregnant. Almost as soon as we had found out we were having a little girl, Joseph had taken to curling up beside me and launching into his favourite song by his favourite band at that time. (Aged 4 and 5, he would have told anyone his ambitions upon growing up were to be a fireman during the week and in Take That at the weekends). He would sing - not quite getting the words or the notes right - the words to ‘Rule to the World’.

So I sang it to my daughter that night as we walked up and down the room and cuddled. I told her how she did in fact light the skies above me and how if she just stayed with me, we would rule the world. Yes, it’s enough now - in the cold light of day perhaps - to make me want to reach for the sick bucket from the sheer cheesiness of it, but that night in that hospital waiting for blood results and not knowing what we were facing, it seemed like the only song I could sing. It wasn’t a straight forward love song then - it was a song of a parent’s love for their child. It was a song which said what every parent wants to say to their child - that from the very moment a child enters your life you will do everything you can to protect them. That from the moment you know you are creating a new life, you feel overwhelmed by it all and you want that child to be happy always.

So when Gary Barlow, lead singer of Take That, took to the stage at the closing ceremony of the Olympics and sang that song I couldn’t watch. Not because I don’t love that song - but because the tragedy that Gary and his family are living through was etched through every line that he sang.

Just over a week ago Gary and his wife lost their precious baby daughter Poppy. Poppy was delivered stillborn just two weeks before her due date.

The couple have spoken very briefly of their devastation at the loss - the depth of this tragedy no doubt being played out behind closed doors.

For Gary Barlow to take to the stage at the Olympics and sing was an achievement. For him to take to the stage and sing that song - that love song from a parent to a child - was simply outstanding. As heartbreaking as it was for him those words must have provided some comfort to them both in their time of grief. To stand and sing for his child - his precious baby who he only ever wanted to protect - that took some guts.

I was lucky - we were lucky. Cara was fine. She had a mysterious bacterial illness which, after three nights in hospital and copious quantities of IV antibiotics, cleared up and we went home.

But that song, that fear and that love, will stay with me always.