Night my wife nearly died
Mary, my wife and I were having our first
child. She got pregnant quickly (a fact I, as a man, was unreasonably proud of!)
and we were feeling that heady mix of anticipation and
nerves. “What sex would the baby be? How would we cope having a baby
in a shared house?” were some of the questions running through our minds. At
twelve weeks we attended Northwick Park Hospital in Harrow, UK for the first
Mary lay in the bed and nervously grasped my hand as the obstetrics nurse squirted
cold gel onto her stomach. The scanning screen was turned away from us and you
could feel the excitement
in the air as we awaited the good news that our baby was healthy. The nurse
kept her expression impassive as she moved the hand-scanner back and forth.
She said: “I’ll need to consult with the
doctor.” Mary sat up abruptly, fear evident in her face,her
breathing, fast. “What’s wrong?” she asked, “What’s wrong with my baby?”
The nurse said nothing and I felt a sharp grip in the base of my
stomach but I breathed through it even though
I felt on edge.
The doctor came into the room and checked
the screen. He said: “I’m afraid the baby’s stopped growing.”
“Is it dead?” Mary demanded.
“Yes,” came the reply. I felt like an elevator had dropped a floor in my stomach and then
caught on something.
“Can I see?” Mary asked.
“You don’t want to see,” the doctor
replied. I realised he was trying to be compassionate. Probably that image
would have stayed with us for years if we had seen it although years later I
have found myself wondering what was there. Was there just a bud with no arms
and legs? Was it shaped like a baby?
was surprised how little Mary cried. As we made our way down the corridor to go
home I remember how muffled the sounds around me were. It was probably that she was the only thing that mattered at that
We took a taxi home and later that evening Mary
pointed to a dark patch on her jeans near the groin. She stood up and to our
shock there was blood underneath her clothing, all on the chair. I called an
ambulance and I barely remember walking to the waiting room. She was wheeled on
a gurney but my faith in the medical
system was strong. I was not prepared for what was next to come.
felt quite impatient: my wife was bleeding and the
nurses seemed to be attending to others first. I guess it’s because she was
conscious. Mary said she was going to the bathroom and locked herself in the
large disabled toilet in the corner.
After about ten minutes, concerned, I
knocked on the door. “Don’t come in,” was the reply. I knocked again, harder
this time. Mary opened the door and to my shock and embarrassment (for her) she
was naked. Her hands were bloody, and there was blood… on the tiled floors…on
Appalled, I shouted for a nurse. A young woman came and as she reached for
my wife’s hand, Mary’s eyeballs rolled up and she collapsed across the woman’s
lap. At that point I just stood back as the doctors rushed in and took away my
wife on a gurney.
can I express the sense of shock? It was like suddenly she had been removed
from reality, disappeared from before my very eyes. I went to the nursing
station but the woman just told me to go home.
can still feel the confusion of that night: Would I even have a wife in the
morning? It was as if time was moving and standing still at the same rate. The
bed felt cold and barren. In the morning I wandered around the house – incidentally- I remember there was a chill around me that would
not go. I stepped into the porch to and decided to stand outside.
The wind slammed the door behind me!
“Things can’t get any worse!” I thought. I was locked out of the house in my
dressing gown and my wife was lying in the hospital, possibly dead. This was
before the days of mobile phones btw!
My thoughts focused on getting back inside.
I slammed the lock with my shoulder and it broke. I would fix it later – now, I
needed to get to the hospital. I called a friend and she took me there. Sitting
in the back of the car, suddenly, the
situation began to feel real. I felt like I was waking up from a hangover.
she in there alive? There was a black hole in my mind’s eye where I could not
clearly see or decide the future in my mind.
I remember my wife was asleep. I felt relieved, and then felt selfish for
not feeling more upset. I couldn’t cry, it just wasn’t there. But I felt
something settle down there in the dark corners of my mind, something that
might come up later.
I learned that my wife lost 12 pints of
blood that night on the operating table. To
this day I still feel aggravated that the doctors told us so little. Sometimes, many years later I still grieve
a little for the unborn child, the child we never named.
In the years that followed I have had
things remind me of that cried and then
I have cried with a grief that caused me to sob and sob like the pain was a
rushing river with no end. But I now have three children whom I love so I
don’t think of it much.
Dealing with a divorce
I remember the night my wife told me she
wanted to separate for a while. She said she was going out for a walk and
handed me a letter. “Read it while I’m out”, she said. As I read the letter I
felt like I lost control of my muscles, my stomach lurched and I grabbed for
the phone. I suppose it’s strange for a man to say he was a bit hysterical, but
I was. I was a Christian: this wasn’t supposed to happen (or so I thought in my
naiveite). ‘Mary wants me to move out’ I garbled down the phone to my best
‘No’, advised my friend, ‘If she wants to
separate then she must go.’ This turned out to be the worst piece of advice I
had ever taken from him. Mary had not worked for a good while, and was
suffering from M.E. We had two children and my heart broke as I was full of
fear for their future. Even now, recounting this many years later from a much
better position, I feel sorrow and shame that we did not make our marriage
One day, Mary and I had a big argument and
in a fit of anger I broke my wedding ring apart. I was full of anger and
desperation and felt trapped – I think now it was more that I couldn’t deal
with the uncertainty and keep functioning – but I released my emotions in the
‘That’s it,’ she said, ‘I want a divorce.’
I remember crying in the bathtub, wailing
in fact: It was like I was trying to draw out a long knitting needle situated
down in my guts – and that crying and wailing would bring it out. Each shout of
pain from me brought relief for a few seconds, until the needle of pain slid
back down again. I didn’t know it at the time but I was heading for a deep
The day she moved out I was at work. I came
back to an empty house, just me and the cat. That cat got a lot of cuddles in
the next few months.
I didn’t really know what to do with
myself. On my time off I just watched videos or went to the cinema. I felt this
big painful lump of grief in my gut; I carried it around like a tumour. When I saw my then two children I was numb
inside, like a robot. I did the ‘dad things’, took them out, went to church but
my singing and smiles felt like they had to be dragged out of the mud. I felt
like a wounded animal and I honestly wished someone would put me out of my
I was working a high-pressure sales job and
one day my evaluation came. The manager told me my sales were not good enough
and I burst into tears. My self-esteem was so low, my marriage had been my
life: the love of my wife had made me valid. Now, she didn’t love me and so
what was life worth? Nothing really.
I walked the streets just trying not to
cry. Literally. One day I met someone from work and she said ‘How are you?’ I
started sobbing and ran back home. I just couldn’t cope – my life was in a
holding pattern – I was desperately hoping to get my wife back and also get my
I lost my flat and had to move into a small
bedroom in a friend’s house. He was not there but a six-foot guy with
aggressive tendencies was. So now I was trapped: I had no job – I quit because
I couldn’t take it anymore – no home, no wife and I was separated from my kids.
Oh, and she took the cat as well….
The deep pain in my soul would not go away.
I felt like parts of my mind were tearing away and some days I would take a
pillow, stuff it on my face and scream and scream into it. I had heard Primal Scream
Therapy recommended this. But it didn’t work. People talk about walking about
in a fog – it really feels like that. At times I was too depressed to look for
work or even eat much.
The fact that my religion seemed to
prohibit remarriage after divorce made things even worse. I searched the Scriptures
and the internet in desperation. I felt lost, frustrated and also angry at a
God who would stop me being happy because of something my wife had done. I felt
so desperate I considered leaving my faith. Thank God, I did not and came to a
new understanding of Him.
I went to the doctor and asked for help. He
told me simply ‘You are depressed’ and prescribed me some medication,
anti-depressants. I was so desperate to feel better I had barely walked out of
the chemist before I was swallowing the pills! They did take the edge of the
But a thought began to grow in my mind that
perhaps I should go away and end it all. I just did not see an improvement
coming; the challenges were too high. So, I went out to the shops and started
buying climbing and walking equipment. I had decided to go to Wales, UK and
walk in the mountains – and not come back.
Ironically, having a definite plan made me
feel more relieved. One day I called up my friend Lynsey and told her I was
going – and not coming back. I felt the first strength arise in me that I had
felt for a long time.
When I got to Wales I set out the next day
for ‘the Skirrit’ or ‘Holy mountain’ as it was known. I didn’t really care what
happened to me, I was going to die anyway, right? I felt wild and full of
purpose (which over-rode the pain) and I started climbing up a rockface with a
heavy backpack. Higher and higher I climbed until I made it to the top.
I could see for miles and I felt a sense of
freedom, as if the height had given me a new perspective. My spirits lifted as I
sawKestrels wheeling and soaring on the thermal winds.
I decided I did not want to die. At that
moment the mind came up and blew strongly (I was maybe a couple of hundred feet
up) and terror filled my gut – I would get blown off the edge!
I threw myself into a hole -and started laughing. Things were going to get