To lose my only daughter at the last moment was, without a doubt, the most traumatic event of my life. Molly Mear was born sleeping at forty weeks on the 12th August 2013. Claire, my wife, had fallen pregnant naturally; at age 46, I was 49, this was to be her first baby. There were no ongoing pregnancy issues, apart from the 20th week when we were told Molly had T21 or Down Syndrome. Once we recovered from this shock, we accepted her fate and decided to continue with the pregnancy. Claire did not have any physical issues until she reached thirty-nine weeks and five days when she felt nothing moving inside.
Our fears became a reality when, just two days before her due date, the doctor told us that Molly was dead. Seeing the confusion, pain, and heaviness of loss on Claire's face was the most challenging thing I have ever witnessed. Two days later, during a complicated induced birth, I nearly lost Claire too. Molly had no life force, so Claire was utterly exhausted by labour when she started to bleed out during the final stages. Molly got stuck, and so she had to have her shoulders broken to get her out. The crash team was called; as a long-standing paramedic, I was helpless; I could do nothing.
Less than a week after Molly's traumatic birth and death, we both mindlessly returned to emergency work in the ambulance service. Neither of us could sit at home while waiting for her funeral. Our first call of the day was ironic, as we went to a woman suffering a catastrophic miscarriage. We had to take her into the same labour ward where we delivered Molly not seven days before. This one event broke Claire; she did not return to frontline work.
We lost friends; people ignored us rather than speak to us; it was a very dark time in our lives. Neither of us received any counselling. One day before Molly's funeral, I felt so lost about what to do for the best, so I dismantled her nursery and took it all to the charity shop. Claire had meticulously planned every detail in this room for her arrival. What was the point of keeping it all? We had nothing to remember her by except her tiny handprints pressed onto a piece of card. At this point, we both retreated into ourselves. I felt as if I could not show any emotion, as I had no one to talk to; if anyone spoke to me, they would always ask “How is Claire doing?”. I felt that my feelings were of no interest to anyone. For the first year, we were both numb with shock, grief, and anger. Every month that went past was some kind of anniversary of when Molly was last alive.
As a man, I felt worthless, as if I had let Claire down and that somehow, it was all my fault. To see Claire in so much pain every day was torturous, even though her tough northern exterior screamed in every sense that 'she was coping just fine!'. The loss was incredible. It engulfed us, suffocating the last bit of life left in us. We had no future, our hopes and dreams snatched away, we raged against God or whoever had perpetrated this theft.
My only saving grace was my love of music, particularly the rock and heavy metal kind, which has been a constant in my life. In 2010, I had set up a small charity festival called Mearfest in memory of my mother, Sally Mear, who passed away with cancer that year. When Molly died, it took three years to put on another event. In 2016 we rebranded Mearfest to tell our story more publicly. We used Molly's right hand as our logo and focal point. We sold out the Borderline in London - 350 tickets gone, it was packed. Mearfest has now become Molly's legacy.
We have raised awareness of miscarriage, stillbirth, and infant loss by fundraising £30,000 for various related charities over the past five years. In 2020, we decided to raise funds for Sands by encouraging our Mearfest supporters to take part in raffles and sponsor us with Facebook challenges. We’re proud to have raised £6,400 for Sands in just twelve months. The most taxing challenge so far was last June, when I walked 63 miles in 24 hours around the North Norfolk coastline; my feet were a mess for weeks after!
Over the past couple of years, both Claire and I have enjoyed writing. Claire self-published her first book last year called Rocker Bye Baby, which details our story in full. I was so impressed with how she achieved this that I wrote poetry highlighting my loss and recovery. During October and Baby Loss Awareness Week, I will be releasing my first book of beautifully illustrated poems, Shawl of Stars. It has been deeply therapeutic as I can finally air some of my deepest emotions through this medium. Both books are available on mearfest.org.
Being part of Sands has helped me in many ways. I have found new male and female friends, which has been liberating to share my thoughts and experiences on such an ordinarily ulterior subject as the death of a baby. This channel has undoubtedly helped my overall well-being. Through Mearfest and Sands I feel connected to a broader family; collectively we have built something incredible for Molly and all the other Heavenly babies, turning loss into legacy.