Life is better than a can of cold baked beans

As I write this sitting on a tropical Island in Tonga under a coconut palm in the South Pacific, I look out to see my beautiful wife and my twin boys Blake and Max playing in the crystal clear lagoon.

It takes me back almost eight years to the day when Melissa and I were on holiday again in this beautiful part of our world. She was 19 weeks pregnant with our twins. We had a very relaxing week on an untouched remote Island in Fiji and then flew back to a cold wet windy winter?s day in Wellington.

Just before we flew out for our last break away as a couple Melissa had a scan of our unborn babies and all was good. How things can change in such a short time.

We went back for another scan as soon as we got back, only because they couldn?t pick up a measurement for one of our babies on the previous scan. Melissa said to them that she was not feeling quite right, so a specialist was called in. She was about to give birth.

We were stunned beyond belief. That day Melissa was operated on to give our babies a chance of survival. At 20 weeks gestation no chance. At 21 weeks no chance. At 23 weeks a very slim chance of survival. For the next 3.5 months Melissa stayed on complete bed rest in hospital. Ward 11 became her home. Lots of visitors every day, loads of cards and beautiful flowers. Friends came from everywhere to see her.

I remember on the day of her surgery I went to see my dad. I was numb and I guess I needed someone to talk to. I told him what was happening. He doesn?t talk much about feelings. I guess it?s because he is from the old school. Then his partner came in and said in a very uncaring voice ?What?s happening? I tried to tell her and she said ?What does it matter, they are only a foetus? How careless could someone be? These where our babies that we wanted so much! This has been the only time that I have ever wanted to hit someone. Instead I told her to F off and then my dad had the nous to tell me to apologise. All I wished was that my mum was alive. I know that she would have hugged me and said ?It will be ok?

I went back to the hospital after this, to be there when Melissa was to wake up from the anaesthetic. I was feeling so upset but put on such a front so I could stay strong and not let her worry. I was absolutely hurting inside knowing that this was going to be an emotional battle that I was going to have to endure on my own. The last thing I wanted was for Melissa to worry about anything else, especially me. The only thing I wanted her to think about was the survival of our babies.

For the next 3.5 months my life became a routine. Get up at 5.30am go the hospital for when Melissa woke up. Stay there until 10.00am, go to work. Find some time in the day to go back and spend an hour or so with her. Back to work then back to the hospital again until midnight. Often late afternoon early evening people would come and visit Melissa and they would say ?How are you doing today? and bring flowers and chocolates. I felt empty and isolated as I would sit back. It would have been nice for someone to say how are YOU feeling Michael? Are YOU coping ok?

Would I have opened up? I don?t think so. I had to put on that front, that I was OK. Instead I would kiss my beautiful wife goodnight, go home to an empty house, turn on the TV for some background noise, look in the cupboard and open a can of cold baked beans. Not even feeling like I could be bothered to heat them, I would eat from the can and then sleep.
A new day and the same routine. The only difference was, that for every day that passed was a day closer to us having healthy strong babies.

Over the 3 and a half months of our journey, I found myself in a situation where I had no control over the final outcome (weather our twins lived or died) I could not protect or help my wife or our unborn children, I felt completely helpless, useless, with no one to really talk to about how I was really feeling, it led to feeling isolated, sad and alone. At the time I didn?t know it ?was OK to not feel ok? It is only now, all these years later, that I have discovered that it WAS ok not to cope well with that situation, that I wasn?t alone in the struggle to cope without the right support, that many men faced similar challenges every day.

It was only at a recent album launch called ?Whirlwind? that I met two amazing guys. I just thought that these two were just football dads and the son of one of them comes for sleepover?s with my boys and for the first time I opened up and told my story about ?cold baked beans? to Ryan and Martin.

Men do care, they do listen and they can talk.