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Dad Story of the Month: Harlow's dramatic arrival

Updated: Nov 17, 2022

At fatherli, we celebrate dads of all types. We want to share their experiences with other families.

Sometimes dads don't tell their birth stories, but sometimes dads and mums have been through a lot with birth, especially if the health of mother or baby has been at risk.

This week, we are celebrating father of 2, Andrew Forbes and his birth story as our dad story of the month.

Andrew's wife, Sarah, had to go to hospital for an emergency birth at 30 weeks, she had an infection. Andrew and Sarah's second child, a baby girl named Harlow, arrived 9 weeks early and weighed just 2.11 pounds, less than a bag of sugar. As such, she needed to be carefully supported by the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) in Canada. Having a newborn baby in the NICU can be one of the most stressful times in a parent's life.

Because baby Harlow came out of the womb so early, she still needed medical support to eat and breathe as she was not yet ready for life outside her mother's womb.

Andrew and his wife experienced the heartache of watching their baby girl have to fight after being born so early. They watched as she needed a CPAP machine to help her breathe and it didn't always work. Andrew described a sense of loss that they experienced as NICU parents because their baby needed so much medical support to survive in the first period of her tiny life. During this time, Andrew and Sarah would spend time with Harlow and do the things that new parents do. But due to her urgent need for medical care and equipment, baby Harlow wasn't yet ready to go home and meet her little brother and be cared for her by her parents in the family home.

A sense of loss

Andrew and his wife missed the early weeks of being able to take baby home from the hospital and settle her into her cot and take care of her themselves without medical support.

Andrew said that for him and his wife, they felt a profound sense of loss of not being able to take their child home from the hospital and do the normal but special things you get to do with a newborn, giving her her first bath, putting them to bed for the first time. All kinds of things that can be special but Harlow was not ready for yet.

This sense of loss was compounded by the fact that their first son was born with a rare bowel disease that meant he needed to stay in hospital for the first week after birth and needed to go back into hospital 3 months later for surgery.

Happily though, today Harlow is home with mum and dad and doing tremendously well.

Why Andrew's story is so important for other dads

Traditionally, mums tell their birth stories and this is vitally important for their recovery. But since the 1970s dads have been more involved in births.

With premature births, both parents go through an ordeal that may last days or even weeks or months. Andrew has told his story of how after birth, he and his wife began their life with a new baby in hospital. Whilst this medical care for Harlow was vital, there is an aspect of loss and fighting for Harlow's survival that they overcome. It's essential that dads have a voice and can also share their experiences, as well as mums.

You can read more about Andrew’s experience and family life at his IG page and blog and look out for Andrew's book about his experience. You can follow him on Instagram here

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