Former Red Nose Chairman, Craig Heatley, shares his story and why he says we can’t wait another 40 years to unlock the reasons why babies die suddenly and unexpectedly.
Many families in the Red Nose community have been personally impacted by the death of a baby or child. Every little life lost is precious, and my sincerest condolences go out to all families impacted by this loss.
I too know this pain. This is my story, which began in 2007 and sadly ended in heartbreak.
Like all new parents, my wife Lara and I excitedly prepared our lives and home for the arrival of our first child – Charlotte.
Charlotte’s nursery had been set up, her jumpsuits and clothes put neatly in her drawers ready to be worn, and her toys placed on the shelves ready to be endlessly played with.
It had been an uncomplicated pregnancy, and we had no reason for concern when we arrived at the doctor’s office for a routine check-up at 35 weeks.
But as the doctor conducted the examination, it was clear something wasn’t right.
After a flurry of doctors and midwives went through what felt like an endless battery of checking and rechecking, we were given the devastating news.
Charlotte’s heart was no longer beating. She was gone. And there was nothing they could do.
Within an instant, we had gone from excitement and anticipation to heartbreak and despair.
Lara was induced and gave birth to our beautiful daughter Charlotte – she was perfect, but born still.
She wasn’t coming home with us.
It goes without saying that losing Charlotte was heartbreaking. But one of the hardest parts was not knowing why it had happened.
After speaking with many bereaved families over the years, I have realised that we all, at one time or another, find ourselves asking the same questions – questions that have no answers.
Why did my baby die? Was it something I did? Was it something I didn’t do? Why us?
After a few weeks, we had to pack away Charlotte’s nursery.
We just couldn’t walk past the room full of Charlotte’s things – a room that was set up with so much hope and joy, was now a constant reminder of what should have been.
I will never forget the moment I began to dismantle Charlotte’s cot. Only weeks ago, I had set it up, and imagined putting her to bed and kissing her goodnight.
Now I was in her room, weighed down with the unimaginable grief, and left with empty arms.
Our story continues with the excitement that Lara was pregnant again – with twins, a boy and a girl. We were so happy, but also very anxious throughout the pregnancy.
Charlotte was never far from our minds. We couldn’t help but wonder whether we would lose these babies before they were born, and relive the heartbreak and pain all over again.
Thankfully, in early 2008 our son Cameron and daughter Addison arrived safe and well. We were ecstatic, and quickly settled into the joyous commotion that comes with raising twins.
But tragically, in December 2009, our family was shattered again – we found Cameron in his cot, unresponsive and not breathing.
He passed away, from what we later learned was a suspected febrile convulsion, at just 22 months old.
To say Lara and I were devastated is an understatement. To lose one child is every parent’s worst nightmare. To lose two children in under three years, is beyond nightmarish.
Luckily Red Nose was there to support our family, and helped us move forward as we raise our daughter Addison, and forever grieve for Charlotte and Cameron.
It’s this journey that led me to want to do more, and so I joined the Red Nose Board and subsequently became Chairman in November 2017.
My purpose, as both a bereaved father and through Red Nose, is to do whatever I can so no other parents have to go through the heartbreak my family has endured.
And that’s why I’m getting silly for a serious cause on Red Nose Day, and why I hope you’ll join me too.
Your support will help to fund more lifesaving research, support grief-stricken families, and help save little lives through our education and advocacy programs.