GARY Barlow has opened up for the first time about the death of his daughter Poppy.
According to The Sun, the Take That singer bravely described in detail how she was stillborn at full term days before he had to perform at the closing ceremony of the 2012 Olympics.
Barlow, 47, who had a breakdown in 2016 over the loss, has told of the lasting impact on himself and wife Dawn.
He writes in his forthcoming autobiography A Better Me: “After Poppy died, people wrote to me about suffering the same awful experience. Many had kept so much of it locked away in secret.
“I’ve wondered about the value and purpose in sharing something so private, but I’d have been denying Poppy her legacy not to. Maybe sharing our story will help others talk about theirs.”
Here’s an extract from the book.
TEN days before the Olympic closing ceremony our daughter Poppy died. She was stillborn at full term. The Olympics ceased to exist, it just left my mind. Instead we were consumed by the worst thing that had ever happened to us.
You start thinking, the doctors are wrong, I’m dreaming it all. Dawn said she kept feeling Poppy move that day. Apparently the waters move and it feels like the baby’s alive in there. For a few moments you have these false hopes.
I called the doctor when I got back to the London house and we arranged to have the birth induced the following morning. We had decisions to make. Practical stuff. They talk you through what happens during the birth and the fact that you can have two hours with your baby.
They tell you that they will do footprints and handprints, that you can take a lock of hair. They talk you through what’s going to happen when they induce her. They were trying to be reassuring that there would be no physical pain.
The emotional toll, however, was incomprehensible. I was filled with dread for what Dawn had to go through. I couldn’t bear the thought of the suffering ahead for this woman who is my heart, my soul, my best friend, my wife, the mother of my kids, beautiful, gentle, patient, so patient, this loving, constant, unchanging rock of a woman.
Poppy Barlow was born in the evening on Saturday, 4 August, just before nine o’clock. When she was born it was like a light came into the room. It was lovely, it was gorgeous, we both took turns cuddling her, and we took pictures. It was one of the best hours of my life I’ve ever experienced in the midst of the hardest time of my life. It was very powerful, that hour was.
Poppy looked perfect and for an hour she was alive to us. She’s in your arms, this beautiful little daughter of ours, a sister to our three other children.
Then the reality comes rushing into the room and all the air leaves your lungs. It felt like someone had a hand held tight at my throat. The nurses start hovering and they want to take her away. What we experienced and saw over those 24 hours no one should have to see or have to go through.
There’s no sadder sight than seeing a mum with her dead baby in her arms, willing it back to life with all her being.
What’s left now are the logistics of death that follow an event like this. They feel so pointless and mundane. I can’t go and meet a vicar now; I’m not even religious.
Now we’ve got to look for a funeral director and look at their selection of coffins for kids. Choose one. Which one do you like? Which coffin for a newborn baby do you like? What a question.
The practical considerations are as grotesque as they are absurd.
Everyone said, ‘Involve the kids’ but we just couldn’t do it. We didn’t want to subject them to the funeral.
We did it alone, just us two. Kids dying is a strange one.
What do you say? There is nothing. So no one spoke to us. People just sent flowers. They started arriving and never seemed to stop. Every time the doorbell went I dreaded another delivery of lilies.
Oh look, more flowers. More death. Let’s go in this room. Oh, there are more flowers. More death. I was gathering them all up and going down to the bottom of the garden and just slinging them over the fence. Friends sent over a couple of stews. This was more useful than white flowers.
I’ve gone public with this before. It’s been all over my songs for years. But in the whole time I’ve been in the public eye, it’s been the hardest thing to talk about as there is no angle, no way of dressing it up; there’s no glitter you can sprinkle on it, it’s just cold, awful, brutish reality. All I want is to make people happy with my music all the time, so it’s a big deal to share this.
When Poppy died, something happened to me: I went into coping mode. I left the closing ceremony of the Olympics, I went straight home. There, we shut out the world and made a nest where we could be safe, love each other and grieve.
Food was such a massive part of that process. I was driven to do anything in my power to get us all through this. And cooking, not some massive telly, is the real heart of a family. Food was the crack where the light came in that dark summer. Dawn says all she remembers of it is me making pizza dough for the kids and us sitting in the garden shelling broad beans.
The day would start the night before, when I’d stick something in the cool oven of the Aga to cook while we slept. Often it was a big leg of lamb in there with wine and stock that I’d whack in for a twelve-hour slow cook. Can you imagine what that tastes like? We’d wake up to this gorgeous smell throughout the house.
Breakfast was eggs and bacon, big bowls of porridge; there was always a big wedge of frittata and smoothies of blitzed fruit and yoghurt. The lamb would be ready by lunchtime. Should we have it with a freshly-podded broad bean salad and lettuce from the garden, or go large with a few roasted sweet potatoes? It’s easy to cook. I can challenge anyone on the busy front. What?
You’ve got no time to crack an egg into a pan and fry a bit of bacon. Too busy for that? Rubbish.
The enjoyment of eating something you’ve cooked at home outweighs any effort. It’s not MasterChef, feeding the family.
Just the thought of dealing with the real world and all the people in it made me tired.
I didn’t want to come back out. Going into the autumn of 2012, I had to do the next series of The X Factor. I hated leaving Dawn alone for the first time. It was hard work to leave her.
But it wasn’t hard going back to work. In fact, it made everything easier. I didn’t give a sh*t. I always thought that our business, our world, was a load of b*****ks. I knew it for certain now. Sometimes on a set or in a meeting, I’d just sit there smiling, thinking what a load of sh*t this is.
Honestly, it’s not important. The job isn’t the problem. I love the work, it’s fantastic. Cut me and I bleed sparkly shirts and piano solos. It’s the surroundings, the world, some of the people, all the drama and the nonsense.
Without question, I used work as a very effective painkiller. The year after Poppy died my diary was insane.
I barely had a minute between appointments: making documentaries, promo stuff, meeting heads of TV channels, planning radio specials, charity gigs, school sports day, and, religiously, weekly date nights with my wife.
The one place I could escape was into my own music. After all these achievements in recent years there was still one thing I was afraid to address. It was thirteen years since my last solo album.
For the first time in my life, I didn’t think about other people’s expectations or needs or rules before I wrote. I just wrote. Most of the lyrics on that second solo album were sad and I consciously beefed up the music to brighten up the message.
Dawn kept saying to me, ‘I’m so tired.’ Eight months on she is still in a bad way and she is looking thin, so thin.
I can see her ribs, her breastbone; her skin is so pale, it’s transparent. Something is wrong. She went to the doctor’s for a check-up and they did a blood test.
She was sent straight to the consultant endocrinologist who said, ‘You’re diabetic. You’re Type 1 diabetic. We need to put you on insulin immediately.’ It looks like the trauma of losing your baby caused your body to turn on itself,’ the doc says.
The doctor says she has post-traumatic Type 1 diabetes. Apparently it happens to firefighters and police, people in war zones, people, basically, who have experienced distressing events. The emotional pain of losing Poppy had caused her physical damage. That’s how her body dealt with it.
A lot has gone on in my life but over and above everything else I don’t think I realised how devastating losing my daughter was.
I had seen grief quite literally physically destroy my wife’s body so that she was left with a chronic illness that she will never get better from.
She has Type 1 diabetes now, for life. I couldn’t tell you how much the worry of that, of seeing its effect on my wife, lived constantly in my own body. But I didn’t dare confront it. I just coped. And worked. And worked.
As a dad of a lost child, your grief has to come later. I still don’t know how I feel. I am still very angry. If I don’t think about it or talk about it I can push it down, evade some of the pain. But the feelings are there.
There was a long time without laughter in our house. And laughter is one of the defining things about mine and Dawn’s relationship. That all stopped. Dawn’s light went out that night in 2012.
I’ve watched Dawn since then and now, five years on, the light that came into the room when Poppy was born has passed to Dawn. She holds the light now. It’s beautiful to see. She took it and every year it burns brighter.
It’s very vivid still, and I don’t want to forget the day that my daughter Poppy was born. You don’t just grieve and things get a bit better and then it’s over.
When people ask me how many kids I have I want to say four, but I say three because to explain that Poppy died so young is to invite questions. Yet every time I say I’ve got three kids I feel guilty.
What people don’t realise is that to lose a child in this way is no different from losing them at any age. We’ve got other kids. I don’t know if that makes it easier or not. It probably does. The pain of losing Poppy is our connection to her.
In some ways you don’t want the agony to end because when it lets up for a while you feel guilty.
You feel like you’re forgetting her. You think, ‘I’m not hurting as much today. I need to quickly remind myself … oh that’s painful again’.
The pain is back and she’s back.