For Elijah

My blog post “Moments of life & death” has been published today by Still Standing Magazine.

This magazine is such an important resource for bereaved parents & has helped me through some dark days by showing me that I am not alone.

You can read my post for Elijah, by following this link…

http://stillstandingmag.com/2013/09/moments-of-life-and-death/

Moments of Life and Death

It’s been a while but I feel the need to write now, as today marks the one year anniversary of holding Elijah in my arms as he passed away.

Much has happened since my last post, especially the birth of Elijahs brother, Isaac. Our rainbow baby. Our hope. My little ray of sunshine that warms and comforts me on this tough anniversary date.

One year without my beautiful boy, Elijah. One shattering, life changing year. I have lived moments no Mother should ever have to see.

Moments of Life and Death.

I have witnessed as my body brought forth both.

I have had to hand my child’s body to a stranger and walk away, knowing I would never touch his skin again.

I have felt consuming, overwhelming love for a fragile little soul, who will never walk this earth by my side.

I have had mere moments to fill with a lifetime of love.

I have had to say Goodbye.

I have grieved. Above all else, I have grieved. For what could have been and should have been. For what was owed and what was taken. What was taken is so staggering, that I sometimes wondered if I could remain. How could I remain, knowing that my love was not enough to save him.

I have survived horror and been blessed with beauty.

I have gone from weeping with sadness over a tiny, white coffin to weeping with hope over the new life inside of me.

I have lived in that space between grief and hope.

One year without him.

I am still there.

Walking the path with Nemo

Over the last few days, I’ve become obsessed with a quote from the movie “The Matrix”.
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Later today we go for our 20 week pregnancy scan to check if our little “Nemo” is ok. In fact, due to a set of unusual circumstances, our scan will be taking place 8 months after the day (almost to the minute!) that we held Elijah in our arms for the final time and said goodbye.
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So back to the quote.
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In the movie, Niobe gives up her ship to Neo so he can fulfil his prophecy and stop the machines. Everyone is surprised since she is a non-believer. However, she does believe in Neo, his ability and the possibility that he might just make a difference and save all of their lives. After giving her ship away, she says…
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“Two ships. Two directions. Sounds like providence doesn’t it Morpheus?”
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I thought about changing the date & time of the scan. Is this too strange? What does it mean? Is it providence that we find out if Nemo is thriving at the exact moment when we lost Elijah? Is the timing a bad or good omen…I swing from one to the other. Maybe it is, as my husband says, “just numbers babe”.
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I don’t know but I know I’m scared.
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As Morpheus said “there is a difference between knowing the path and walking the path”. I’m scared to face whatever future the scan holds for us because good or bad, what happened 8 months ago, can’t ever be changed, erased or “reloaded” like the Matrix.
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Two babies. Two directions?
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Please let life and my arms be your direction little Nemo but whatever happens, we are walking this path together.

A Different Mother

Sophocles (a famous greek playwright) once wrote that “children are the anchors of a mothers life”.

It’s particularly poignant for me, today, Mother’s Day, after losing one of my precious anchors.

On Mother’s Day last year, I was excitedly looking forward to meeting our baby boy, Elijah and I never expected that I would have to say goodbye before his life had barely begun.

No longer anchored by two sons, I’ve been reflecting on how that unexpected and tragic loss has changed me as a Mother to my living son.

I used to worry a lot.

I worried about him being successful. I had conversations with my husband about him leaving home in the future. How will he afford a house? University? We assume he’ll go, right? We must make sure he goes to a good school so he can do that. I visited private schools and read up on “fee structures”. We need to make sure that whatever Degree he chooses to do, we fully support him, even if that’s “Arty” and not something “Sciencey”. I have vague memories of us arguing over that point. We had those conversations and many, many more about his future.

What luxury.

I want, so painfully and acutely, that it hurts in my stomach, to argue ridiculous points about Elijahs future.

How ridiculous that I used to be concerned that Gabey (my now 3 year old) WILL be reading by 3. I once said that as I was reading by age 3, it must be “in his genes”. At the very least, I used to insist, we definitely need to make sure he is reading before he starts school. Ah, schools….I can’t tell you the amount of school Ofsted reports I’ve read. The amount of hours, days, I’ve thought about schools for my children.

Now, I worry about three things…
1)  Is he alive
2) Is he healthy
3) Is he happy

That’s it.

Of course, I’m not an idiot. I’m not saying I want or would be happy for him to go to the crappiest school in Sussex but what I’m saying is I just don’t worry about the future as much anymore.

When your child dies in your arms, all thoughts of the future stop. How can you even see the next day, let alone starting school, when death has so cruelly and blatantly crashed into your life. Suddenly, everything shifts. Life most fragile. You start living and parenting in the moment, day by day, aware that every moment is precious and more moments are never, ever guaranteed.

A few weeks ago we moved to a new area and I went to visit our local Montessori nursery school with my 3 year old. Before losing Elijah, I would have visited at least half a dozen of the nearest and the best and I would never have considered a Montessori nursery. I was extremely traditional and no-nonsense all the way.  I would have scoured the Internet for all the nursery Ofsted reports within the area. I would have taken weeks to choose, probably visiting each one twice and boring my husband with minute details of the pros and cons of each establishment. I may have even written a spreadsheet.

This time, I walked into the nursery and noticed how warm and gentle the staff were. How calm and happy the atmosphere seemed. Then I looked at my boy and he was smiling and pointing at pictures of dinosaurs on the wall. He was happy so I was happy. Not the other way around. This time it was his decision. I signed him up that day.

It was the first and only nursery we visited.

It’s a big change for me.

So on this Mothering Sunday, I wake up knowing that I’m now a different parent.

I’m now parenting after loss.

That will, undoubtedly, continue to bring many unexpected challenges but like every other Mother does, every single day, I’m just going to try my very best and keep my fingers crossed.

3am

In the months since losing Elijah, finding a moment every day just for him has become very important to me. My days are always busy. Moving house, a beautiful, boisterous 3 year old and hospital appointments for this pregnancy, leave me with few moments to spare, let alone spend a moment for my lost boy.

So 3am has become “our moment”.

Every morning, I wake up and look at the time. It’s always close to 3am. I then spend some time thinking about him. I think about how different things should have been. I tell him about the crazy antics his big brother has been up to. I often tell him I’m sorry, especially when strangers ask me “so this will be your second?” and I reply “yes”. I ask myself questions…would he be crawling now? would he look like his brother?

Elijahs big brother at 8 months old

With Mothers Day in the UK approaching this weekend, I woke up at 3am today, thinking about this…

My first Mothers Day with Gabriel

I also thought about something an old friend said to me at the weekend, “I kept calling but you never picked up the phone so I just stopped trying”.

Maybe I should stop trying too? I guess my life would probably be easier. Simpler. Stop trying to keep a bit of Elijah with me. Stop trying to make sense of this new, unexpected journey. Stop trying to keep everyone happy at the same time as keeping afloat in a sea of grief. I could wake up at 3am, roll over and simply go back to sleep. I could immerse myself in my new house and my baby-to-be and try to forget my lost child and everything that happened. Just stop trying.

Albert Einstein (by all accounts a very smart man) once said “you never fail until you stop trying”.

So this coming Mothers Day, I’m going to make my 3am moment an all day moment. I’m going to spend the day with both of my boys, one in my arms and one in my mind, because for 25 hours I was a Mother of two and I’m never going to try and forget that.

Holding out for a hero

About 20 years ago, I tried to save the life of a cat.

I was driving along the notoriously busy Stifford Road, in my hometown of Aveley, when the car in front of me hit a cat.

BANG, the cat was down & the car sped off.

“STOP THE CAR” I screamed at my boyfriend and as he swerved onto the kerb, I jumped out of the car and ran into the road.

I knew I had just moments to save the beautiful, black cat, lying in the road, shrieking in agony.

As I frantically waved my arms, standing in the middle of very busy, Friday night traffic, with my boyfriend screaming “GET OUT OF THE ROAD”, all I knew at that moment was that I had to stop the cars, get the cat out of the road and to a vet, to give it a chance to survive.

Then in one final moment, as I shouted “STOP” a sleek looking jag came screaming towards me. My boyfriend pulled me out of the way, the car drove straight over the cat and it was game over.

I was inconsolable.

As I sobbed into my boyfriends shoulder, him angry with me for being so reckless, he said one thing that now means everything,

“you tried babe”

I did try. He was right. As much as I regret not being able to save that cat, it does make me feel better that I did something. If I’d just driven past and not bothered, I think that would haunt me.

Would you?

Would you have done what I did and jumped into the road to try and save the cat?

There are many stories of people putting themselves at risk to save others. Stories of instinct taking over when lives are at risk. Adults jumping into freezing cold rivers to save a drowning dog. Friends jumping into stormy seas to save a friend. Stories of heroics and people TRYING to do the right thing. Even if it doesn’t work, human nature is to help others in need and try, right?

hero

Well, not always. Sadly, tragically, horrifically, not in the case of my baby boy.

Yesterday, we received a letter from the GMC.

They attached a letter from Mr X. The consultant who was supposed to have been looking after me and Elijah.

Firstly, he expresses his condolences and his understanding of what disappointment we must be feeling.

Yes, that’s right. Disappointment.

Yesterday morning, I told my very excited 3 year old that we would take the car through a car wash machine. We happily drove to the garage to find it not working and being repaired.

THAT was disappointing.

When I open the fridge to find the last Twix has been eaten by my husband

THAT is disappointing.

The death of my child….well, lets just say that “disappointing” doesn’t even begin to describe how I feel.

He then denies all knowledge of what happened on that day and lays the blame firmly on the shoulders of the midwives and the middle-grade doctors. He didn’t know I was in labour, he didn’t know I was bleeding. he thought my pregnancy was trouble free and so on and so forth.

Then, in his own words, at the moment Elijahs little heart couldn’t take any more and was taking its final beats, he describes being told by labour ward staff that we were in theatre, we were an emergency and to run.

RUN

So, at that moment, did he jump in like a man saving his drowning dog? Did he run to save Elijah, like I ran to save that cat?

No.

He took a back lift, not the fast lift and went to change his clothes.

What a true, all male, all muscles, Last Action Hero he is.

It’s just not the done thing to be seen in blue scrubs when everyone around you is wearing red, darling. No, I’m not kidding. As my boy was dying, he was changing the colour of his scrubs.

So, I asked before and I’ll ask again, would you have tried to save the Stifford Road Cat?

Would he?

I think you & I both know the answer to that.

I Carved Your Name

Written by Elijahs mummy

Cold majesty to freeze my heart,
The silent beauty calms,
Wispy white to mark the day,
You left my loving arms.

A fallen tree, my fallen child,
a thousand tears I’ve cried,
and as the snow fell gently down,
I carved your name with pride.

Elijah Swan 19-20 July 2012