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.

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

Just keep climbing

Today, as I cuddled the most beautiful newborn baby girl, my friends and I chatted about Elijah and grief and what it takes to move on.

I’ve been very determined to make sure Gabriel (my 3 year old) has the best Christmas, with lots of fun and laughter.

However, I’ve been feeling low since New Years Eve, wondering if I was deluding myself by trying to face these difficult days with hope and joy.

Am I letting Elijah down?

Should I be inconsolable? Keep the curtains drawn and the mood more somber?

So we talked about that and how hard it is being hopeful after tragedy. Let me just say, it’s not the easy option. Every day I climb my own personal Everest to keep my family functioning.

I’ve been asking myself, why do I do that? The answer, I do it for Gabriel. One of my friends said “What you went through, losing your innocent baby, is the worst thing in the world that I could imagine”. Now, for me, it isn’t. All my fears now centre around Gabriel. The worst thing imaginable for me, is that he one day, perhaps when he’s in his twenties, turns round to me and says “all you did is cry Mum. It was like I wasn’t even there. I had the worst childhood”. I feel as though I’ve lost so much already and I don’t want to lose him too. Him being alive and not wanting to know me because I “checked out” is my greatest fear.

After my friends left, Gabriel came creeping up to me, with an outstretched arm and clenched fist.

“What have you got there sweetie” I asked. “Shhhhhh” he demanded “it’s sleeping”. He uncurled his hand to reveal a tiny, little piece of black fluff. “It’s a baby. I found it” he whispered. “Babies are nice mummy” and off he ran to put “baby fluff” under his pillow.

That, right there, is hope and joy and why I climb, climb, climb every single day.

On the eve of Christmas

These are unusual times.

As Christmas approaches, I spend my days moving between despair and hope.

Dickens said it best in A Tale of Two Cities..

It was the best of times

best

It was the worst of times

elijah2

it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair….

I am now like those two cities.

One city is full of memories of Elijah, despair and regrets. The other city is full of Gabriel and the joy and laughter he brings to my life every single day.

Christmas is a lonely time as a bereaved parent.

The whole world is drinking, laughing and celebrating birth, at a time when celebration feels wrong.

But…then there is hope.

The hope that comes from watching the little face of a 3 year old boy light up, every time I switch on the Christmas tree lights. Hope in the squeals of excitement, every time he rips open a Christmas card and hope in the 1,000th time he has told me “Father Kissmass come down the Chimney for pie”.

So today, on the eve of Christmas, I’m embracing that hope. To all of you who have suffered loss and are surrounded by darkness and despair today, I’m sending you peace and I’m sending you some of my hope.

I am with you.

You are not alone.

HOPE

Written by Gabriel & Elijahs mummy.

Hello Hope
You went awhile
Now you’re back
With a promised smile
I abandoned you
Gave up for dead
Washed away
With the tears I shed
I’ve lived despair
so time to stay
surround me Hope
each and every day

Room 1

It’s very hard not to get hung up on dates and times in the aftermath of loss.

At exactly this time, exactly 4 months ago, we were having our boy christened and as we stood there, surrounded by the love of the Trevor Mann nurses, the realisation hit that they had done all they could for him and we would never bring him home.
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Up until that point I’d still kept some hope alive for a miracle.
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I was willing him to open his eyes.
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In my fantasy, all the alarms would sound. Staff would rush in,
“We don’t know how it’s happened. One of the machines wasn’t working properly. He’s going to be fine”.
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I’m sure that any parent who has been inside Room 1 of the Trevor Mann Unit knows my fantasy. It feels like you are on the edge of a different Universe when you walk in there.
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Room 1 is the scariest place on the face of this earth.
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It’s where you never, ever want to be. I hope none of you EVER have to go there. I thought I knew fear. I was wrong.
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Fear IS Room 1.
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I remember my friend Helen telling me a bit about Room 1 a few years ago. She said “Room 1 is where you don’t want to be”. Her daughter survived Room 1 and she knows the fear.
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It’s also a place filled with the most incredible love I have ever experienced.
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Julie and Chrissie.
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I rarely use the word “angel”. It’s not my thing, but those ladies are two angels who spent more time with my son than I did. That they loved him is without doubt. I can’t even begin to describe the tenderness and caring that these ladies showed to Elijah. Julie came to me after her shift had ended, after she’d been with my son all night and gave me a piece of cloth
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“I put this in the crib with him all night, so you’d have something that would smell of him” she said. She’d also collected up every single piece of wire that had been connected to him. Anything that had touched him, she’d saved it all for me. She said “I know you won’t have much to take away from here but at least you have something”.
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I don’t know how or where people like her are made. Truly amazing.
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I don’t remember much of the first time I went to Room 1. I remember running and collapsing outside the room, near the exit doors and Tim picking me up and carrying me back downstairs.
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I remember there were 3 other babies in that room with Elijah and I know at least one of those children didn’t make it home.
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I remember the silence the first time I walked in, as if everyone in that room knew what would happen the first time I saw him.
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I remember being surprised at the sheer amount of machines and wires everywhere.
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I remember thinking that Room 1 will probably change my life forever.
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4 months ago I entered Room 1 as a scared, desperate parent.
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4 months later, Room 1 has made me a person who approaches and thinks about life differently.
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I’m stronger, thanks to Room 1 and I also know true love thanks to Room 1.
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Hope and Fear and Room 1.
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I’ll never be the same again.