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

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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.

My Bucks Fizz Birthday

You’re probably thinking “oooh lucky girl, birthday bubbles!”

Nil points. I don’t mean the bubble variety. I actually mean the 80’s, Eurovision winning, pop group variety.

Today, I’m spending my birthday doing what Bobby G, Cheryl, Jay and Mike made famous in 1981 skirt ripping style.

I’m having a “Making Your Mind Up” birthday!

I bet you’re singing it right now 🙂

Earlier today, my husband presented me with this for my birthday,

Who knew he was good at Origami!

Three handmade boxes.

I had to open them in a particular order and the instruction was “you can open each box, but you only get to keep one”.

Intriguing!

This was in the first box..

A great first box!

This was in the second..

Never wear? Doubtful!

and the third..

BINGO…apart from the small print

So I guess you’re thinking the choice is obvious.

Is it?

My head might be screaming this..

or this..

but my heart is screaming this..

I have until midnight to “make my mind up”.

My friend Clare is with me on the designer boots but Rekha told me she’d disown me if I didn’t go for the holiday 🙂

What would you do?

It’s definitely been an exciting and distracting gift for a birthday that I’ve been dreading. On Thursday, Tim had to stay home from work because I couldn’t stop crying. After I opened the boxes, Tim put his arms around me and said “I know I can’t give you what you really want for your birthday darling, but I can give you one of these”.

Of course it’s not good enough. I know that. Only red hair, chubby fingers and gurgling can ever be, but when I look back on this birthday, my first birthday without my baby boy, I’ll try not to think about what should have been. I’ll think about all the good things that have happened today and I’ll smile when I remember those little green boxes while I stroke my Jimmy Choo boots.

I had a dream…

When I was almost 10 years old, my best friend died from Leukemia.

My memories of her are hazy, as it happened 30 years ago, but I remember spending Saturday afternoons at the back of our local football club, drinking Coca-Cola from real glass bottles, trying to make our armpits “fart” with our hands and dancing on the stairs, pretending we were Legs & Co from Top of the Pops.

Legs & Co!

To be honest, I haven’t thought about her much over the years. I was young when she died. I remember the shock when Mum told me and feeling lonely on Saturday afternoons as I sat drinking Coca-Cola alone, but life carried on and the memories faded with time.

Then last night, I had a dream about her.

I was sat in a huge white and grey auditorium. A beautiful woman with short dark hair, walked up the stairs and sat down beside me. “Hi”, she said and I knew it was her. “Look behind you”. Behind me were rows and rows of bright, white lights.

They were mesmerising.

I just sat and stared for ages and then I told her “I don’t understand”. “This is what I do”, she said, “I show the little ones where to go” and as I stared at the beautiful lights, she said,

“I knew he was yours the moment I met him”.

You’re probably thinking “come off it Nicky, do you really think your old dead friend has found Elijah?”. I don’t know. Maybe. I don’t have the answers. My husband thinks it’s all “bollocks”. When I told him we were destined to be together because our palm lines cross at exactly the same places on our hands, he says “babe, it’s bollocks”. When I tell him a Tarot card reader once told me our first child would be a boy and be a musical genius, he says, “babe, listen to me, it’s bollocks”.

Maybe he is right and it is all bollocks. You will have to make your own minds up about that.

I do know that I rarely remember my dreams but this one has stuck with me today and has given me comfort. As I danced around the kitchen with my toddler, to the theme tune from Madagascar, I thought about those mesmerising lights and imagined my old best friend and my baby boy maybe doing the same.

Dance away my darlings!

Happy Birthday?

I received a beautiful bunch of flowers from a friend today.

One of our builders said to me “you’ve got some lovely flowers. Is it your birthday?”
“Well yes” I said “but not yet. Next week”. “Happy Birthday” he said.

Happy Birthday.

Just two simple words and yet for me it’s not really going to be a “Happy Birthday” year.

To be honest, I’ve had a few weird birthdays in the past.

There was the year my hubby gave me an Action Man for my birthday because Action Man had a spy camera, which apparently is “cool”. Then there was the year he wanted to give me birthday tokens that I could redeem for sex at any time. I think one of the tokens actually said “this entitles the bearer of this token to a quickie” 🙂

I’ve had some GREAT birthdays. Like the year he took me to Paris as a surprise for my 30th.

This year? I’m not sure how to describe how I feel this year. I think it’s the year that time should forget but I never, ever can.

I had an idea of what I would be doing on my birthday this year.

If I close my eyes, I can actually see it.

Tim and Gabey come into the bedroom. They’ve made me birthday breakfast. Elijah is in a white sleepsuit and Tim is holding him in the crook of his arm. Gabey shoves a piece of toast in my face and shouts “Happy Birthday mummy” and blows me a kiss. He then tells me how he made me breakfast and a card. He says “Eli helped too Mummy”. The card is hilarious and wonderful. Its got Gabey scribble all over it and Tim has held a pencil in Elijahs hand and written “I love you Mummy. Eli xxx”. Tim smiles and says “he wrote that all by himself you know. He’s very clever for a 3 month old”.

I guess the truth is, now Elijah has gone, I never get to have the birthdays I imagined ever again. Although honestly, just between us, how many of us really do get the birthdays we want or imagine? My friend Debbs got a box full of her own computer from her hubby one year. I love you Debbs and that STILL makes me giggle. Best birthday present story EVER. I doubt anyone can beat that?

So this year, I’m going to share a birthday Bucks Fizz with a few of my dearest friends, let Rekha feed me cake & laugh when Gabey shoves birthday toast in my face. I might even buy Gabey his first ever Action Man to celebrate.

Well, he is “cool” after all.

Image

Stone of sorrow

As I was putting together my poetry to include on this blog (you can find them under the Written for Elijah page), I came across a card a friend sent to me after Elijah died.

I remember when I opened the envelope to find a beautiful, shiny fake diamond. I picked it up & thought “oh, a paperweight maybe?” Then I read the card attached and the story was so touching that I’m sharing it with you.

It goes like this…

Jim is eight years old and lives in a small, boring town. His father has passed away recently but comes back in Jim’s fantasies to tell him all about his adventures in the afterlife. He also introduces him to “kola vippen”, the incarnation of death, who is a middle aged man riding a vespa 🙂

Kola vippen visits people who have lost someone and with a big wrench-like tool, removes the huge heavy black stone they carry in their chest. The black stone is their sorrow. He cracks open the stone of sorrow and inside is a smaller, sparkling stone and it is shining brightly. Kola vippen puts that stone back into the person. It’s what’s left of the sorrow once the anger and bitterness has gone.

It lights you up from inside.

My friend said that she was giving me my shining stone for when my black stone of sorrow finally cracks open.

The story is from a Swedish childrens movie called “Jim & the pirates” and I’m going to find a copy and watch it with my toddler. Not right now, because my black stone isn’t ready to shine yet but one day, when it is, its nice to know that Swedish pirates helped me get there.