Our last moments

Our first moments xx

Our first moments xx

I walk towards the window at the bottom of the stairs, and as I make my way up the stairs, step number one, step number two….step number fourteen, I reach the landing opposite your bedroom and close the curtains. I make sure the bathroom blind is closed and mummy and daddy’s curtains are closed to, then I’m ready, with upstairs plunged into darkness I make my way into your bedroom, but instead of laying you down to zip you into your sleeping bag, I make my way to your window. I imagine myself stood here holding a very tired little William, sucking your thumb with your head snug into mummy’s neck, I close my eyes now and inhale, I can smell you, knowing that sweet strawberry cosy warmth, a scent I will never forget. A scent that lingers on in everything you touched. A scent that still smothers the last jumper I ever cuddled you in. A jumper that still hangs on the bottom of my bed. Not only is this the jumper that you snuggled into when you were so poorly that day, but it is the jumper that I wore to pick your cold, lifeless body up at the hospital. A jumper I knew that you loved, a jumper that you found comforting. It seemed only right that I wear this jumper to cuddle you in when I visited you.

As I walked through that door, I always knew what to expect but I broke, I broke every time, seeing your tiny little body lying in the blanket with your little teddy. It was wrong, it was so wrong. Nothing could ever possibly soften the impact of seeing you that way. Regardless, I visited everyday. I remember visiting you before you went on your trip to Birmingham for your post-mortem. I visited you with 3 friends, I opened the door, I saw you again, my legs buckled, I cried out and crawled towards the hospital gurney. I pulled myself up so my head was level with yours, I caught my breath, I stroked your hair and kissed your beautiful skin, I slowly pulled back the sheet, to wrap you in the blanket mummy would cuddle you in. The bruises so purple, so vivid, an awful reminder of the minutes mummy tried in vain to save your life with CPR. CPR that I can remember so clearly as if it’s happening now. The ambulance call handler, reciting ‘1 and 2 and 3 and 4, and 1 and 2 and 3 and 4, rescue breath 1…..rescue breath 2….. and 1 and 2 and 3 and 4’ I can remember her voice, I can remember the phone and I can remember the struggle it was to open your mouth to give you rescue breaths, rigor mortis having already taken you away, but we carried on, we tried, we tried with everything we could possibly give it. I would still be doing it now if I thought it would give me one more minute with you. Your gaze was fixed on the ceiling, your eyes were glazed over and your little soul had gone. My beautiful little William had taken flight. You were already gone. Mummy tried so hard, and when the paramedics ran up the stairs, I screamed ‘PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE DO SOMETHING’, they tried to sweetheart, but there was nothing they could do. As I stood behind one paramedic he turned to me and said ‘I’m sorry my love but he’s gone’. Gone. You were gone.

I think another paramedic caught me as I fell backwards down the stairs, I remember daddy ringing nanny but I can’t remember anything other than screaming, wailing, a sound was coming out of me that I didn’t even knew existed. The paramedics suggested it wouldn’t be a good idea to come in your room, but no, I needed to be with you. You were still in the same position as you had been minutes earlier. I laid down on the floor, my head next to your head, my cheek on your cheek. My hand on your other cheek holding you as close as I could possibly get. I begged, I was begging you, ‘please wake up, sweetheart please wake up, William, please’ but you didn’t, you were gone. There was nothing I could do. The paramedics offered to carry you out, but no, that was my job. I wrapped you in your favourite blanket and I picked you up, and I cradled you in my arms, so close, your head resting on my chest. I walked slowly down the stairs, one by one, drinking in your beautiful face, feeling the weight of you in my arms, knowing these last precious moments would be the last moments you would be in your home, as a little person. I sat on the sofa, waiting, looking in your eyes, broken. Knowing less than 24 hours earlier I had cradled you in this very same spot, willing you to feel better, willing mummy to be able to take your discomfort away. Now, I was sat here, you were in my arms, but you were dead. Daddy could barely look at us, stood in front of us, he didn’t know where to look. Then they told us it was time to go.

I carried you out, I carried you down the front steps, I walked onto the pavement to the ambulance that was parked in the middle of the road. I looked to see a queue of traffic, stuck, not being able to pass the ambulance that arrived to save your life, but would now be carrying your body to hospital. I climbed in, I held you, I cuddled you, I talked to you, cuddled you, kissed you and I waited, for what I’m not sure. The rest of the day was awful, I remember filling the corridor of A&E with the gut wrenching sound of my crying, I remember refusing to hand you over, I would take you every step of the way that I possibly could. I walked with you, looking into your eyes, those eyes. No-one else existed, it was just you and me baby, as the door opened I walked down the main trunk corridor of the hospital, your family following, people noticing, tapping in to the grief they could see that was written all over my face; and then we were there. It was time. The man came out from behind the double doors. I stood there, everyone silent, and I knew this was it, this would be the last time that you were really mine. I gently passed you to the mortician. He stood there as I watched. I did not move, I wouldn’t leave. He had to be the first to leave. As he turned, I broke, I could no longer see you, the doors opened and swung shut. That was it. You were gone. I was wheeled out of the hospital in a wheelchair. I knew at that point I had to see you again, I had to touch you, hold you, cuddle you, kiss you.

So, as I peeled back those blankets and I saw your bruised belly I was reminded of the day before, less than 24 hours ago, when I had tried in vain to somehow give you my life. Mummy mode took over, I wrapped you in your favourite blanket around your heavy, cold and limp body, I picked you up, I sat on the chairs and I held you so close. Those people who were there to visit you were no longer in my peripheral vision, it was just me and you baby. I talked to you, I explained how mummy didn’t understand, I explained how mummy felt, I talked about the journey we should have been on that day, on board a ferry on our way to Spain to visit nanny and grandad for Christmas. Instead I was laid here cradling you in my arms, your tiny palm on my cheek, your other finger’s entwined with mine, I could feel the warmth of my body warming you through. I could see my tears flow down your cheeks. I could hear their tears, my friends, I could hear their pain, knowing this would be the last time they saw you. The last time they had seen you alive was your 1st birthday.

An hour, that’s how long I was able to hold you that day. As I prepared to say goodbye until tomorrow I placed you back on the bed, wrapped you in your blanket and tucked your teddy in tight. I walked out of the room backwards. Knowing I was leaving you behind. Knowing I couldn’t take you with me. I was crushed. The door closed and the click of the lock signified a dimension between us. I broke, I fell, I cried, I wailed, without you baby I was nothing then and I’m nothing now; as I stand at your window I look at the sky hoping that somehow I might feel your presence, but I don’t. I know you’re gone. I know that when I close your curtains, you will not be there. I know that as I lay my head on my pillow you will not be in the next room.  My only hope is that as I close my eyes at the end of each day, I open them and I’m with you.

 

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Are you dealing with depression?

I have just typed ‘depression’ into the Google (UK) search engine to see what the definition is according to the official Oxford Dictionary. It wasn’t until page 4 that I found it: “A mental condition characterised by severe feelings of despondency and dejection, typically with feelings of inadequacy and guilt, often accompanied by lack of energy and disturbance of appetite and sleep”. People, me included rarely reach page 4 of the search engine. Our impatience and need for information sees us settling for an answer on the first page, even if it isn’t the answer that we are looking for, we make it fit. Those of us searching for depression looking for information or self-help on the internet more often than not find it on the first page. Especially with a very general term like ‘depression’. It remains to be seen whether the answer we are really looking for is on the first page, we operate under the same veil, we accept what we read, less than 10% of people advance onto page 2 of Google, like they say ‘when the glove fits…’

So what information did I glean from the first page? Well, there are links to the NHS website, several large charities and a self-help website. If you had any doubt before starting your search whether or not you are depressed, you will diagnose yourself after the first few excerpts. Who of us doesn’t suffer with low moods? Who of us doesn’t experience stress at work? Who of us doesn’t have periods of time when you feel tired or you can’t be bothered to go out? I would guess, and it’s only a guess that a large proportion of the population at some time in their lives experience these symptoms. So does that mean we are all depressed? Feeling low maybe, a little worried or anxious about something, but would you be concerned enough to visit your doctor thinking you are suffering with depression?

Whichever website you read, on as many pages you can bear to scroll through, the common denominator is that depression is a mental health condition. How a person behaves, how a person reacts to certain information and situations, what threshold a person has to cope in different situations, their thoughts, feelings and sense of well-being. Not only can these factors alter when a person is depressed, these factors can alter, resulting in depression. A condition that cannot be seen, a condition that is judged, a condition that people loosely use ‘oh, I am sooo depressed’. It is a condition that is very personal. Unique to the person that it is plaguing, treatment varies from person to person, antidepressants might suit one person but another might need a more holistic approach. Some don’t talk and suffer in silence. One thing for sure is that for those suffering with depression, hearing the words ‘snap out of it’, ‘you just need to do something to get over it’, ‘think more positively’ amongst other things, is not only ignorant it is very hurtful.

I am grieving, does that mean I am depressed? Initially probably not, as I succumbed to shock, numbness, anger and denial, you ride on the crest of a wave of grief, and as the wave breaks you come crashing down. At this point reality sets in, I am left to resume what my life is now, having to live life on life’s terms not my own. The pain of being left behind by someone I can’t live without. My natural reaction to grief persists, and will do until my last breath, but depression loiters, how can it not. Do I feel low? Yes. Do I have an aversion to going out or doing things? Yes. Do I feel hopeless, helpless and useless? Yes. Do I feel guilty? Yes. And the worst feeling of all, do I feel suicidal? Yes. These are some of the reasons I have been diagnosed with major depressive disorder. Reluctant at first to diagnose any medical condition, after all, a mother is likely to react in such a way to losing their only child, but I have progressively sunken lower. I function, but emotionally and mentally I’m stuck in a washing machine on a never-ending spin cycle.

Do I suffer with anxiety? Yes. Do I suffer with PTSD? Yes. Do I suffer with insomnia? Yes. I have never been familiar with these conditions, let alone experience them. So this is new to me. Do people understand why? Yes. And I find myself thinking, well my baby died, my beautiful little boy died and I found him, the way I feel is totally justified. But why do I think this. I think this because unless people know what your story is they judge you. Stood behind me in the queue in the supermarket they whisper ‘you’d think she’d brush her hair before going out’, but what they don’t realise is that going out is a major feat on its own, being in an environment where there a smiling, happy toddlers, my mind constantly trying to process what William would be doing in that moment. Would he be running off up the aisle, giggling? Probably. Would the cashier lady comment about how cute he is? Definitely. Would I struggle to juggle my keys, purse, shopping bags and wriggly toddler all the way to the car? Absolutely. So no, I didn’t make sure my hair was neat, because when I got out the house the last thing I thought about was brushing my hair. I got in the car and looked in the rear view mirror at William’s empty car seat, and drove past his nursery on my way to the supermarket. The last thing I was thinking about was the way my hair looked.

My message here? Don’t judge people. When you bump in to someone in the street and they’re in a dream world and they don’t apologise. Don’t think they’re rude, that could have been me walking down the street after visiting my son in the chapel of rest. When you are sitting in a cafe having a coffee and the person on the table next to you is moody, and has a face like thunder. Don’t tell them to ‘smile love, it can’t be that bad’ that actually was me, I was waiting for my grief counsellor. And when you’re stood behind someone in the supermarket whose hair isn’t as neat as you’d expect and you think they’re scruffy. Don’t judge. That was me. If you knew why, would you think the same? Would you judge me as you had done 5 minutes earlier? No.

Depression in all its form’s, largely isn’t visible. Just because we don’t walk around on crutches with a limp doesn’t mean we aren’t suffering. Don’t make assumptions about people, be kind to people, be understanding and compassionate in all that you do. Life is too short in comparison to the length of death.

 

 

 

This is my nightmare, you are my dream

“The days will always be brighter,
because you existed.
The nights will always be darker,
because you are gone.”

I just closed your curtains sweetheart, standing at your window, my tears landing on your windowsill as I sobbed my heart out. I lose my breath, my chest racking as I struggle to contemplate that when I turn around I won’t be kissing you goodnight and telling you that I love you. Instead I blow you a kiss at the window, hoping that somehow you will catch it. As always, every evening I tell you that I love you, this I promised you when I first held you, close on my chest, all warm, a tangle of arms and legs. Mummy promised you that she would love you with every ounce of her being, and she promised that every night, the last voice you heard would be your mummy’s, whispering ‘I love you’. Mummy kept both promises. The last voice that you ever heard was your mummy’s, and the last words that you ever heard were ‘I love you’.

The next time I saw you, you were gone. At 08:47am on the 14th December 2014 time stood still; and from that moment and every moment since time has slipped away into oblivion. My world stands still, I feel like I’m in a wreckage. Spread into many pieces, but no matter how hard anyone tries, those pieces will never fit together again, because you are missing, the most important part, the core, my heart, I am an empty shell without you. Just a shadow, a ghost of who I used to be.

Life has kicked me so many times but when you were born Grumpus, I had finally climbed the tallest mountain. I stood there my arms spread wide, my eyes closed, the wind in my hair, looking down on the world knowing that this is what life was meant to be like, what love was meant to feel like. It was euphoric. I never imagined that life would come along with a wrecking ball and swipe me off that mountain, taking with it my life. Leaving behind only memories, wonderful memories but wonderful memories that are enough to break my heart.

Can you remember pickle, when you first slept in your own room, I think mummy was more apprehensive than you. You took comfort from your trusty thumb and Mr Reindeer, your little eyes fluttered as the weight of your eyelids became too much and you succumbed to dreamy sleep.  Mummy was there, and every night after. When I laid you down, kissed you goodnight and whispered I love you, I pushed your door closed, but mummy was at the end of your cot. Watching your chest rise and fall with every breath. Listening to the soft noises you made as you slept peacefully. Mummy would sit and watch you for hours, not wanting to leave, because she knew when she left that she would miss you. Grumpus, I miss you. I miss you so much. I missed you even then, when you were asleep. I don’t know how to miss you. I don’t want to miss you, I want you here. I was in awe of you then, and I’m in awe of you now.

When people say they miss someone, I don’t think they really know what it feels like to really miss someone. Knowing that they are never coming back. Knowing that no matter what you do, you will never feel complete again, knowing that the biggest part of you will always be missing, knowing that your life will never be whole. I do. I know what that feels like. I miss us, I miss our future, I miss life, I miss you. Everything you are. Everything you mean. Love sometimes comes like a dream, and it leaves like a nightmare. This is my nightmare, you are my dream.

Life is a path: death is a destination

Can you imagine what it actually feels like to not be able to live with yourself. I don’t mean that figuratively but literally. All my life I have been very independent, and when I was told the chances of conceiving my own baby were slim to none, I focused on the practical side of life. Buying a house, studying for a job that wasn’t just a job but a career. I am a very black and white person, the most dominant part being logical, the part of me that has been my core survival. The emotional me has always only had a very small role in my life. That was until William was born. Wow, the intensity of love was frightening, I didn’t know love like that existed and it was all mine. There was nothing that could change it, I didn’t know how I had lived without it for so long. I had finally been born, I was finally alive.

My life it seemed had always been a journey of survival, a survival that relied upon my logical, practical side, a side that had never let me down. When William was sick, I did what I was supposed to do, I took him to the doctors. When I wasn’t satisfied I took him to another doctor, when he didn’t improve I took him back, again and again. In the hours leading up to William’s death I knew something was wrong, and I took him to those that we trust, I walked away reassured I was doing the right thing. The day before William died the niggling feeling, my mother’s instinct was telling me, he’s just not right, so I called for help and advice. Twice that day. Following advice, I was apparently doing the right thing. But it wasn’t the right thing. This I could tell you until I’m blue in the face that William’s death was out of my control, I would trade my life for his, but I still blame myself, I let myself down and I let my boy down.

With hindsight, there’s that word again, a curse word and knowing what we know now that William’s death was avoidable only reinforces that blame is warranted. I know every fine detail of the weeks, months, and those last few hours of William’s life. It doesn’t matter how many people tell me over and over that it’s not my fault, I shouldn’t feel guilty, I wasn’t to know, I did everything I could, the reasoning, but regardless the guilt remains. The guilt is born from what any mother would feel as her normal sense of responsibility for her baby, and the inherent belief that we have ultimate control over what happens to us, what happens to our loved ones and our built-in desire to protect. The despair only magnifies the deep-rooted guilt and makes me feel like a complete failure as a human being, and most importantly as a mother. Existing through each day, resisting the urge to end my life is potentially the hardest fight. A fight I know I’ll lose.

These feelings of guilt creep into every aspect of my day, every thought, intensified by my love for William, my need to close my eyes, go back to those moments and take away his suffering. This is something I have no control over, I can’t go back, I can’t change it but guilt allows me to control the situation I find myself in during every waking moment. I know that the decisions I made at the time were always in William’s best interests. The guilt I know is unfounded, feeling guilty is not the same as being guilty, this is so hard for people to understand. Guilt is all-consuming, made up of despair, regret, incompetence, failure, sadness, and these all form the worst feeling of all, blame.

I feel vulnerable, I am constantly anxious, I am worried, about what I don’t know, I no longer have anything to worry about. I have very little control over any of my feelings, the realisation of the horror that is my life is racked with guilt. My whole body aches with love, now I share my love for William with the world as my only witness. Guilt is the most painful companion to death.

William my sweetheart, you saw me take my first breath as you took yours, I saw you take your last breath, and when I take my last, we will be together. Forever.

What acceptance means to me

My independent boy xx

My independent boy xx

This day last year you pulled yourself up for the first time and stood without mummy’s help. You stood and looked at the floor trying to work out exactly what you’d done and how you’d get down, but not before reaching everything you could on the table and gently placing it on the floor. I thought you would throw it, make a noise and want to repeat until bedtime, but not you. You were curious to work out what you could do, how far you could reach, you always carefully worked out your limitations. Once you had gently placed the television remote on the floor, you looked at it and knew that your body wouldn’t balance on your little legs and you wouldn’t be able to bend down to pick it up. So, when you figured it out, your bum hit the floor and the television remote was once again within your reach. You leaned over, grabbed it and popped it back on the table. Shuffling closer, out shot your chubby little fingers, gripping the edge of the table, once again you pulled yourself up. After you had practiced this several times, your eyes met mummy’s, the pride on my face sharing your own delight. It was time for a congratulatory cuddle.

These are my memories. This was the first time my little boy stood for the first time. I remembered every detail even then, I remember them even more vividly now, ingrained in my memory where no-one can touch them. Mummy had 382 days of firsts with you, 381 days of beautiful memories, until day 382 when death walked in and made the most awful memory. In that single moment, the most painful memory would be etched in my mind for a lifetime. As clearly and vividly that I can remember the first time you stood, opening the curtains to find you staring straight through me, cutting me in half with the eyes that once held your soul is a weight that I carry with me wherever I go. It is no less prominent today as it was back then, if you asked yourself, if you found your child like that, would it ever become less painful?

As every new day begins, it is a new day without you. The pain of reliving this nightmare is re-ignited. As the monotony takes hold, I imagine what I would be doing now if you were here? Would daddy still be coming in to pick you up in the morning, or would you be running into our bedroom? You would be able to stand on your own to brush your teeth, rather than mummy juggling a toothbrush and an excitable toddler. You would be able to pick what clothes you would like to wear and help dress yourself; then my imagination shatters. I collect my jacket and there was your little coat, on your peg, bright red with blue stars. As reality hit me at 100mph I took it down and held it to my face, inhaling your scent. I held it up next to my legs, imagining how tall you might be now. Imagining your excitement of putting it on ready to go to nursery. It took mummy an extra 30 minutes to leave the house, having to hang your coat back on its peg was like leaving you behind. It feels wrong.

To use the phrases with anyone that is grieving, especially a child, ‘moving on’, ‘coming to terms with it’, ‘letting go’ and ‘acceptance’ is like a knife through my heart. I don’t want any of these things. The pain doesn’t lessen, the days get longer, and the nights even longer. How can you move on? How can you come to terms with it? How can you let go? How can I accept it? How can I possibly accept that my little boy died, in avoidable circumstances, how can I accept that this is my life now, how can I accept that I will never see him again, the truth is, I can’t. So my acceptance is ‘i’m not going to accept it’. Yes, I’ve accepted that I’m not going to accept it. That is my acceptance.