If a smile could say a thousand words, then this would be it. The smile that has taken my breath away so many times, and continues to do so even as I write this. Even more so because this smile was for me. Those magical deep brown eyes sparkling through those long lashes just for his mummy. How can he be gone? I remember that day, we had just finished getting ready to go and feed the ducks, still on maternity leave we spent every day in each others company, I could think of no better place to be. Grumpus had just taken his socks off, and I had given in and relented, giving him the remote control, fascinated with the buttons I managed to put his socks on successfully, and his shoes, and for those who know Grumpus this was an achievement. It didn’t last long, as soon as I started the car, I heard the familiar sound of velcro ripping, followed by a gentle thud as one shoe, closely followed by the other would make contact with the floor. By the time I had reversed out of the drive I would catch sight of him in the mirror playing with his socks. Did I mind? No. Did I find it funny? Yes. My smile so full of pride I would turn to be met with a smile just as big. These were the moments, single moments in time that remain imprinted in my mind. Grumpus was so much fun. A beautiful soul inside and out. The power of this memory is spell-binding. It leaves me crippled with tears. Tears of joy that I was blessed to experience them, but tears of complete despair that I will never experience this again, this is all it will ever be, a powerful memory.
Just as powerful and equally as crippling is that moment, THE moment, the single moment in time, one single moment that my life came crumbling down to my feet. As much as I am reminded of those precious memories I am plagued with the one that took it all away. As deep as William’s smile is imprinted in my mind, the moment I found him dead is just as deep. If the call handler of that 999 call stood in a crowd of a thousand people, with my eyes closed, I could pick her out. How she remained calm whilst I screamed hysterically down the phone at her, is a job I do not envy, was she traumatised when she ended the call, after being told ‘life was extinct’, yes. She is human, she will remember that call just as vividly as I do. As William laid on the floor by my knees in front of me, I placed the heel of my hand just above where I felt his ribs join, and I followed her instructions “….and 1 and 2 and 3 and 4, and 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, and 1 and 2 and 3 and 4….” and it continued for an agonising 3 minutes and 44 seconds. Every second that I watched the digits change on the phone display 3:40, 3:41, 3:42 I felt my life slipping away, the paramedics came thundering up the stairs, I continued CPR to the call handlers steady rhythm, 3:43, 3:44 then the paramedics took over. A mask was placed over William’s mouth and the I could see the paramedic feeling for a pulse in William’s neck as he squeezed the breathing bag, desperately trying to get oxygen into my baby. The sleeping bag William had spent his last night in had been pulled off, his little vest cut off, the second paramedics hands reached round each side of his chest securing pressure, his thumbs compressed William’s chest with so much force, over and over and over, until he stopped. The paramedics took one glance at each other, and I knew. As the paramedic removed his hands from William’s chest I screamed, he turned over his left shoulder, gasping for breath amongst screams, I was delivered the most powerful memory ever to be imprinted in my mind “I’m sorry my love, but he’s gone.” Perhaps the most powerful words ever spoken to me. A power of a memory, a definitive moment in time, the power that has to change your life is quite astonishing.
I had only ever heard of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) in the news. I never really understood what it was, I certainly never understood how debilitating it is, it has left me completely defenseless; powerless to act against by body’s own mechanism to remember, to visualise, to relive that moment. It leaves me crippled unable to function. Unable to circumvent the most harrowing moment of my life. It doesn’t matter how much time passes, I still remember this memory as much as I remember the beautiful memory of his smile. I don’t get to pick which memory I will be thinking about at any given moment. All it takes is to hear someone say ‘1’ and the 2 and 3 and 4 shortly follow in my mind. My whole mind and body transported back in time, I have no choice but to process that moment all over again.
I am completely at the mercy of my mind. Whatever memory pops into my head is how my day will go. The mind is the most powerful tool we have, but it is so very dangerous. It captures every memory, not just the most amazing and captivating ones, but also the most painful, enduring ones. I don’t get a choice. To know this much pain is to know this much love. All consuming, in everything I do.