I can remember back when I sat down on Thursday 18th December, 2014, and I typed into Google ‘baby coffins’, closely followed by ‘coffins for children’. It was about 4 pm and I had been awake since the 14th of December. I knew we would have to pick a coffin, but when the funeral director mentioned to us that we would need to pick one I didn’t want to, I didn’t want to search for it, I didn’t want to see it, I did not want to know. I knew I had to pick it. I knew I couldn’t delay the decision, my little boy was coming home from his post-mortem and he would need somewhere to sleep. It took all day of staring at the screen to raise my trembling hands and type those words into Google. I didn’t want to but I knew I had to, but I also knew I had to get it right, it had to be perfect, this would, after all be William’s final little bed. Rather than moving William into his toddler bed, we were preparing to encase our little boy in the most beautiful satin. A bed that once closed would never be opened again. This decision was agonising, my whole being pulled in every direction. My mind was screaming WHY, WHY, WHY, my heart was screaming NO, NO, NO but my head was trying desperately to fight to make this decision.
We did make a decision, and on Christmas Eve at 3 pm, William’s coffin arrived, and instead of taking him to sit on Father Christmas’ knee with our family, I opened the door at the funeral directors, alone, and I opened the lid, and there was my little William, the fierce pain that drove me to walk forwards, the intensity of love that allowed me to wrap my arms around my delicate little boy and lift him into my arms.
The mother in me that needed to nurture him, he was cold, he needed to be warm. Being torn in two, I didn’t want to be sat there holding my little boy like this, but I knew I needed to dress him. Paul and I had carefully picked out the little clothes that he would wear. The little baby grow, ‘Mummy’s little star’ emblazoned across the front, could not have been more perfect. He is mummy’s little star, and now he really was the brightest star in the night sky. I was shocked how hard it was to dress him, it was easier to dress William when he was wriggling all over the place, but now, he couldn’t help me, his weight so heavy in my arms. We had picked his little birthday outfit to wear. We didn’t want to let these clothes go, we wanted to hold onto them forever, but we knew that his little first birthday party was so happy, we have so many photos of William in that little outfit. So we knew we had to do it. Before doing the little button up on his chinos, I took the opportunity to poke that little bum, still so squidgy. After putting his stripey little top on, I pulled his socks on, and I couldn’t help but let out a little giggle as I talked to him, and made him promise mummy that he wouldn’t take them off. He didn’t promise, but he didn’t take them off. I wish he could. We didn’t put any shoes on him, he didn’t like shoes, the shoes he took his first steps in are now hanging on our wall at home.
After dressing my precious little boy, I sat in the box chair, my legs over the arms, cuddling my little boy into me, so tight, and I broke, I hated this, I hated this so much but I loved it, I loved holding him, I felt safe, I felt at home, I felt like we were one. His beautiful hair was still so shiny, so much hair, I ran my fingers through it as my tears soaked their way through. The glitter still in his ear, from the little Christmas Tree he’d made us on his last day of nursery. I now knew I’d made the right decision to ask the pathologist not to wash him. I couldn’t bare to think at the time my beautiful little boy laid out in an operating theatre to be washed with cold water, but I knew I had to ask them not to, I knew I needed to see this glitter in his ear again. There it was. A painful but beautiful reminder of my little boy having fun.
When i knew William was going to have a post-mortem I toyed with the decision of whether to look at the scar. I knew I would. I had to know. I didn’t want to know, but I had to. I did look. A red raw Y right there, it was horrible, someone had touched my little boy, someone had hurt him, but I knew they hadn’t, I knew they’d been gentle, the scar, just like red pen. I spoke to the pathologist that carried out William’s post-mortem, I didn’t want to, but I had to talk to the man who had known my little William, had seen his beautiful little soul. Amongst other things, he said to me, ‘he’s simply so beautiful, such a lovely little boy’ I hated that, but I loved that, even in death he was beautiful. I had asked him not to cut or shave William’s hair, I just couldn’t bear that, to strip him of the feature that made him look like a little boy and not a baby. He didn’t, you could barely see the scar. I traced my finger along the stitches, I slowly covered them up with William’s locks, a scar never to be seen again.
William was 70 cm long when he died. Too long for a baby coffin, but too small for an infant coffin. We placed a little teddy with him to keep him company, a photo of his mummy and daddy on his chest, his arms wrapped around us both. How I wish I was going with him, to not be trapped here without him. Everyday I struggle with this inner fight. Not wanting death to separate us, I fight not to join him, knowing how precious life is, but at times, and more often than not, this fight is impossible. Living, existing, but not really wanting too, but not wanting to die either.
I didn’t want to see William this way, but I knew it was the only way that I would be able to, so I did, everyday until the day I was no longer able to. Sometimes if I was able, I visited him twice a day. Christmas Day I sat with him alone, my coat wrapped around him, his head resting on my chest, I closed my eyes, and for the first time since he fell asleep, I could fall asleep, safe in the knowledge that he was here, with me, where he belonged.
January 3rd, the day the angels came to earth and took my boy away, 9.45 am, that was the last time I ever saw my son. Ever. I couldn’t close the lid, but I did, because I knew it had to be me. How could I close the lid on my son, knowing I would never see him again. Darkness enveloped me as I stood staring at my boy for the last time, but I knew that I had to turn around and leave him. It hurts, it hurts now, it really fucking hurts. It hurts, knowing that was me, it was me who closed that lid, it was me that walked out backwards, not taking my eyes off him. It was me standing in the way of the light that would take him. In that moment I knelt on the floor and I prayed to God to take me too. I begged him, like I begged William to wake up, our cheeks touching, as I wailed on the floor next to him. God didn’t listen and he wasn’t listening now, if he was he wasn’t doing much about it. It’s not his fault though, I know that. There is one person who the ultimate responsibility for William falls, and that is me, one of the biggest conflicts of all. I know it wasn’t my fault, I know that, I would have, and still would do anything to put breath back in his body, but I couldn’t save him. I tried, I fought so hard. I fought with every ounce of my body and my soul to get him the help he needed, but he didn’t get it. There are people out there who know this and they will live with this knowledge for the rest of their lives. But they don’t have to live without their son, they don’t know what it feels like to blame yourself but also to know it’s not your fault, they don’t know the pain of finding their child, dead. They don’t know the pain of picking their child’s coffin, they don’t know the heartache of picking the last outfit their child will ever wear, and they will never know the pain of closing that lid and walking backwards out of a room, never to ever see their child again. I will never forgive them.
So you see, every moment is a fight, every moment is painful, every step hurts. Every breath is taken wishing it was your last, but knowing that it’s not. And i can tell you that the more you love, the more you fall. And I have fallen, I’m still falling, at a million miles an hour.