As the evening draws in and darkness approaches, I say goodbye to 2015, but I do not welcome 2016. For I would not have cuddled my baby in 2016. This year I didn’t hold my baby alive, and next year I would not have held him at all. Although William lived for 382 days, he did not live one full calendar year.
Not only does today represent the end of a very hard and very painful year, today marks 382 days without my baby. William has been gone the same number of days today as we were blessed with him. How does that seem possible? The most exhilarating and amazing 382 days, compared to the most harrowing 382 days. I simply cannot make sense of it, I still cannot understand, accept or seemingly learn to live with it. I’m happy with that, right now, I don’t want to. Why should I? Losing William has enriched my life with the ability to see past what most people understand as a ‘good life’. To really understand the depth of love is to lose it, not until after you lose it do you realise how much you relied upon that love. How much you needed that love. How much you needed that person.
Earlier, I sat and thought to myself, ‘you’re not even 30 and you’ve outlived your child’. I sat in William’s room and looked at his tiny little clothes, thinking how small they would look next to him now had he been here. His room should not be tidy, it should be cluttered with his toys. His cot should be a bed. His changing mat replaced with a potty. Our home is stuck in a particular time. A time that stood still the moment William took his last breath. Will that change? I don’t know, not yet, I don’t want it to. William’s high chair is still in the kitchen, his cups and beakers are still in the cupboard, his cereals still stand on his shelf along with his other food bits. Well past their sell by date, but somehow to get rid of these would be like somehow getting rid of a piece of William. I am not ready for that separation yet. William’s pram is by the front door, the stones in the wheels from the last time it was used. His little coat still hangs on its peg and his toys still have pride of place in the front room. His car seat still adorns the back seat; every time I look in the rear view mirror I see it and it makes me smile. Imagining catching his eye as I drove along, his little face would burst into the biggest smile, babbling away, deep in conversation with himself after nursery. The replacement beaker still stands on my bedside table from the night he died, in case he needed another. The beaker that he last drank from in his cot is where he left it, the last thing he ever touched. I sometimes pick it up and place my fingers round the handles, knowing his chubby little fingers gripped this very handle. Knowing that his touch was once here. I still haven’t washed his handprints from the inside of my bedroom window. An ever lasting reminder that ‘William was here’. His toys are still in the bath and his toothbrush and toothpaste still in their little pot. For us, nothing has changed, our life hasn’t moved on, our life at a standstill, forever waiting, but I know we’ll be waiting a lifetime, William’s sweet giggle won’t ever resonate through our house again, his cheeky grin won’t fill my rear view mirror and his little fingers won’t ever hold that beaker again.
Some might say that we struggle to move on because we keep those things in their places, but that is not true, William was and still is a part of this household and this family. I need William’s things around me, to look at, to touch and hold, sometimes I remember a different memory and it makes me smile. Time does not heal, whoever said that was so very wrong, time may give you the ability to live a different life but it does not heal the gaping chasm that William has left. The scar tissue has not begun to form. I have no protection from falling in that pit. As time passes my flashbacks and PTSD seem to be increasingly more and more crippling. I don’t need triggers, those thoughts, visions and memories are right there, right in the forefront of my mind. This is what grief really does to you. There is no let up. It does not discriminate. It holds you firmly in its grip. Am I depressed? Yes, clinically so. Do I take medication to help me sleep, to stave away the crippling symptoms of anxiety, to help lift my mood, to help discourage suicidal ideation? Yes. Do I have a drink? Yes, just like you I have shit days, sometimes things go wrong, normal things, like the washing machine that William decided he needed in heaven on Christmas Eve. Do I struggle to get out of bed? Yes. Do I struggle to concentrate? Yes. Do I struggle to remember things? Yes. Do I struggle to go out, to be motivated? Yes. Do I care? No. I am simply a machine. I plug myself in at the end of the day, I recharge and get up and do my jobs the next day. Do I do them with conviction? No. Do I do them with care? No. Do I do them because I want to? No. Do I do them with hope? No. Am I worried? No. This is life. This is the card that I have been dealt, but goodness me, I’m in better shape than William is. His little life snuffed out because people did not do what they were supposed to do.
This year I have been well and truly submerged against my will into everyone’s worst nightmare. The terror that runs through my veins, the fear that makes my heart beat, very few people have experienced and I’m thankful for that. My eyes have been opened to a world of mental health that I only knew existed in the media. Don’t walk around with your eyes closed, make eye contact with people on the bus, the tube or walking down the street. If someone drops something, help them to pick it up. If someone elderly say hi, say hello back. Take the time to love, because you don’t know however small these little gestures are to you, to someone else they will be the highlight of their day or week. For someone else you can bring joy and comfort. Not just family and friends but strangers. Life is too short, I know this, you know this, please don’t walk around with your head down, rushing everywhere. Don’t sit on the bus on your phone, say hi. Give that homeless person a sandwich and a hot drink. Pick up the phone to your elderly relatives whom you rarely speak to, they won’t be there forever, they helped create the world that you live in today. You are their inspiration, be someone else’s. Most importantly. Look at your child and know, really know that you are their world. So make sure they know that they are yours.
My life is run on passion and love and drive and determination, my life is run simply on my resounding, unwavering love for William. He is my guiding light. He is my hope. He is what drives me, knowing I must get the answers, knowing I must fight for him, knowing that I will never settle for anything less than the truth. My life is not run on hope for the future, nor happiness but a bittersweet necessity to share my son with the world.
To be blessed with William, was to be blessed with love. My life furnished with everything it could ever possibly need and more. I cannot even begin to put in to words the sheer desperation I have to be with my son. The only hope I have is that is not too far away, hard I know, but the truth. But for now, my only wish for 2016 is that everyone will learn what really happened to William and what should have happened and in doing so educate themselves about sepsis and hope that those that made mistakes never make them again.
For now, I say goodbye to the last year that I ever held my child. Something I don’t want to do, but of course, no one can stop time. If they could I would have stopped it a long time ago. My wish for all of you in 2016 is that it brings you as much comfort as you have all brought me in 2015. That it brings you time with your loved ones that cannot be replaced. Love, learn and be inspired. William is my inspiration. My life and my love.