I wasn’t there and now you’re not here

I’ve sat here and just stared at the screen not being able to find the right words to write. The screen saver comes on, your face, I lose myself in those deep and loving brown eyes and I realise there are no right words. There are simply no words.

I’m struggling so much right now, as the sun sets on another day without you I wonder how many more sun sets I will witness before I get to hold you again. If only I knew, if only I was able to mark the days off on the calendar with a big Red Cross. Maybe God knows, Sometimes life feels like a punishment. I feel so cruel and guilty saying that, in part due to your little brother, after all, how ungrateful is it to not want to be here when your little brother is here? But it doesn’t work like that. I’m torn, irreparably torn. Forever divided between two places. Here and there.

The happier my day becomes the more sad I feel. How is it possible for these two parallel worlds to exist concurrently; how is it possible to feel happy but so sad all in one. It’s terribly confusing. As we prepare for your little brothers baptism next Sunday I just can’t help but feel laden down with your missing presence. It’s not something I want to put to one side, it’s not an emotion I wish I wasn’t feeling. In a way I want to feel it, I want to suffer, I want to hurt, I hurt for you, I hurt for all that you are missing, I hurt that you don’t get to grow, that you no longer get to witness the sun rise and set.

You would be four years old now, approaching your first year of school. I talk often about the boy that I think you would have become. Quiet, intelligent, calm and loving. A little boy with so much depth, you already had that. I would lose myself in those big brown eyes, your way of loving, when I looked in to your eyes I felt an overwhelming sense of home. I could feel the love, it was tangible. Your curious and quiet nature meant that we were able to spend many tender moments together, I will forever be grateful for these. My body aches for these moments again. I am full of questions and wonder about the little boy you would have become.

When I first found out that I was pregnant I was scared. I was scared that I wouldn’t be a good enough mummy for you, that I wouldn’t know what to do, that I wouldn’t know what your needs were. I had no need to be scared or nervous, you made being a mummy easy. After you died I spent many hours with psychiatrists, trying to fix me, trying to convince me that life was worth living. It was during these sessions that one particular psychiatrist tried to understand just why I couldn’t bear to live without you, as opposed to trying to convince me that it was possible. He understood that all of my life, like most people as we grow up we learn from those around us, society, family and friends lay expectations in your lap, as we grow into adults we feel as though we are finally getting our freedom, but we’re not. The moment that we witnessed the world around us and all the harm that it could do is when we lost our freedom, our innocence.

Growing up I was fiercely independent. I have always felt that I am my own responsibility. I have always felt that I have only ever needed to rely on myself because at least that way the only person who could let you down was you. I have always kept something back, been wary, never giving my entire being to someone, that was until you came along. When I could feel you growing inside me, when I could hear your heart beating I just knew, I knew that this is what I was waiting for. I was waiting for you. I invested physically and emotionally in you. I knew that you would be all that I ever needed, I knew that you would never let me down, I knew that you would always be with me.

Call me a cynic but I have always lived with the thought that I was only round the corner from something going wrong. Inevitably, in my life, it has. But when I had you I knew that despite all that I have been, all that I have done, I got you right. I could be everything you would ever need. Only two weeks before you died I put you in your car seat and cried, why? Nothing in particular, nothing set me off, I just couldn’t believe how lucky I was to have you, I knew that despite everything, no matter what happened, that I would always have you. It would always be me and you. Then you were gone.

I can’t help but feel, despite the failings in your care, the many apologies, that I failed you. I had one job. People joke about managing to keep their kids alive today, I couldn’t do that. I couldn’t protect you, I couldn’t save you. You closed your eyes, you slipped out of consciousness and you took your last breath, your beautiful heart stopped beating and I wasn’t there.

I wasn’t there and now you’re not here.

Today I have travelled nearly 400 miles to deliver a talk about your life, and also your death.        People often ask me how I manage to retell the moment that I found your lifeless body, how I tried in vain to pump life back in to you, how I laid, cheek to cheek and begged you to wake up, knowing full well that you never would. It is painful, it is hard, with every word that I speak I know that I am doing the right thing. The gaping hole that your life left cannot be filled, but somehow I have had no choice but to continue, and I suppose this is my way of being your mummy still, until we meet again my baby boy.


www.justgiving.com/williamoscarmead

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Life after loss

I’ve not written for a very long time. I write often, in my mind, but sometimes I just can’t muster the strength to purge the words from my soul. This child loss game, I say game, it feels like one, constantly rolling the dice never knowing the outcome, day after day, roll after roll, it’s like one long game, not an enjoyable one and there are no winners. Waking each day and wondering whether today your piece will move forwards or backwards is a complete loss of control. That’s what happens when your child dies. You no longer have control.

I think after three and a half years life has a sense of ‘normality’ and we do, we do have some sense of normality. We had no choice. It was either sink or swim. At times I’ve wanted to sink and I’ve come very close. But Arthur forced me to swim, he is very much a protective factor in my life, a reason to live, hope, a future. For all the light that he brings to my life he cannot take away the turmoil that I feel inside. After this much time it is a deep inner longing, it weighs heavy and no matter what you do you cannot shake it off.

There is a common belief that anniversaries, birthdays, mothers days are the hardest; and they are hard, but they’re not the worst. It’s all the small things that grate the most. We took Arthur to the park recently, he absolutely loves the park, especially the slide. No sooner has he got all the way to the bottom he’s climbing up for another go, on repeat. The absolute joy on his face is irreplaceable, a complete freedom, innocence, joy, his laugh, infectious. It is wonderful. But with every heart stopping moment of euphoria there is a parallel deep sadness that shaves slices off my heart. William should be there helping his little brother to the top of the slide, they should be going down the slide together holding hands, squealing in delight. He should be here.

All I am left with are imaginations. When Arthur is playing in the garden what would William be doing? When Arthur goes to bed would William help me read him a bedtime story? What would they be like in the bath together? I imagine that William would have a calming effect on Arthur. I equally think that Arthur would drive William bonkers. William so calm, thoughtful, his every move a considered one. Arthur is the opposite, his zest for life oozes from everything he does, he barrels in to everything head first, head strong and determined. The two boys couldn’t be any more different, but the bond is there, the mannerisms are obvious, their likes and dislikes, and this is what hurts the most, I’ve lost my son, Paul has lost his son, but Arthur has lost his brother. He will never meet him, play with him, cuddle him, play fight with him, he will never know him. I feel desperately sad knowing this, and it will never change.

Child loss is colossal. It didn’t just happen on the 14th December 2014, it recurs every single day, it recurs every time I load only one toddler in to the car, it recurs every time I only kiss one baby goodnight. It recurs every single moment of every single day and it will last a lifetime. William will never start school, he will never graduate and fulfil his dream job, he’ll never fall in love, he’ll never get married or have children; but he’ll also never play on the slide with his brother, he’ll never read his first book, he’ll never confide in his brother, he’ll never be best man at his wedding. I won’t see him grow in to a man and I will never hear him say ‘mummy, I love you.’

Ultimately I am blessed, I am blessed with life, I am privileged to wake up every single morning, the one thing that William wants more than anything is his life, the one thing he cannot have, the one thing we gave him that was then so cruelly taken away. I cannot and will not waste mine. So can you see, every day is a tug of war. Constantly too-ing and fro-ing between here and ‘there’ wherever ‘there’ is.

These days my outlet is weekly therapy, but the sacrifice I pay for not wasting my life and living everyday as if it’s my last is that I internalise everything. The pain manifests itself wearing many different masks. Somedays I find myself very reflective, somedays I am plagued with PTSD, somedays I am frustrated, but everyday I am consumed by guilt. Every. Single. Day. I feel guilty that I couldn’t save him, I feel like I failed him because I should have done things differently, I feel stupid because I listened to people and followed advice. I feel sad for Paul, I feel sad for Arthur, I feel sad that he has no idea about all that has happened before him, I feel sad that one day he will know. I feel sad that one day he will share in our grief, that he will learn about death when he doesn’t need to. I feel sad that I will never be completely here, a part of his mummy that is always missing.

For every happy day there is a sad one, for every smile there is a tear, for every glorious memory there will always be moments that are incomplete. For every moment that I am ok, there will be moments that I am not ok.

So for all of you out there who struggle with your own demons, the only pressure you have is the pressure you put on yourself. Be gentle, go easy on yourself. Slow down, take a breath, step back and remember that tomorrow hasn’t happened yet; so don’t worry about it. And for those of you who see me smile, share in my laughter or create happy memories with me just remember that underneath I am fragile, I am still reeling, I am still trying to understand.

I am still missing him, and I always will.


www.justgiving.com/williamoscarmead

Christmas will never be the same…

Today is a sad day, every day is a sad day, but this time three years ago we announced when William’s funeral would be. Instead of uploading hundreds of photos that all seemed to look identical, William covered in paper and sellotape, playing with the boxes that the toys came in, instead we were inviting people to his funeral.

Christmas, a time of year that over the centuries has evolved from its very religious beginnings, now a commercialised time of year, that we all use as an excuse to down tools and spend time with our loved ones. Who can blame you? No-one needs an excuse to see that joy on their little ones faces, that excitement of knowing Father Christmas is coming, writing a letter to Santa, leaving a mince-pie, carrot and a tipple for Santa on Christmas Eve, visiting any number of events laid on by local attractions for our children to sit on Santa’s knee, and finally that sound of tiny stomping feet and squeals of glee, when they discover Santa has been, a stocking brimming full of toys that will be played with once, a tree that is barely recognisable under the weight of all the gifts.

We have none of that for William. We will never have any of that, not with William. William didn’t get to learn about Father Christmas, William didn’t get to star in his first nativity, William didn’t get to write a letter to Santa, he did sit on Santa’s knee, his bear containing William’s ashes gripped tightly by Santa, but that isn’t what we imagined would be the first time William would sit on Santa’s knee. We didn’t get to track Santa’s sleigh as he visited those in the Far East before he made it to the UK, we didn’t get to buy him a personalised book from Santa. On Christmas morning we awoke to silence, no little feet stomping down the corridor, no squealing, no excited little face, no ‘mummy, daddy, he’s been’. No William.

Our floor was clear of William’s wrapping paper, we didn’t have an obstacle course of his toys littered around the house. We didn’t have a little boy to give his first brussel sprout too. We didn’t get to show him a cracker, he didn’t get to wear a party hat or a cute little outfit. We didn’t have the struggle to put him to bed, too high on the simplicity of playing with his toys. We didn’t get to pack him and 500 toys into the car to visit family and friends, where his beautiful smile would make anyone’s Christmas. No, we had nothing of William.

Two years ago we went away, we went to stay somewhere completely unfamiliar, needing to get away from the suffocation of William’s absence in our home. But, regardless of where we were, the crushing pain packed itself in our suitcase and followed us. My heart hurts, it physically hurts in my chest, it doesn’t go away when I breathe in or out, whether I lie down or stand up, whether I have a glass of wine or not. My chest is crushed, my heart aching, aching to hold my little boy on Christmas. Three years ago at Christmas William’s fragile and broken body was still with us. I held him for several hours twice on Christmas day. I cried over his beautiful presence, I held him so close, I feared I might squash him. This year, we didn’t even have that. We will never have that again.There are very few that will understand this pain.

Paul and I stayed in a beautiful hideaway in Dartmoor National Park, there were families with children there, but we spoke to lots of couples who like us were ‘hiding’. Christmas not a happy time for them either. Some vastly wealthy couples, but grief does not discriminate, a loss of both parents recently meant one couple needed to be somewhere unfamiliar. At Christmas dinner, we had William’s teddy in a high chair, the chap on the next table ordered his parents favourite wine. Simple things, that somehow bring us closer to those loved ones we so desperately pine for. We met a U.S district judge, a man with a very powerful and influential position in society, reduced to tears by William’s story. For some Christmas isn’t a time of joy or craziness, it has become a time of painful reflection. A time that you look at your watch and hope that another hour has passed.

Every painful aspect a reminder of what should be, William would have loved the Christmas trees in every room, William would have loved splashing in the muddy puddles in his wellies, William would have loved the array of treats littered around the castle to keep the kids entertained, William would have loved afternoon tea, bitesize little sandwiches, perfect for his dinky little fingers, William would have loved to have found the stocking hanging on our door on Christmas morning, William would have loved to decorate the Christmas tree in our room, William would have loved the table magician, William would have loved the owl that sat on the reception desk, William would have loved watching the hunt as the horses and hounds made their way off the estate, William would have loved to sit in front of the grand fire by the most extravagant Christmas tree waiting for Father Christmas to call his name out to go and collect his present, William would have loved to watch the ferret racing, William would have loved the playbarn, William would have loved everything, but William was robbed of all of those things and we were robbed of William. All I want for Christmas is my son. Just one second, just one cuddle, just one stroke of those chubby little cheeks, just one look at that infectious smile, just one smell, just one touch. Just William. This is a wish that will never be answered.

I have felt nothing but guilt, my whole body consumed by Williams last few hours, what must my boy have been feeling, what did he want to say but couldn’t, what sort of mother am I to listen to what I was told to do, what sort of mother am I to listen to people who had no idea what they were doing, not just one person but multiple people, not just once but multiple times. The one thing I wanted to do and prided myself on was protecting my little boy, knowing that no-one could ever protect him and love him like I do. But sepsis does not discriminate, William was not unlucky, William was let down in the most unimaginable way possible. They have taken away our Christmas, our birthdays, every day, our life, our William. No manner of apology or putting right what went wrong will change anything, nothing will bring William back. Nothing can make Christmas bearable. Nothing can take away the fear, the anxiety and the guilt that any mother would feel for not somehow saving her child.

During midnight mass in the local church, William’s teddy was wrapped in my embrace, I struggled to make it through the service, the tears came rolling down my cheeks, choking on the tears, the words the heart cannot speak. As I stood, I went to the vicar and I asked him to please pray with me. He held me and William, and he prayed that his little soul would be in peace and to bless his beautiful soul. He also prayed for me, William’s mummy, to find comfort. I am yet to find any. I know that day will come, I know that day will be when I get to join my son again. In a place where there are no hours, days or years, where it is eternity. Where there is peace from this suffering, where I know that I will never be separated from my darling little boy again. A place where the first thing I will do is find my son, and the second will be to never let him go again. On that day, and that day only I will find peace.

This year, this Christmas we are blessed with William’s brother, Arthur. Something I could never have imagined three years ago. Something, sometimes I still struggle to comprehend. How can I be so lucky, lucky to have two beautiful children, but for this to be entwined with such pain and loss. As I drink in every movement Arthur makes I am crippled by the movements that William will never make. It is like living in a parallel universe, for every simply euphoric moment with Arthur I am reminded and crushed by the moments that I will never have with William. I feel as though every moment I live I am lost and once again found.

Life doesn’t get easier. Christmas doesn’t get better, torn between love and loss. But what these last three years have taught me is that life is so unbelievably fragile. Life is not promised. We are but one breath, one heart beat from it being over. Savour every moment, every breath, be thankful when you open your eyes in the morning and hug your children close. Make your memories today. Love today. Live today. I will never take one single second with Arthur for granted.

William, wherever you are my darling little boy. For every step I take on Earth, it is one step closer to you. One day we will be forever. Until then, all of my love is being sent to you this Christmas. It is one less that we have to spend without each other.

You would be incredibly proud of your amazing little brother. And for every waking moment, everyday is Christmas day, every day brings with it your greatest gift to daddy and I, Arthur. There is no greater gift, than life itself, and mummy cannot articulate how proud she is of you for giving your life to save others. And mummy wants to say thank you. Thank you for giving me Arthur, thank you for saving my life, and thank you for making me the person that I am today. Without you, I would be a shadow. You have bought me into the light and through Arthur you have once again given me light.

I love you, x


www.justgiving.com/williamoscarmead

I’m so so sorry mummy couldn’t save you

I don’t ever know where to start sweetheart. It’s been three years. Three whole years that we’ve had to live without each other. Three whole years since I last held your warm, squishy, strawberry scented little self in my arms. Three whole years since I got to whisper ‘I love you’ in your ear. Three whole years. How is that even possible, how have I managed? Simply, I don’t know.

The first year without you was complete and utter turmoil, total and complete devastation. My mind was like living inside a tornado, I was picked up and thrown around at the mercy of my thoughts. It was relentless. Last year I begun to find my feet. Sometimes I was able to put my feet on the ground and feel stable, sometimes I was able to communicate, willingly. I was learning. Learning how to live with your daddy, as two. Not three anymore. We didn’t choose that, we didn’t want that. A complete and total loss of control. I don’t like having no control. Last year I learned to go with the flow. Knowing that I was not able to swim against the riptide of grief, I had to close my eyes, turn on my back and wait for it to set me down again. This year has been strange; ‘living’ has been slightly easier, perhaps because your little brother has given us an injection of life again. He has given us hope, a future, he was one of the greatest gifts you ever gave us. But missing you has got so much harder. I find myself crying more often, I am often sad, not just for myself but for you. I often think about giving up and retreating, I think more often about the injustice of your death, your treatment and how cruelly your life was taken away. I’m struggling quite a bit at the minute, but I know that for every step I take, it is one step closer to you. I think that because the better days have become easier to bear, it makes the bad days even worse. It is like being on an awful roller-coaster that sometimes gets stuck, I have no choice but to ride it out.

I can’t remember what life was like before you were born. It seems like it was a different life. It was a life that I thought I was happy in, content with my lot. I couldn’t have imagined how wrong I was. When you were born you showed me what really mattered. I can remember watching you sleep, feeling utterly in love. A feeling that is difficult to articulate. You were part of me, I was you and you were me. You taught me a love that I didn’t know existed. You are woven into the fabric of my soul. When you died, I didn’t know what to do. How would I love again? How would I ever smile again, laugh, be happy? Life was constantly referred to as ‘before William was born’ and ‘after William died’ like our life had somehow been truncated and completely fractured.

 

Then you gave us Arthur. I was worried, more than worried. What would happen if I didn’t love him like I love you? What happened if I resented him, because he wasn’t you? But you knew. You knew I could be a mummy to two little people, you knew just what mummy needed, like your little brother, you heal my broken heart. I feel incredibly sad that I will never feel complete again, that wholesome feeling that cannot be bought.

You have taught me so much William. You have taught me complete kindness, you have taught me to be compassionate always, to be patient, to love fiercely, you have taught me that no matter where I go, you are with me always, I know that you are mine, and death cannot take that away from me. I cannot even begin to describe how proud I am of you. You graced this Earth for just 382 days, but you changed everything so profoundly. Your love feeds my determination, enables me to live, helps me to put one foot in front of the other,  gives me the strength to somehow fight to try to stop others from meeting your fate. Your love has changed so much, changed so many people, saved so many lives. I know you live on in the hearts of the many thousands of lives you have saved.

But you are not here and I just want you. I want nothing more than to hold you one last time. Forever is a long time. I know that you are just one breath away, one heartbeat, but I don’t know when I will take that breath and wake up with you. I wish I did. I wish I could put a big cross through every day, knowing that I was counting down. What I would give to make eye contact with you once more, to rub my cheek on yours, to feel you in my arms once more. My arms ache for you. They are heavy, my heart is heavy, my head is heavy. The living might get easier but the longing gets so much harder.

I remember the last time I ever held you, before I placed you in your forever bed and closed the lid, I kissed your forehead, I ran my fingers through your hair, I kissed your lips and I rubbed my cheek on yours, and I said “I’m so so sorry mummy couldn’t save you.” This hurts me, physically hurts me. I would do anything for you, and Arthur, give you both all you need, physically, emotionally and mentally, but the one thing I couldn’t do was make you better. I tried so hard to get you the help you needed, despite the apologies for your care, you’re still my responsibility and your life is in my hands. I failed you in the worst way possible. I let you down when you so desperately needed me the most. I tried so so hard.

I love you darling boy. You know. I told you always, I showed you always, they were the last words you ever heard me whisper, “Goodnight sweetheart, I love you.” You knew only love but three years on, the words that still sting me every single day “I’m so so sorry mummy couldn’t save you.”


www.justgiving.com/williamoscarmead

PTSD and me

Today as I stepped out of bed on day 550 without you I looked out of the window for some inspiration. I didn’t find any.

There is no one day easier than another, I am yet to wake up any morning and think, well I don’t miss you as much today. My thoughts are always with you. My tears are all for you. I suspect you can see mummy from the little white fluffy cloud on which you now reside; but I know if you can see your mummy you’ll also know that she can’t help it. I have long since given up thinking that time heals, that one day I’ll come to terms with losing you. Simply, I won’t, how can I?

More than ever I can’t cope with knowing that I couldn’t save you. You didn’t deserve this. You deserved the world. You deserved to be happy. You deserved the chance to live your life how you chose. Your life so cruelly taken away from you by others. Maybe that day they went into work with something on their mind, perhaps they were tired. But you gave your life for their mistakes, there is no bigger sacrifice, and if mummy could she would give everything for you to have breath back in your broken little body.

Sweetheart, I think that some people think that after 550 days I should be functioning better, that I should be capable of getting through a day without breaking down. Or that perhaps I shouldn’t be as vulnerable and fragile as I am. I don’t think anyone will ever understand the path that I tread. It is not a path that anyone else can say they have been on, after all, only I know my pain of losing you. Daddy treads his own path, others tread different paths. But no one treads mummy’s path.

The moment that mummy heard those words ‘I’m sorry my love, but he’s gone’ my life changed irrevocably. There was no going back, no going back to the normal life we had created together. No more cosy morning snuggles, no watching you point your toes and jiggle your little feet when you are excited, no sneaking into your room in the night to stroke your silky soft hair. Mummy used to do that, you probably knew that, but you let me, because you know mummy needed to. What I would do to just hold you one more time.

Some people don’t understand that by the time I have managed to dress myself in the morning, I have already been awake crying for several hours, if I’ve been to sleep at all. Some people don’t understand that some days fast movement, lots of noise or colour gives me a sensory overload. Trying to explain to someone why I’m so hypersensitive is virtually impossible, let alone trying to explain how the flashbacks cripple me. You see people don’t understand PTSD, people think I should stop thinking about it. How can I? Could they? I don’t think so, not if they had witnessed losing you. I can’t stop thinking about it, I don’t have a choice. PTSD isn’t simply a memory recollection, something you can summon and then change to think about something completely different. When my brain decides, I will re-live the moment that I found you again. Frozen in bed, not being able to move, paralysed by fear, in my mind, you are next door, in your cot, passed away. Somehow the light, the sounds, the smells are the same. It is that morning again. I can’t remember how many hours I sat cross-legged on your floor, hands tightly gripping the bars of your cot, head pressed against the bars so hard there were two lines on my forehead, staring, my eyes pleading with the spot where you took your last breath, pleading for you to not be there, not like that, not again. I think it took 6 hours for my brain to realise that you weren’t there. For those 6 hours in my mind I had been staring at your broken little body. But of course you weren’t there. Try telling my mind that. It is like being trapped in a nightmare, not able to wake up because of course you are already awake. Being suffocated by the nightmare as you have no idea that it isn’t real or that it isn’t really happening again.

PTSD is so debilitating. I don’t get a choice, I can’t just not think about ‘it’. The trauma of losing you so vivid, mummy is forced to re-live losing you all over again, I can’t help it. It’s not just a memory, it’s not something that I can distract myself from. It is not something that I can explain to people unless of course they have experienced it. They do not understand that one minute you are seemingly ok and confident to the next minute being scared to exist in what is a co-dependent bubble. And when it strikes it is like having a wound re-opened, and left constantly open. Social situations are a no go area, draining, emotionally exhausting, overwhelming, frozen and incapable of functioning. In a nutshell PTSD is not being able to differentiate in your mind the past, the present and the future.

I wish people would be patient, I wish people would not judge. I wish I didn’t have to keep justifying how and why I feel like I’m in a sinking abyss. No one will ever understand the pain of losing you, a life sentence, one that will not be over until I take my last breath and we are together again.

You will never know sweetheart how much mummy needs you. You changed my life, mummy is so blessed that you picked me. I sit here looking at your photo’s, your captivating smile, your sparkling eyes coming alive from every photo. You probably see mummy touch your photos, hoping that she can feel you chubby soft skin once more; but I never will. I remember the last time I ever held you. I traced every inch of your little body with my finger, my eyes closed, assigning every little fold and crease to memory. Even then, twenty days after you had passed away you were still perfect. God, mummy misses you so much. People just don’t get it. It just does not get easier.

So, my message to the lovely people who I encounter every day in my life, please don’t judge, don’t criticise, be patient, be calm, be respectful and most of all, give me time. I estimate it will take a lifetime.


www.justgiving.com/williamoscarmead