One Year Without You

I loved you like there was no tomorrow…
and then one day, there wasn’t.

At 6.43pm on the 13th December 2014, I held you alive for the last time. The very last time that I cradled you alive, the last time I felt the weight of you in my arms. I didn’t know that would be the last time you would hear my voice, I didn’t know those would be the last words that I would ever speak to you; “Goodnight sweetheart, I love you.” I didn’t know that would be forever.

I remember making two promises to you when I held you on my chest for the first time, a bundle of arms and legs and warmth. I remember cupping your tiny little head with my hand, a head covered in the most beautiful dark hair, I remember so well, being scared to touch perfection, a euphoric experience that I can close my eyes and imagine, I remember thinking to myself, wow, after what has been a tumultuous life, I had struck gold. I knew from that moment, it was you, it was you that I had always wanted, it was you that I had always needed, it was you that through the hardest of times I held out for. My prayers had been answered. In that instant, in that moment, that moment of total peace, it was a strange feeling, a love so fierce it burned inside my chest, I promised you in that moment that I would love you with everything I had, that I could ever give, I knew that you were the key to my soul. So I made you that promise. Through the tears, the first words you ever heard your mummy speak, I promised you that I would love you with every ounce of my being, I would give you my heart, my body and my soul. I knew that you were the essence to what made my life meaningful and full of purpose.

The second promise that I made you came from my fear, my fear of being separated from you. After having extensive surgery I knew that in any moment, mummy could be taken away from you. Never having been in good health, having nearly died twice I knew that life was so fragile. The second promise that I made you was to make sure that the last time I saw you, whether that be when I tucked you up at night, when I dropped you off at nursery or when you were older and were off to play football with your friends, would be to tell you that “I love you”. I wanted to know that in case anything ever happened to your mummy that they would always be the last words that I would ever say to you. It wasn’t supposed to be the other way round, it was never supposed to be you. Shortly before you made your ascent to Heaven they found another tumour on mummy’s ovary. After seven surgeries and the tumour’s I have endured, I had never been scared, never had any fear of dying, in that moment, when they found that tumour, I cried, I cried so hard, I collapsed in a heap on the floor, begging daddy to tell me it wasn’t real, the fear that I would be taken away from you, why now? why me? why us? Hadn’t I gone through enough. Life now was perfect.

Then a few days later I whispered those words, what were to be those final words “Goodnight sweetheart, I love you.” I didn’t know that it would be forever. I kept my promises, I still keep my promises. I still love you with everything I have to give, and I still kiss your little bear goodnight and blow a kiss to the stars and say “Goodnight sweetheart, I love you.”

 

On the morning of December 14th 2014 I climbed out of bed and made my way into your room, I opened the door, I didn’t have my glasses on, the blackout blinds not letting any light in, I crept round to the side of your cot and I stoked your cheek. A chubby little cheek, warm to my touch, but you did not stir. I knelt down, put my arm through the bars of your cot, I stroked your arm, it was cool, I didn’t think too much of that, you slept in a sleeping bag with your arms out, and because you’d been poorly you had a vest on rather than a onesie. Still you didn’t stir. I stood, I stroked your side, you were stiff, your whole body moved with the motion of my hand, I turned, opened the curtains and blind and then I saw you. Your eyes cutting straight through me, I will never forget that moment, those words, “he’s dead, Paul he’s not breathing, Paul”. I ran to get the phone, I called the ambulance, daddy lifted you out of your cot and placed you on the floor, you were gone, we knew, your little arms and legs not moving. As I screamed down the phone, the operator calmly talked us through CPR, with every compression, I begged, I screamed, as I tilted your head back, I saw your chest rise and fall with every breath I gave you. You didn’t wake. You didn’t move. The paramedics arrived, they tried in vain, the chest compression’s they administered were so hard on your little body, I wailed at the shoulder of the paramedic as his hands scooped your body in his grip, desperately trying to pump life back into you. And then, those words, the most crippling words that any parent will ever hear, “I’m sorry my love, but he’s gone.”

As I fell backwards another paramedic caught me, they tried to take me out of the room, the breath like yours, gone from my body, I could not stand, I could not breathe, I could see you. You were gone. 8:47am you were pronounced ‘dead’. On the vast amounts of paperwork, there are no terms that are less cutting, ‘deceased’, ‘dead’, ‘no signs of life’, and the worst, ‘life extinct’. Life extinct. Your life was ‘extinct’. Two words that were spoken to your grandparents that shattered their dreams and their lives, “William’s dead”. There were no other words in that phone call. There were no other words needed, no other words could be spoken, nanny and grandad could hear your mummy wailing in the background, so did the street we live on. The ambulances blocking the road, the front door open, mummy’s wailing pierced the ears of those wondering what was going on. It was only when I walked outside with your fragile and broken little body in my arms, that people knew. Their faces on mummy’s, their heads bowed down. Your beautiful, lifeless little body spoke a thousand words. Mummy was broken. I could write a thousand words for every minute of that day.

That day I took the longest walk of my life, in reality it probably took several minutes, but to me it was a lifetime. As our family were escorted from resus, through the hospital, it had to be me that carried you, my face not leaving yours, it was me that handed you to the mortician, “please, look after him I said. I could not turn and walk away, it had to be him, this strange man, cradling my baby, taking you somewhere unfamiliar. He turned, and through those doors you were gone. “No, no, no, no, please no”. Never was a word spoken with so much power, one word spoken by mummy, a mummy who had just lost the most precious cargo she would ever carry. A word delivered with conviction, a word that encapsulated all of the pain and love I would ever feel. Please. Please give me my baby back, please don’t let this be real, please, God no, please, please baby wake up. Please.

It wasn’t time to say goodbye, it wasn’t time to let you go, I never will let you go. It has been one whole year since my world was shattered. I sit here today, reliving every moment that we lived this very day last year. There were and still are so many goodbyes. It wasn’t just that moment that I knew you were gone, it was being told, it was having to walk out the room whilst they examined you, it was handing you over to a stranger. The goodbyes are not just those first days but the milestones that you would pass that we’ll never reach with you. Your first plaster, the first time you would have said “mummy, I love you”, your first day at school, you first nativity, for me these aren’t first’s instead they are goodbye’s. A future that was robbed from you and from mummy and daddy. We regularly have to say goodbye to the dreams we had.

I miss you baby, I don’t know how to live without you, I don’t know what to do. I function but every step, every word spoken, every little job I do, is done without heart, is done simply because I have to. Life has lost its sparkle, the sparkle that you bought. I no longer trip over toys, I no longer worry about whether there is a hot cup of coffee within your reach, I no longer have to change after you’ve been sick on me, I no longer sleep through the night, I no longer have control over my mind or my thoughts, I no longer get that feeling of euphoria over one little smile, I never get to look in your eyes and cry with admiration, I no longer get to hold you, my sleeping baby, simply because I don’t want to put your down. I never knew that something so small, and so perfect could affect my life as it has, I never knew that I could possibly love someone so much, I never realised how much I would love being ‘mummy’. I never knew what it would feel like to have my heart-broken into irretrievably small pieces, I never knew how much I could hurt. I never knew what it would feel like to live with my heart outside of my body. You have my heart sweetheart, and with you it will always remain.

Loving you is easy, the best and biggest impact anything has ever had on my life. Missing you is inextricably hard. My heart breaks and will keep breaking until I hold you in my arms again, our souls are tied forever, an unconditional love that remains unbroken and more powerful than death. I love you my sweet William.


 

I would like you to think about what the last words spoken to your child/ren were before bed, before they went out to school, before they went back home to their own family, or hung up after calling you. Don’t take life for granted. Make those words “I love you”. Please.


 

www.justgiving.com/williamoscarmead

What is mental health?

Before William died I had no experience of the mental health care in the UK. I’d had no reason to need it personally, nor had I known anyone personally suffering with their mental health. It wasn’t even taboo, because I didn’t even afford it much thought. I would often catch the news, mental health being known as the cinderella service of the NHS. Hard to access, not enough facilities or not the right facilities. This may be true in some areas or for others experiences. But, I can say that had it not been for the care and guidance of the mental health team in Cornwall, I would not be here. They have been the scaffolding that has been wrapped around me for the last 11 months, and continue to be. When I fall I know they are there. When I’m falling and I don’t know it, they catch me.

Anyone in my position will know that time is like a punishment. Nothing you can do to stop it, always ticking by, excruciatingly slow. Initially, days passed in shock, weeks passed in disbelief and months have passed without me even knowing, carried along on the tidal wave of grief, churning me round and round in the eye of the storm, discarding me just where it wants too. In the initial few months, everyone has time, everyone touched by William, and they now have a life tinged with sadness, but albeit a life that they return too, maybe after the funeral, maybe after the inquest, maybe when I returned to work. Slowly people drift away back to their own lives, no time to sit with me anymore to go over and over things like I did back then. I still need to do that, so who do I lean on, who do I turn to when people are living their lives and I am on my merry-go-round of despair and can’t get off? I turn to those who I know will always be there, with a bucket load of time. Whether it be when I have a complete meltdown in the dairy aisle of the supermarket and the crisis team need to come and rescue me or whether it be the day before my scheduled one to one appointment and I need them now. I know I can rely on them to change my appointment.

I have full capacity. I am not mentally ill. I have a problem that they cannot fix. They cannot bring William back. I could be hospitalised because of my suicidal ideation, but knowing they could not fix me, and they would only be removing me from everything that is William would increase the intensity of those feelings. So, what do they do? One thing they haven’t done is give up. But, one thing they have done is respect me and respect my decision. I am a vulnerable, high risk adult. What does that mean?

Vulnerable Adult – A vulnerable adult is described as a person aged 18 years or over, who is in receipt of or may be in need of community care services by reason of mental or other disability, age or illness and who is or may be unable to take care of him or herself, or unable to protect him or herself against significant harm or exploitation.

High Risk Adult – Current or recent moderate / high risk of intentional self harm

So that is what I am. Am I embarrassed or ashamed to be in this category of society? No. You see just like any other debilitating illness, mental health problems are real. They don’t go away when you take medication. You can’t ‘just get over it’. You can’t make yourself want to live. You can’t make yourself eat or sleep if your body is telling you not to. You can’t stop tortuous memories of finding your son passed away in his cot. You can’t stop hearing the call handler’s voice as she talked you through CPR. You can’t ever stop the image of your child in his coffin just pop into your head. You can’t stop that fear of knowing that tomorrow will be just as bad, after all William won’t be here then either. With these flashbacks and thoughts come physical side effects. Chronic insomnia, days with no sleep, after two, three or four days you start zoning out. In a complete daze, losing hours at a time. Sometimes you imagine things to move, sometimes you think you hear something, but you are alone. It is terrifying. Sometimes the anxiety is so bad, regardless of how much medication or exercise you do, you cannot write, because the tremors control you. Sometimes I cannot stand colour, movement, noise. Why? Because I simply cannot process it. The scores of pock marks on my skin, when in an effort to control my anxiety I pick my skin. Or bite my nails. Or pull a few hairs out. Sometimes I don’t want to talk, or involve myself in the conversation. Why? Because sometimes it is such a huge struggle to even be in another person’s company, when all you want to do is be swallowed up by the gaping pit of grief.

Mental health is not a choice. It does not discriminate. No matter your colour, your religion, or where you were born. If it wants you, it will take you.

Everyone in their life at some point will have suffered a bout of depression, most people have seen or gone through trauma like a car crash, a marriage breakdown, or the loss of a parent. But life after losing a child, is an indescribable journey of survival. A life sentence.

People move on. But I am stuck, sometimes the quicksand is deeper and the struggle to fight to get out is just that, a fight. On these days, I know that if I call the mental health team, they will come with their scaffolding, they will build it up around me as high as I need it to go. They don’t just build it and leave. They wait. They listen with compassion. They cry when I cry. They don’t try to fix me, knowing that I can’t be fixed, they guide, advise, and aid. And most importantly they do not judge, they understand. They understand that mental health is not a taboo. It is very real.

I saw one particular psychiatrist for months. We had intensive EMDR sessions, followed by psychotherapy. As a doctor he wanted to fix me, make me better, but he knew, he understood, all he could do was help to make the path I am on a little easier, so maybe when I get to the end, it wouldn’t be the end.

Not many of you know but at the end of January I spent time in a secure psychiatric unit, why? Because I had tried to take my life earlier that week, I was found in time. Had I not been found, I would not be here. Several days later I knew what that feeling felt like. The desperation to be with William, it is not a means of escape, it is not me trying to escape the pain. It is about wanting to be with my son. To sit there and actively know that what you are about to do is end your life is an extremely courageous and brave step to take. Knowing there is no returning. No going back. To be at a point, where for whatever conflict is taking place in your head, people need to exit their life, is not a cowardly way out. For some it is the only way out of a lifetime of enduring pain. For some it is a means of escape, who are we to judge, that whatever is happening in their head is tolerable or not? Because I for one moment ask you to put yourself in my shoes. If you lost one of your children, what would be your oblivion?

When I was in that psychiatric unit it was very apparent that I am not mentally ill. I have heard of schizophrenia, and psychotic disorders, split personality disorders, bipolar as I am sure most of you have, you might know someone with one of these mental health conditions. But wow, those people do not need shunning, do not need bullying, those who are very poorly require the most intensive round the clock care that can only be given in a secure unit. I sat with one man. I won’t tell you his real name, but I’ll call him John. John was 35, that is what he said anyway. He shook my hand and said hi, my name is John. I politely replied, that my name was Melissa. Within 15 minutes we had repeated that very small conversation over 30 times. Did I mind? No. John told me about his job in a shop. Told me about what clothes he sold, he told me about the people he worked with, he told me where the shop was. John had been in that unit for 5 months. John didn’t have a job. John didn’t work with anyone. I don’t even know if he was 35 and his name was John. But it didn’t matter, because for those 15 minutes he was happy. Is it his fault that he has been afflicted with a terrible mental health illness? Does he deserve it? Did he ask for it? The answer to all those questions is no. But John didn’t get a choice. Schizophrenia and psychosis picked him. I was there purely for my own safety. John was there because that is where he was living.

So I ask you, when you see me walking down the middle of the high street, my eyes bloodshot from the lack of sleep, my hair not brushed because when I left the house I was too busy kissing my son’s casket goodbye to remember to brush my hair, that I am on my way to have more scaffolding put up to help me continue the fight. Without that scaffolding I wouldn’t be here. Without the mental health team I would not be here. I can’t help the way that I feel. I can’t just change the way I feel, it’s very real and all-consuming. Knowing I can make that choice tomorrow prevents me from doing it today. It has worked so far. I have a safety net. Suicide is my safety net. I don’t need judging, I don’t need fixing, I need scaffolding. If you want to judge or fix then please don’t. If you want to scaffold, build away. I do not see it as ending my life, I see it as going to continue it somewhere else with my son, for eternity.

Www.justgiving.com/Williamoscarmead

Name a Plane – Grumpus Mead

Dear all, I am asking you for your help!!! Please help us win a Thomson plane to be named after our beautiful little William. Please share this blog, please share amongst your Facebook friends, Twitter and all of your social media.

Vote and share the link below:

http://www.nameourplane.com/name/grumpus-mead

Thank you xxxxxxx

The power of a memory

The most captivating smile xxx

The most captivating smile xxx

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.


 

www.justgiving.com/williamoscarmead

Grief is like riding a bike

Can you remember when you first rode a bike? If you were young, the little bike probably had stabilisers, along with a little bell, maybe a basket, but definitely stabilisers. We gently ease ourselves in, wearing a helmet, going slowly, with mummy trailing behind. After we fall off the first time, mummy picks you up, dusts you off, encourages you to overcome your fear. You jump back on and you fly down the path escaping the grabbing hands of mummy, squealing as you go, her stomach in her throat, you’re okay until you realise you don’t know how to stop. It was fun until that wall jumped in your way. We’ll give it another go tomorrow.

As we get older, we shed the basket and the bell, the bike gets bigger, the stabilisers long gone. You become comfortable, confident and at the drop of a hat you can change the direction you are headed. Grief is like riding a bike. Except I didn’t get to ease myself in, I don’t get to learn, there is no helmet, no-one that can melt away that fear. Free-wheeling down a hill at an uncontrollable pace. Wobbling, trying desperately to stay in control, to hold on, not to fall off, but inevitably I do. I always fall off, I always fall hard, my body always aches, my emotions bruised, my body battered. Lying there knowing that my only choice is to get up and get back on the worst ride of my life, something I do not want to do. It takes strength I do not know I have to stand up and climb back on.

Some days as I’m riding along, its slower, my peripheral vision registering the background noise, blurred life slightly more in focus, the world through sad eyes is discouraging, it is a world that is different, it has changed, everything has changed, I have changed. Nothing is the same, everything has very little purpose, very little meaning. I have lost sight of life, the only life I knew, the life where I was mummy. Although I know I am a mummy, William is not here to help me grow as a mummy, William is not here for me to love, to teach, to watch grow, to help him learn how to ride a bike. I won’t ever get that chance. I won’t ever get to put his little helmet on, I won’t be able to implore him to be careful so many times I have a panic attack. I won’t be able to run after him squealing at the top of his lungs and mine. I won’t be able to pick him up and put a plaster on his cut knee and soothe him and encourage him to have another go. You see the moments you take for granted I will never experience, and William will never get to experience.

I am struggling at the moment, struggling to hold my emotions in. I do let my emotions out, always, but at the moment I can’t control my thoughts, my feelings. On the way to work, I pull the car over, my body heaving with the sobs. Coping at the minute is a goal I am finding hard to achieve. The honest truth is I can’t live without William. I can’t face a lifetime without him, without his beauty, without everything he gave me, without his spell-binding love. I go into his room, I sit by his cot, my head resting on the bars, my body racking, love pouring from my eyes, desperately wishing he was there, right there in front of me, so I could reach out and touch him, to watch him gently suck his thumb, to hear his gentle snoring, in tune with every breath I take. To see the peace on his face, the comfort, knowing he was safe, knowing he was loved, knowing his mummy was right there, always, knowing my baby was right there. But now he’s not, as my head pushes hard on the wooden bars, William isn’t there, my baby is gone. Forever. I will never see him again, I will never hold him again, never hear his delicate little voice, never to look in his deep brown eyes and fall in love over and over again.

Every time I look at his photos my breath is instantly taken away, my eyes well up, my body aching to reach into that image, to pluck him out and to never let him go. The first time that I ever held William after he had been born, I had him wrapped on my chest, his warm, red skin tightly held against my skin. I could feel his little heart beating, I could feel his warmth, I could already feel his love resonating through me and igniting my bones. How much I wish I could have one more moment with him, but one moment would never be enough. William is owed so much more, William deserves so much more, Paul and I gave William the right to life. That has been taken away and that is so unbearably cruel. It is something I cannot live with. Something I don’t want to live with. How can I?

My bike was the best bike you could ever buy, the bike that would take pride of place in every shop window. The bike that everyone wanted, the bike of envy, the bike that would take you to the farthest corners of the Earth. Someone took my bike, it’s replacement, a rusty bike with intermittent brakes, no bell, and sometimes it feels like square wheels. I don’t want it, I can’t get back on, when I am forced to, I struggle so hard to pedal, but it never goes the way I want it too. I am not in control.

If you have a life, that resembles the best ride of your life, treasure it, keep it safe, share it, take it on the most incredible journeys. Love with compassion, do not allow bumps in the road to get you down, drop back a gear, pedal easier, carry on, feel the wind in your hair, choose the direction you want to take and take it. Enjoy it, feel it, live it, and most of all always love with conviction.