4 years ago I was sat at a friend's house enjoying a little tea party with our children. I was 32 weeks pregnant and John was away with work. I had been feeling exhausted all week and had been resting as much as I could. I remember my stomach was starting to tighten but nothing that I hadn't experienced in my pregnancy with Sam 2 years previously. I wasn't exactly blooming - I was puffy and bloated and looked just as tired as I felt. Samuel had been born prematurely 2 years earlier and was significantly growth restricted. This pregnancy was very high risk and I wasn't expecting to feel wonderful. I was starting to brew a headache and a slightly upset stomach and felt a bit fed up. On returning home with Samuel I gave him a ridiculously early night, ordered myself a take away and curled up on the sofa. John was home the following day ...
Today I have been at hospital with Samuel. A very small and routine operation that we have been putting off for a couple of years. As soon as he found out he was going to be in Alder Hey for the day he groaned. You see, Sam spent much of the first year of his life in Alder Hey for various appointments; to see paediatricians, dieticians and gastrentriologists. This was following a month long stay in special care when he was born prematurely and months of feeding difficulties following this. Samuel does not really make a fuss but he was not happy at the prospect of returning to his least favourite place. And neither was I.
The Doctors talked through the procedure with him and he begged for no needles - another phobia. As a result of this they used gas to put him to sleep and only put his canula in after this. His precious toy, Wotsit, also had her hand bandaged up which caused giggles when Sam came round and realised.
Watching him drift off to sleep was awful and brought back so many memories of seeing him weak and poorly in his incubator, hooked up to umpteen wires. As bereaved parents nothing is without stress. The innocence attached to such small procedures was taken away 4 years ago and was replaced with a huge sense of anxiety; with a fear that something will go wrong. Waiting to hear those dreaded words again ... 'I'm so sorry Claire, but your child has died'. As I write it I appreciate the drama but for other parents who've experienced grief, loss, illness and trauma they will understand where I come from.
I watched him drift off to sleep and tried not to show my panic, my dread. The staff, knowing our history, were very supportive and careful to reassure me. 'We will look after him,' I was told by the anaesthetist as I left the room. I was led through to the parent's room and given a cup of coffee as I waited. A wait that seemed anxiously long. I sat thinking about the other children throughout the hospital who were 'really' ill. Who were having life saving procedures and who, in some cases, we're experiencing terminal illnesses and felt embarrassed at my anxiety for such a small operation. And then I remembered I have been 'that' parent twice. I have been the parent who sits next to the incubator that houses their child's tiny body whilst machines monitor every pulse, every gas and every breath throughout the body; whilst tubes sustain them and the smallest and most taken for granted reflexes like sucking, swallowing and breathing don't happen as they should so the baby is tube fed, causing untold later feeding problems and oral trauma.
I have also been the parent who sits in a room in shock having been delivered devastating, life changing news. I have been the parent who sits cradling their dead baby not wanting to let go and knowing that, when that happens, it will be forever. That there will be no more photographs, no more cuddles, no more kisses and no growing up.
And ... I have been the parent who has had to accept, through devastating circumstances, that they can't have any more biological children. That the risks to mother and baby are too high.
The innocence has been snatched away. I know what loss is and I know what death is. I know what it feels like to mourn the loss of your own child. That feeling that parents can't bear to think about; that is too painful to verbalise or even consider - I know how that feels and I know that life is never the same afterwards.
Yet Samuel returned. He is dozing next to me with a very sore head but no adverse side effects. The whole experience feels like a huge anti climax and I feel my stress levels lower.
4 years ago I was 32 weeks pregnant ...
This weekend marks 4 years since Emilie's birth. Since her death.
|Emilie - Rose|
I can't comprehend where those 4 years have gone and know that 4 years ago I would never have imagined that life could have regained this sense of normality. A new normal, yes, but still normality.
I get up each day and care for my children. I work when I can and in 2 weeks time will be returning to regular work 2 days a week. I cook tea; I bake cakes; I bake bread. I like to run and enjoy anything crafty.
And I adore my children.
4 years ago our world came crumbling down around us. Everything echoed with the deafening sound of grief and emptiness. Everything felt surreal. Unreal.
|Emilie - Rose|
This anniversary season is hard. Filled with so many memories - the anticipation and excitement followed by the panic, disorientation and grief. And yet we still stand, with Sam nearly 7 years old and just awaiting the final court date that tells us our adopted daughter is legally OURS.
I did not expect to have come this far. I never thought I would work again and I never thought I would live day to day knowing I can have no more biological children and yet still being able to function. An old friend said to me last week 'life has a way of doing what it wants rather than what you have planned for it'. This reminded me of something I had read a couple of years ago about life being like a complex tapestry. That when viewed from behind it is incomprehensibly messy with arrays of complicated threads weaving in and out and being cut off at strange angles. Yet when viewed from the front it is perfect, weaving a beautiful and rich picture that tells a story.
4 years on I still don't understand why God allowed us to go trough what we did and yes, I still get angry from time to time. But I am looking forward to a time when I can view the whole tapestry from the front and see it's beauty, see how it makes sense and comes together.
And already I can begin to see the sense and the meaning form.