The elephant in the room

I am very aware that there are people following my blog who don’t know my story, who have perhaps stumbled across it through a friend of a friend, via Facebook or Twitter, and for whom my family and I are complete strangers. I imagine that there are several of you looking at the title, five little doves, at my photos and the mention of my children and asking yourselves that all important question, “What happened to number five?”…..

Well technically Joseph was number two, my second son and Lewis’s first baby brother. And he was amazing, just as all of my children are.

When Lewis was 18 months old my ex husband and I found out that we were having another baby and we were over the moon. I had always imagined myself with two boys and so it was with great excitement that we found out we were indeed having another little boy.

My pregnancy flew by and through the spring of 2006 we spent our days basking in the sunshine, pushing Lewis around in his old navy pram and imagining what life would be like as parents of two. “How will I ever love this baby as much as I love Lewis?” I used to wonder out loud, for that was my biggest fear. “What if Lewis is jealous of the new baby?” I would worry and yet seeing my two year old kiss my tummy and talk to his baby brother brushed away all of my fears. And I was excited, just so excited.

We bought everything. A new pram, a cot, a steriliser, a Moses basket. We filled a wardrobe with clothes ranging from new born to one year. Tiny little rompers, irresistible little outfits, “I’m the little brother” novelty T shirts and a matching “I’m the big brother” one for Lew. I used to sit in the nursery looking through all of the lovely things we had bought, imagining how lucky I would be to bring home our baby and have TWO beautiful boys! Life was pretty much perfect.

I remember the day the double buggy was delivered and Lewis helped me to tear the box open and he jumped in one side and stuffed his teddy in the other. “Baby brother!” he had exclaimed and we had all laughed and told him that the baby would be here in just a few more sleeps.

And then one beautiful Summers morning on the 18th of July when the flowers were in full bloom and the birds were singing without a care in the world, our whole world ended.

“I’m sorry but your baby has died”.

Looking back now I have no idea how our legs carried us out of the hospital that morning, into the car and home to pack a bag. We sat side by side on the bed, totally silent, staring at all of the lovely things we had bought for our baby that he would never wear, never use, never need. We put on brave faces for Lewis who was packed off to my parents and we drove silently to the hospital where I would have to give birth to our second son and then leave the hospital without him.

Thirty hours later, after a horrific induction, at 3.44pm on the 19th July I gave birth to our son, our second born, our Joseph Allan. And I won’t lie to you, I was terrified. I was so scared to even turn my head to look at him, scared of what he might look like, of what I might feel, of how much it might hurt. I squeezed my eyes shut as tightly as possible and prayed that this was all a mistake, that any minute now we would hear a cry and we would breathe a huge sigh of relief that the nightmare was over.

“He looks just like Lewis” my ex husband whispered through his tears, and only then did I open my eyes and look across at my little boy who was every bit as perfect as we had imagined.

He was so beautiful. A full head of dark hair, a perfect button nose and the most beautiful ruby red lips that were just waiting to be kissed. His skin was still warm and I shall never forget placing him on my chest and breathing in that newborn baby smell and wishing I could freeze that moment forever. Like all new parents we counted his fingers and toes, we “oohed” and “ahhed” over his long eye lashes and we beamed with pride at what a beautiful baby boy we had created. And we stayed there like that until day turned to night, his body grew cold, and we slept with our baby between us for the first time. And the last.

We bathed him and dressed him, took prints of his hands and feet, a lock of his lovely dark hair and photos that would hurt too much to look at for such a long time. We talked to him, told him about his big brother and how much he would have loved him, about his grandparents who had been counting down the days to meet him and about the life he would have lived. We desperately tried to give him as many hugs and kisses as we possibly could and yet as we said goodbye for the thousandth time and closed the door behind us, we knew that it would never be enough.

The days that followed were a blur. It all just seemed so desperately unfair. Why us? Why our baby? I had done everything I could to keep my baby safe and yet then, and even now, I felt that I had let him down in some way. I felt so empty, my arms ached just to hold him, my heart was broken into a thousand pieces.

“At least you still have Lewis” people would say, “Some people aren’t that lucky” and I would rage with such anger and hate that anyone would think that it would hurt any less. “At least you didn’t get to know him” someone dared to tell me, as though that somehow made our loss easier, and it took all of my strength not to place my hands around their neck and squeeze the life out of them too.

I knew my son. I knew him from the moment he was created. He was mine, a part of me, my husband, a part of Lewis. I felt him grow, felt his kicks, sang to him, talked to him, cradled my tummy in my arms and told him how much I loved him. He nestled deep under my ribs, lying side to side and would kick and punch beneath my hands. He made me crave salt and vinegar crisps and findus crispy pancakes, he made my feet swell and my hair grow thick and strong. He loved the water, his kicks growing stronger with each bath or cold drink. I knew him, with every inch of me, I knew him. And I loved him from day one.

We buried him a week later, in a tiny white coffin, surrounded by our family and friends. We watched in disbelief as they lowered our baby into the ground and we left him alone in a cold, dark cemetery and walked away. That thought haunted me for such a long time, the idea of him all alone there without his Mama to hold him and keep him safe. I would lie awake at night torn between my two year old son sleeping beside me or my newborn baby alone in the dark. There were times when I contemplated joining him, when I felt that there was no other option and no other way to make the pain stop. They were the darkest of days, the blackest of thoughts and I still look back in disbelief that I survived them.

It took a long time to come to terms with losing our precious Joseph but the words of a wonderful lady who I met along the way helped me see things more clearly. When somebody dies, at that moment when their heart stops beating, their soul leaves their body. When a baby dies inside their Mummy the soul leaves their body but lives on in you, in your heart, your thoughts and your memory. And although many people won’t believe that theory, and I have questioned it many times myself, I have to believe it because the alternative hurts too much to bear. My Joseph lives on in me, in his brothers, his sisters and the hearts of all those who his short life touched.

So when people ask me how many children I have, I tell them that there are five. Not were, not should have been, not past tense. There are five little doves who have made my heart so full, so grateful and so blessed. And I wouldn’t change any of it for all the world.

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76 Comments

  1. Alison
    May 3, 2015 / 1:27 pm

    Reliving these days again has got me in bits again Laura, you’ve put it into words beautifully. I’ll never forget that time and how you’ve pulled yourself through that.
    When people talk of real life fairy tales, you are who I instantly think of – how you went through those tumultuous times in the early years, pulled yourself through, God knows how, and then you were thrown your pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. Nobody deserved that more than you…
    Keep writing xxx

    • May 4, 2015 / 7:37 pm

      Thank you Alison, I’m sure that Joseph played a large part in all of this. I should have trusted that he would send me my happy ending afterall!!! Xx

  2. Helen Caunce
    May 3, 2015 / 7:33 pm

    Laura, that is so beautifully written and honestly heartfelt. I remember Kirsty telling me about a girl from the baby world group who this had happened to and feeling so terribly sad for you, not knowing that we’d actually meet at a later date through Rachel. How you continued to function through all that, I will never know or understand, but you have done, and brilliantly. I’m sure there are still dark days and nights, but you have your little doves to keep you going. Keep writing – loving your blog.

    • May 4, 2015 / 7:35 pm

      Thank you so much Helen, it’s scary what a small world we live in!! I found writing my blog so therapeutic at the time and now, although I am in a much happier place, I am enjoying writing again and clawing back a little bit of me time each day!! Xx

  3. Kirsty
    May 4, 2015 / 9:21 pm

    Massive hugs. There will always be an empty place in my heart where my son should have been. My first born. My little angel. It doesn’t go away. Ever. He would have been 18 this year and still I miss him like it was yesterday I heard his heart beat and felt and saw him moving inside me. I am 9 weeks with my third now. Nathan Jo has a big sister and his big sis is looking forward to the new addition. But I still miss my boy. I wonder what he would look like now and what he would be doing.

    Sorry for blurting all that out. I hope you are oK. Massive hugs. Xxx

    • May 5, 2015 / 8:36 pm

      I’m so sorry for your loss, it really doesn’t ever stop hurting does it. Good luck with your pregnancy, I’m sure your son is never far away. Xxx

  4. Linda Todd
    May 5, 2015 / 3:13 pm

    Oh Laura, so elequontley put. Your special little boy. I rememver your posts well from then, my heart almost broke with you. Though of course I could never know or experience what you have and still do. Thankyou for sharing, I feel very priviliged xxxx

    • May 5, 2015 / 8:38 pm

      Thank you linda. Your support over the years has been invaluable. Xxx

  5. Adele Eccles
    May 13, 2015 / 10:45 am

    Laura, I had no idea what you have been through! So sorry. I lost 5 babies before I had Jack but all before the second trimester, I’ve always been grateful that they had been taken earlier rather than later because I can not imagine how people cope. You are a strong woman and I’m glad you’ve been brave enough to carry on giving your heart to more beautiful children x

    • May 15, 2015 / 2:04 pm

      Thank you Adele, I’m so sorry about your five little ones. My blog today is about my miscarriages also. You never forget them do you! I’m so glad you have your son, babies are amazing at healing our hearts. Xxx

  6. October 12, 2015 / 3:49 pm

    This is beautifully and heart wrenchingly written. Lots of love to you and to baby Joseph. Five little doves indeed – and each of them beautiful and special in their own way xx #anythinggoes

    • October 12, 2015 / 4:28 pm

      Thank you. It means a lot to me to be able to share Josephs story with others, particularly this week with #Babylossawarenessweek. Thank you for stopping by. xxx

  7. October 13, 2015 / 9:51 am

    I too have experienced loss and I’m almost ready to share my story. I know exactly what you’ve been through, you carry on because you have to. It gets easier with time but stays with you always. Thanks so much for sharing your story. There’s no reason why, I always thought why me but then came to the conclusion that there’s no reason why, it just happens and often to good people. #anythinggoes

    • October 13, 2015 / 11:10 am

      I’m so sorry that you have suffered such loss, it’s heartbreaking isn’t it. I consider myself hugely fortunate that I have been able to go on and have three more children and yet that huge gaping Joseph shaped hole is always there, with every milestone and every year passed without him. Thank you for stopping by, lots of love to you. xxx

      • October 13, 2015 / 11:11 am

        I too have had three more healthy children so I consider myself fortunate and my life was enriched by the experience

        • October 13, 2015 / 11:27 am

          Oh that’s lovely to hear. I’m assuming you are a midwife which must be so rewarding but also very hard at times. Off to nosy at your blog now!! Thanks again. xxx

          • October 13, 2015 / 11:30 am

            It was hard at the time I changed how I worked so I could be more anonymous, now it’s great, has it’s stresses like any other job xx

          • October 14, 2015 / 2:49 pm

            Well it’s an amazing job, well done you. xxx

  8. October 23, 2015 / 8:21 pm

    What an incredibly moving story. I could not even begin to imagine the pain of losing a child, but I thank you for sharing. The way you describe your boy he sounds beautiful x

    • October 23, 2015 / 9:33 pm

      Thank you so much, he really was absolutely beautiful. ❤️❤️❤️

  9. December 24, 2015 / 1:09 am

    that was such a sad story but also such a moving one and you have such a wonderful heart – I’m sure he is living on through you and your other littlies x Happy Christmas!

    • December 24, 2015 / 8:06 am

      Thank you. It was very important for me to share it, Joseph is a huge part of our lives. Merry Christmas to you too. Xxx

  10. December 24, 2015 / 1:11 am

    Heartbreaking, but so beautifully written as always. I’m sure that Joseph does live on in all of you, as you say. x

    • December 24, 2015 / 8:10 am

      Thank you. Missing him more than ever at Christmas but you’re right, he is still here, he is everywhere. 💙💙💙

  11. December 31, 2015 / 1:17 pm

    I have no idea how you managed to write this all down and so eloquently. You are so amazingly brave to carry on and not give up. What a sad thing to happen, but well done on being able to share this, so that others might draw strength from their own pain.

    Sally @ Life Loving
    #LifeLovingLinkie

    • December 31, 2015 / 2:32 pm

      Thanks Sally. It was very important for me to tell the story of my son and for his name to be spoken and his existence known. He was an amazing little boy who touched the hearts of so many, I am so utterly proud of him and so desperately sorry that we did not get to keep him. Thanks for reading. Xx

  12. February 26, 2016 / 11:51 am

    I can’t imagine how incredibly hard this must have been – you are so strong to keep going, and to do him proud by sharing his story. x #fabfridaypost

    • February 26, 2016 / 7:17 pm

      Thank you so much. It helps me so much to share his story. Xx

  13. February 26, 2016 / 12:17 pm

    Thanks for this post explaining, I had assumed that was the case because I have had four babies who aren’t running around our house. Does Lewis ever talk about him? Rachel talks about her brothers quite a lot, in phases, and it’s hard but wonderful all mixed up together.

    • February 26, 2016 / 12:21 pm

      Im so sorry to hear that. Lewis does talk about him yes, not as much as he used to, when he first died Lewis would tell us that he could see him and that he used to speak to him which was strange but comforting also. These days he says that he wishes Joseph was here and that it’s not fair that he died, he worries about me too I think the older he gets and the more he understands just how devastating it was. Xxx

  14. min1980
    February 26, 2016 / 11:32 pm

    I have to admit this made me shed a tear. So sad, and so beautifully written. I don’t know what else to say really, but thank you for sharing your story. #FabFridayPost

    • February 27, 2016 / 4:42 pm

      Ahh thank you, and for reading too. Xxx

  15. February 27, 2016 / 5:14 pm

    You write beautifully Laura, I have tears in my eyes reading this. What a fantastic family you have – you are so brave and strong. Thanks so much for sharing your #FabFridayPost

    • February 28, 2016 / 8:06 am

      Thank you so much. I have been so lucky in so many ways, it just still hurts so much that one of our children is missing each day. I think it always will. Xx

  16. February 28, 2016 / 8:17 pm

    Im not sure how I managed to hold it together whilst reading your post. Beautifully written and heartbreaking. I honestly don’t know how you coped and I admire you for being so brave. I’m so so sorry for your loss and I think that the idea of the baby living on in their mummy is perfect and so true. Lots of love. #KCACOLS

    • February 29, 2016 / 8:24 am

      Thank you so much. I honestly don’t know how I survived it!! I sometimes wonder if I even did. We have been so lucky in so many ways, I just have to focus on that and know that he is never far away. Xxx

  17. March 2, 2016 / 10:09 pm

    What an incredibly heartfelt, moving post. Thank you for sharing, it is very brave. #KCACOLS

    • March 4, 2016 / 5:45 pm

      Aww thank you so much for reading and sharing in my sons memory. 💙

  18. March 5, 2016 / 1:28 pm

    This is just so emotional. Just when I was reading this my eyes started to fill with tears. I feel so sorry that you have been through this. This post has been beautifully written. You are a strong woman and I’m sure your son is always around you in your heart and mind. Sending ‘hugs’ your way. Thanks so much lovely for sharing this personal story at #KCACOLS. I would love to see you again on Sunday! 🙂 x

    • March 5, 2016 / 2:45 pm

      Thank you so much for reading and for your lovely comment. I will be back on Sunday for sure. 😘

  19. March 8, 2016 / 9:15 pm

    I’m typing this with tears rolling down my cheeks. I’m so very sorry for your loss. I think that those words are absolutely the truth. The body is just a vessel, a shell, your outside is not what makes you you. Joseph is 100% in you and your children, and in the warm summer breezes, the beautiful flowers, the butterflies that flutter past. I really do believe that. I’m so sad for you that you went through a whole birth and didn’t get to bring that little baby home. Thank you for linking up with us. #bigpinklink

    • March 8, 2016 / 9:17 pm

      Oh thank you so much, I’m sorry I made you cry but I’m so happy to share Joseph’s story with as many of you as possible. Xxx

    • April 8, 2016 / 3:43 pm

      Absolutely, I cant even believe we survived it, and yet here we are almost ten years later. Thanks for reading. xx

  20. April 8, 2016 / 3:31 pm

    I’m so very sorry for ur loss. Such an emotional post you are amazing and very brave.

    • April 8, 2016 / 8:04 pm

      Thank you, and thank you for reading. xx

  21. April 8, 2016 / 9:03 pm

    Such a heartbreaking loss, but as you say Joseph lives in you and the rest of your family. A wonderful post, and it’s helped me understand what my sister in law went through with her first who was stillborn (she’s now got 2 boys). Her baby was before I knew her so I don’t know much and it’s never mentioned, but the midwife who looked after me in hospital recognised my OH as a relation of his brother. I thought it was the latest baby’s birth she was at, but it turned out to be the baby they lost. Even all those years later she still remembered and was sad about it.

    • April 9, 2016 / 3:53 pm

      I’m so sorry to hear about your sister in law, it truly is the most heartbreaking thing to go through. I often think of the midwife who delivered Joseph and wonder whether she thinks of him, or has there been so many since that he is just one of many. That is the saddest thought. Thank you so much for reading. xx

      • April 9, 2016 / 4:09 pm

        I’m sure they do. The fact ours remembered nearly 20 years ago shows that. I guess midwives want the best possible outcome for all babies and mothers, the losses must hit them hard or they wouldn’t be such good carers for mothers and babies.

        • April 9, 2016 / 4:35 pm

          I imagine it is the worst part of their job, it certainly isn’t a job that I could do that’s for sure. I admire them so much, our midwife was lovely and I will never forget the kindness she showed us. xx

    • April 9, 2016 / 3:52 pm

      It is unfair, that was something that I really struggled with for a long time. Why me? Why us? I think it took me a long time to accept that there are no explanations or reasons or things we did or didn’t d0. Life IS unfair, I think that’s the saddest part of all. xx

  22. Fuss Free Helen
    April 9, 2016 / 11:48 am

    That is such a heartbreaking story, but so beautifully written. I am so sorry for your loss, and hope that what you have written, that mush have been so hard to write, will bring some comfort to others too.

    • April 9, 2016 / 3:47 pm

      Thank you, I hope so too. It certainly helped me to share it. xx

  23. April 9, 2016 / 12:50 pm

    I have to admit this made me shed a tear. Such a sad and heartbreaking part of your life which is just so beautifully written x

    • April 9, 2016 / 3:47 pm

      I’m so sorry, but thank you so much for reading. It has meant the world to me to have an outlet to share Josephs story. xx

  24. April 11, 2016 / 6:16 am

    I am so sorry for your loss but what a beautifully written post. My friend lost a child at birth and I struggle to understand how she copes but we do talk about him all the time which seems to help her

    • April 11, 2016 / 8:13 pm

      Oh I’m so sorry for your friends loss, I’m so glad that you talk about him all the time, that really is the best thing you can do to help. I think our biggest fear is always that our baby will be forgotten. Thank you for reading. Xx

  25. April 11, 2016 / 10:15 am

    This was such a heart-breaking read, written so beautifully and full of emotion. I can’t imagine what it’s like to lose a child.Thank you for sharing your story, from reading your blog I did wonder about the fifth little dove x

    • April 11, 2016 / 8:10 pm

      Thank you for reading, my fifth little dove is such a huge part of our story. 💙

  26. April 14, 2016 / 11:46 am

    As I read this, my second baby is kicking and wriggling inside me, I’m 39 weeks pregnant and just can’t imagine the unbearable agony of your loss. I sadly know all too many people whose babies have died either in the womb, during labour or as newborns. What you were told about Joseph’s soul is incredibly beautiful and something that I will carry with me xxx

    • April 14, 2016 / 12:02 pm

      Oh Hannah I hope it wasn’t too upsetting for you to read when pregnant. I always feel incredibly guilty that perhaps I ruined my friends subsequent pregnancies as well as my own! Good luck with the birth and I will look forward to hearing about the arrival of a beautiful, healthy baby. Thank you for reading.. xxx

  27. May 4, 2016 / 3:38 pm

    Heartbreakingly sad but beautiful words. No mother should ever have to bury a child. Thanks for being so brave and opening up, I am sure it will provide a lot of comfort to people who have suffered through this tragedy. #bloggerclubuk

    • May 4, 2016 / 7:36 pm

      Thank you, I truly hope so. xxx

  28. Petite Library
    May 5, 2016 / 9:57 am

    Bless you for your braveness and being a wonderful mummy and continuing life when I’m sure you felt like it was impossible to continue. It’s the moments of horror, of absolute terror that show us our true strength and you should always be proud. xxxxx #bloggerclubuk

    • May 5, 2016 / 9:14 pm

      Thank you so much for reading and commenting. Means a lot. Xx

  29. Becky, Cuddle Fairy
    May 10, 2016 / 10:10 am

    You describe your feelings & thoughts so well I feel like I have experienced the loss with you. I’m sobbing reading this, especially kissing Joseph & having to leave him behind in the cemetery. I can’t imagine ever getting over the loss of a child. I’m so sorry for your loss. I do think it’s wonderful that you are sharing your story. Thanks so much for joining us at #bloggerclubuk x

    • May 10, 2016 / 3:33 pm

      Aww I’m so sorry that I made you cry but thank you, for virtually experiencing this with me. I know that it is difficult to read about something to tragic, and for many it is too hard, but those of you who keep reading, through your tears, I cant thank you enough. I have loved having somewhere where I can talk about Joseph, where I can share my memories and the ways in which he has changed me, has changed the way that we see life. Thank you so much for reading, and for hosting. xx

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  31. March 12, 2017 / 6:34 pm

    Hi, I’ve headed over from Just Average Jens blog, this is absolutely heartbreaking yet so beautifully written. Thank you for giving me the opportunity to know Joseph exists and always will in the hearts of those that matter.

    Jenna Von x

    • Laura Dove
      March 13, 2017 / 9:22 am

      Thank you so much for taking the time to read our story, that’s so lovely of you and means such a lot. xxx

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