12 years, 2 months and 19 days. That’s how long it has been since the day you came silently into the world and changed our lives forever. And in that time I have told your story on countless occasions: I have shared it with friends and loved ones, I have confided in bereaved parents to help them feel less alone, and I have relayed it in numerous publications, across TV and radio, in the hope of raising awareness of stillbirth and baby loss.
And as much as I have stated that I truly believed stillbirth was something which happened to other people, and as much as I have voiced my absolute shock when we heard the most devastating words a parent can ever hear, what I didn’t share, and what I seldom say out loud, is that deep down, on some level, I already knew.
I knew, despite the scans and the reassuring kicks, that we would never get to bring you home. I knew, despite our consultants confidence in her monitors and her charts, that this would never end well. I knew, when we shopped for your outfits and decorated the nursery, that you would never wear those clothes or sleep in that cot. And I knew, as I cradled my belly and I counted down the days, that sooner or later our biggest fear would become a reality.
And I’m sure to others my confession is unfathomable, to think that, had I known, I still allowed the midwives to placate me so easily with my concerns. I’m sure others would question why I had not demanded an induction when doubts were raised over your growth scans, why I had been so easily reassured when your movements began to slow. I guess the finger of blame must be pointed towards me knowing that, even when I had known, I did nothing at all to save you.
And it’s impossible for me to explain my reasons, or even rationalise my thought process at that time, but what I will say, and what I truly believe, is that although, on some level, I knew, I didn’t realise I had known until the moment I was reminded.
Until the moment you were gone.
On that beautiful July morning, when the sun was cracking the flags and there wasn’t a cloud in the sky, I had told your Dad to wait in the car whilst I popped in for my hospital appointment, so certain I was that it would all be fine. And lying on that hospital bed as the midwife struggled to locate your heartbeat, I remained completely calm as they ran out to get him, as the doctors rushed in and took over. And yet when I saw you on the screen, our beautiful baby boy right there, so still, even before the doctor had uttered those words, I knew, instinctively, you were gone.
And throughout my labour, during 35 hours of agonising pain and heartbroken cries, I want you to know that that I fought for you in those final moments, with all of my strength, and with every ounce of my being. I want you to know that I desperately tried to convince myself that it wasn’t happening, that you would come into the world kicking and screaming, showing each of us just how wrong we were.
I want you to know that I didn’t just give up on you.
And yet there you were, so perfect, so silent, so still. With your shock of black hair and your ruby red lips, and those eyes which would never open, never stare into mine, never prove me wrong. And as I held you to my chest, breathing in that newborn smell, and pressing my lips to yours, I knew that this was always how it was going to end, that, for whatever reason, the three of us had been destined to be right there in that moment, huddled together in that hospital room, a definitive moment in our lives in what would forever be known as before, and after.
And later, as we returned home, as your Dad and I shared a moment sitting on the edge of our bed, looking at all of the beautiful things we had bought for you that you would never use, never wear, never need, I will never forget how he turned to me, and in the softest of whispers, barely audible above the sound of our sobs, he said just two words which broke my heart all over again.
12 years later and I will never stop wishing that things had been different. I wish that I had memories to share and stories to tell; I wish that I had awkward photographs and embarrassing anecdotes; I wish that I had spent the last 12 years of my life thanking my lucky stars that we had been wrong, that our doubts had been nothing more than morbid fears.
And whist I will never profess to understand why you couldn’t stay, or ever stop longing that things had been different, I wouldn’t change having you, not even for a moment. You taught me all that I know about life, about love, about loss; you taught me that the path we walk down is never certain, that hearts break and dreams fade, that forever does not mean for always, that today and tomorrow can often be worlds apart. And you taught me that sometimes our darkest fears can become a reality, that bad things happen for no apparent reason, that regret can eat you up inside, and that moving forward doesn’t mean letting go.
You have touched the hearts of so many, spanning right across the globe, and you have given us a life we never dared to believe was possible. In such a short time you changed each of us and, over the last 12 years, you have made us exactly who we are meant to be, exactly where we are meant to be.
You are so loved and so missed, in every moment, in every heartbeat, in everything we do.
You, my darling little boy, have always been special.
And that, I always knew.