Every year when October comes around, the month of Pregnancy and Baby Loss awareness, I see my social media news feeds slowly fill with posts, with photos of pink and blue ribbons, heart wrenching quotes and the inevitable comments of, “Thinking of you”, “Lots of love” and “Big hugs”. And it breaks my heart that so many of my friends have suffered baby loss, at whatever gestation, under whatever circumstances, but it still astounds me that in 2016, when one in four pregnancies end in miscarriage, we are still skirting around the issue, still glossing over it with the lighting of candles and updating of profile pictures.
And every year at this time I ask myself, why is nobody talking about it? I mean actually talking about it? Why is nobody laying their soul bare, telling their story and saying, with brutal honesty, this is how it is and its horrific, it’s soul destroying, it’s unbearably painful and it’s happening, every single day, to somebody that you know?
So this year I was pleased, although I feel very uncomfortable using that word in this context, to see so many people taking part in the Carly Marie project, “Capture your grief”, where, over the thirty one days of October, those who have suffered a loss are encouraged to raise awareness through “mindful grief, healing and storytelling” with given prompts across social media. And whilst I’m not going to sit here and share all thirty one with you, I’m sure that would leave you all, and myself, emotionally drained, I would like to share with you one that, for me, is the most important.
Who they are.
And I’ll be honest, when I saw this prompt last night and read through the many, many posts shared across social media, I actually felt quite envious of the parents who had so many stories to tell. The parents who had lost their child to illness or sudden death, whose stories are absolutely heart breaking, so utterly tragic, and whose losses are so great I can’t even imagine how they ever found a way to survive them, but whose memories are so precious and real, something tangible to hold on to, and share, without fear that their only memories, and photos, of their children are tainted by death.
And I think that this is the one question which will haunt us forever, the fact that we will never know what he would have been like aged two, or aged ten, that we will never know his personality, his likes and dislikes, what our lives would have been like with him in it. Who they are? It’s undoubtedly a question that we will ask ourselves, time and time again over the years, and never really know the answer to, and whilst at first I thought that I had very little to share, it turns out that I have plenty.
Who was he?
He was the two, much sought after, lines on a pregnancy test one Christmas Eve, the Christmas present come early, the feeling of pure gratitude and excited anticipation at our growing family. He was the dinner table announcement, the smell of turkey and Christmas pudding, the congratulatory shrieks, slaps on the back, the tears of happiness and popping of champagne corks.
He was the little dot on the ultrasound scan, the most beautiful little flicker, the ever growing bean. He was our little secret for twelve long weeks, the nausea and the insatiable appetite, the early nights and the late mornings. He was the undeniable flutters in my tummy, the bloating in my belly, the bursting of my bras and the craving of all thing savoury.
He was the painting of the nursery, the buying of furniture, the building of the cot, the beautiful little baby gros, lovingly chosen and hanging in the wardrobe. He was the pram just waiting to be pushed, the teddy bears waiting to be held, the little brother that Lewis was so excited to meet, a partner in crime, a best friend forever.
He was the scans, far too many to count, the steroid injections, the weekly monitoring, the midwives and the doctors who we came to know on first name terms, the constant nagging feeling that something wasn’t right. He was the worry and the panic and the overwhelming relief every time we hit another milestone and our little fighter continued to grow.
He was the face on a 3d scan, the sucking of his thumb, the blink of his eyes, the kicks and the squirms and the tell tale signs of his hair. He was the spindly arms and legs, the big round belly, his little mouth opening and closing as we watched in complete amazement.
He was the hottest of Summers, the sunniest of Julys, ice creams in the sun, the cool evening breeze and the walks in the park. He was the excited chatter of a two year old Lewis, the fairy tale we told at bedtime, the other half of the terrible twosome we lay awake and imagined at night. He was our hopes and our dreams, the final piece of our jigsaw, the baby of the family and the very last little one we would shower with love.
He was the silence, the fear, the resounding words of a sonographer, the still figure on a screen. He was the complete and utter shock, the numbness and denial, the long, silent journey to the hospital. He was the cups of tea, laden with sugar, the flurry of consent forms and rushed explanations, the looks of sympathy and gentle pats on the back, the tearful midwife and the shake of her head.
He was thirty hours of labour, the excruciating pain, the silent prayers, the desperate hope that somehow they had made a mistake. He was the perfect sleeping angel, five pounds, ten fingers, ten toes, a mop of black hair, the most beautiful button nose and ruby red lips.
He was twenty four precious hours, the whispered lullabies, stories told, tears cried and memories made. He was the happiest of hellos, the saddest of goodbyes, the emptiness and the physical ache in our hearts. He was the end of our world as we knew it.
He was the all-consuming grief, the why’s, the what if’s, the maybe’s. He was the anger and hurt and frustration, the agonising feeling that life was so desperately unfair. He was the shallow grave, the wilting flowers, the lovingly placed stuffed animals in the cold, dark shadows of the setting sun.
He was the rainbows on the darkest of days, the brightest star in the sky, the warm Summer sun drying our tears. He was the sound of his brothers laughter, the twinkle in his eye, the beat of his heart and the DNA running through his blood. He was the angel on my shoulder, ever-present, a little ray of hope through the miracles that followed, the big brother we never dared imagine he would be.
He was a million different words, a thousand precious moments, a lifetime of sadness and despair, of love, pride and happiness, all rolled into one.
He was a baby.
He is Joseph Allan Emmerson.