I have always said that for me, one of the hardest parts of losing a baby to stillbirth is the fact that at the end of the day, there are only a handful of memories to draw from. There are no memories of happy times, photos of smiling faces, video footage of Christmas mornings, summer holidays, the sound of laughter. It is possibly even more sad that with every birthday there is also the anniversary of their death, the two dates cruelly intertwined so that for every happy occasion it will always be eclipsed by so much sadness.
With every passing year I have struggled to accept just how fast the time is slipping away, how my memories are becoming a little hazier, how his name is spoken a little less by those we had hoped would never forget. And now, with his tenth birthday fast approaching this July, a whole decade suddenly feels like such a long time and the occasion appears all the more momentous, and I have been absolutely dreading it.
For that reason I decided that this year we would do something special to mark the occasion, to show him that although a whole decade has passed, he is still such a huge part of our family and still very much in our thoughts each and every day. And alongside those sentiments, the main thing for us is to continue to give back to a charity, the stillbirth and neonatal death society (SANDS) which has given so much support to me over the years and work tirelessly to ensure that more babies are making it safely into their parents arms.
Initially we came up with fanciful ideas of bungee jumps, sky dives and trekking along the Great Wall of China. We discussed cross country relay races, marathons, climbing mountains and yet, realistically, I am terrified of heights and aeroplanes, I have an aversion to exercise, being cold and get out of breath just walking up the stairs. And ultimately, we came to the same conclusion with each suggestion, that no matter how grand the gesture or how spectacular the occasion, none of these things would ever be enough.
And so instead, I decided that the most important thing for me was to celebrate his birthday with those who we love, with our friends and our families and those who have supported me through not only the best times of my life, but the absolute worst times. We imagined an occasion where everybody could come together, friends and strangers, adults and children, where there would be music and dancing and most importantly, the sweet sound of laughter. So after a lot of thought, and the on-going kindness of others, we found ourselves creating an event, the SANDS Summer Soiree.
For someone who is notoriously terrible at organising anything, I really do have my work cut out. Over the next four and a half months I need to work my way through the mother of all To Do Lists, find a DJ, various forms of entertainment, advertise and sell tickets and blag as many raffle prizes as possible to raise as much money as possible for an amazing cause. It’s going to be hard work, probably stressful at times, but when, and if, it all comes together, how amazing will that be?
Already I am touched, and so very honoured, that so many people have promised to be there for us on the night. Friends who have walked beside me every step of the way, family whose support has never faltered, and some of the kindest people I have still yet to meet who will be there with open arms after all this time. I am so emotional just thinking about it, and I am sure that there will be lots of tears on the night, but for the first time in such a long time I’m not dreading Josephs birthday at all, infact I am actually looking forward to it!
And don’t get me wrong, this isn’t a birthday party. There will be no cake or balloons, no chorus of Happy Birthday. Nor will there be my ten year old son, proudly blowing out his candles, smiling shyly at the camera and asking can we please just stop with all the photos. There will be no pile of presents, lovingly chosen and wrapped, no stack of cards bearing birthday messages from all of those who know and love him. There will be no fifth little person to pose for a family photo or to hold in my arms and whisper how proud I am of him, how I can’t believe he has reached double figures, that he will always be my baby no matter how big he grows. But there will be a celebration, a remembrance of his life and all that he taught me. There will be love, smiles, tears and laughter and the undeniable truth that sometimes, the smallest footprints leave the biggest imprints on our hearts.
So for any of you reading who live locally, we would love for you to join us on the 16th July at Charnock Richard Football Club. Details can be found here via our Facebook page and tickets will go on sale in the coming weeks. For those who are unable to attend, a Just Giving page has been set up in Josephs name, here, and all donations will be much appreciated. If any of you can help with raffle prizes, entertainment, advertisement or just general brainstorming, please do get in touch, I’m going to need all the help that I can get! I will be updating you with our progress along the way but for now, thank you for all of your kindness this far. Despite everything, I am such a lucky lady to have so many wonderful, supportive people in my life and I would love to share this with as many of you as possible.