Unflinching look at grief – the day Evie went to school

starting-school

Today is a difficult day. Today, my eldest daughter Evelyn should be going to school but she’s not. She’s not going anywhere. She’s been buried in a cemetery in Chipping Norton for nearly 5 years.

Still, she has been a constant presence in our lives, elusive and ethereal.A wisp so light and semi-transparent that dances around the periphery of my vision at all times and yet this ball of energy, this soul, carries the gravity of a planet, drawing me in, pulling me towards her trails of smoke, my hand daring to reach out and grasp her finally, only to touch nothing more than tingles of a shadow.

The yearning for my daughter, the desire to know her, feel her, experience her; to laugh with her, know her fears, learn her interests, marvel at her features, smell her skin before bedtime and a millions other ways we become experts on our children is insatiable. I am greedy, hungry for her and yet have been denied.

The milestones are always hard. Society has so neatly structured our children’s lives with markers that you cannot ignore them – they are everywhere. For me today, I feel an outsider looking in, a famished parent looking through the window with starved eyes onto a huge feast of crisp new school uniforms, obligatory pictures of  beaming smiles standing statue-straight against random doors in the house, tearful goodbyes (from the parents) at the school gates, new black shoes and colourful school bags brimming with promise and expectancy. I am Separate, Different.

Mum and daughter going to school

I have tried, quite successfully, until now, to push aside these thoughts of school, these comparisons of what would have been. I have learnt that to go down that road of wishing for the old life, wanting that previous trajectory to follow carefully and loving crafted plans is a bitter one and nothing but misery can come from it. I have learnt that I can devise new plans and carefully and loving throw out my heart into the future once more to see what wonderful things can come of it. I have learnt it and I live it… most of the time.

But today, today I must unflinchingly look once more at my grief. Unfold the memories and cry. Sob out loud my dismay, my hurt, my anger, my sadness, my love. Declaring that this sucks validates how I feel and by doing so I become less separate and different. By doing so I find a warm reception from others just like me, fellow mourners making our way through life, navigating the milestones, helping each other along the way. By doing so I also discover I am not alone and have ready comfort given by those close to me who have not lost a child. Their compassion and regard are just as valuable and reviving. For they lost Evelyn too. If it takes a village to raise a child, it also takes a village to remember and mourn a child.

So today is hard and my heart is heavy, my eyes are sore and my head is lowered but I will put one foot in front of the other.. for next year, next year I will be sat at the feast with Poppy and I can’t wait.

Until next time, do what you can to find your smile

xx

So where did it all start? First comes love, then comes marriage and then comes a baby in a baby carriage. Part 1

So where did it all start?

Having been focused on getting my career started after leaving university and being newly married, I didn’t have much time or inclination to think about having children.

My sister had a son and being an aunty was quite enough for me.  So for someone like me that was not really inclined towards babies, this had definite contraceptive properties. I was content with my life as it was 1+1 = 2 and I was in no hurry to make it = 3.

I was still thrilled to say ‘husband’ not ‘boyfriend’ and tried to get it into conversations as often as I could. My husband (see what I did there?) Matt, and I had met at school, he was 16 and I was 17 – yes I wooed a younger man. We had been together for 7 years when we got married near our Cotswold home in a hotel. A beautiful grapevine, from which the hotel took its name, ran the length of the ceremony room where we lovingly said our vows in front of all our friends and family.

We were excited about all life had to offer and the wind felt full of potential and opportunity. Sorry that sounded a bit Jane Austen or something, but it was true. We both had new jobs – our first ‘proper’ jobs – and we were using all our energy to navigate the choppy waters of the ‘world of work’. I found it hard not to take everything personally and would often get my knickers in a twist about small and sometimes insignificant episodes at work. The idea that I had done something wrong or didn’t understand something was clearly shameful and obviously any criticism was tantamount to a dismissal and would surely indicate my last day in the job. (oh my stupid brain!)

My perfectionism frequently got the better of me in those first few year of work, but now I must say that with my new perspective on what really matters I am somewhat more relaxed about work. While still seeing it as important (clearly) I can just separate myself from it better and be more matter of fact about the task in hand. Any way back to neurotic Lydia… I loved being a working gal with my cute office clothes and heels, going to after-work events and mingling, I mean networking, with other young professionals. It suited my love of conversation and mildly flirtatious nature, I thought I’d made a grand choice in PR as a career and enjoyed the writing challenges it gave me. So we were two Oxfordshire newly-weds living in Birmingham making our first forays into work, owning a car and generally doing grown up stuff.

So far so good.


 

Baby in a baby carriage
Baby in a baby carriage

In the summer before we had our first foray into parenthood, we decided that it was a journey we wanted to undertake.

I was unhappy in my PR job (shock I know) and wanted a change. Living in Birmingham meant we missed our families in Oxfordshire so with a little one on the way moving back home felt right. It was the next chapter and we were excited and giddy at the thought.

We were blissfully naïve to the consequences of our innocent choice to start a family. I had spent my youth taking every precaution not to get pregnant and surely now we had made the decision to have a baby it would happen very quickly, wasn’t that how it worked? I’m sure this notion of getting pregnant being easy came from secondary school where us girls were taught that if you did not actively prevent pregnancy it would definitely happen. So now as a responsible adult it surely couldn’t be simpler, you chose to start a family and it happened.

For us, thank goodness, it was rather simple; it took 6 months to conceive each of our girls. However, I must at this point just say that since losing Evie we have meet many people who have lost their babies, some of whom getting pregnant in itself was a cause of grief. It has taught me that having children is not a right; it is not deserved by some and not by others, the biological mysteries of who can and cannot is beyond all of us, in spite of scientific advances.

So we put our plan into action and life become fuller; indeed, I became increasingly large with expectation literally and figuratively. I had a new job as a PA and found out I was pregnant the week after joining the company – not ideal but I embraced the change in pace and growing belly. I was nauseous for 3 months straight and only emerged from tiredness and the toilet bowl at around 14 weeks, I was round but not obviously pregnant and I felt that cliché glow of a mum-to-be. I really did feel I was carrying a VIP, well a VILP – very important little person – and I proudly stroked my tummy, discussing the latest pregnancy factoid I’d learnt as if I alone had discovered the miracle of childbearing and as a leading expert was duty bound to share the secrets.

I realise now that I approached this pregnancy – my first – as if it were a module at university. I studied hard and felt calm and confident, reassured by my knowledge of what was happening to my body. I had mastered the process and therefore was in control of it. I was convinced knowing the theory was enough to pass the practical with flying colours. I felt entitled to this little baby, it was mine and it was an absolute certainty that I would meet them and look after them in 9 months time. Pre- and post natal issues and labour difficulties were for other people; faceless people I didn’t know who lived far away. They were not for the likes of me – (special people who get what they want, perfectly as they planned it). Oh how that thought makes me chuckle now, chuckle in a 1950s cartoon villain kind of way that is.

To be continued…

Until next time, do what you can to find your smile.

Lydia

x

And the Nobel Peace Prize goes to… how to stayed married when you lose a baby

Loosing a baby is a very harsh lesson in perspective. It really levels the playing field in terms of what is important and what just isn’t. When you can say ‘well it’s not as bad as my baby dying’ then everything falls into place…or does it?

I know I’ve just said that experiencing such a tragedy makes you really not sweat the small stuff but I must admit there were many times when the little things were all I could think of.

My pregnancy with my second daughter was a contradiction of not being able to see anything but the bigger picture and focusing on tiny annoyances.

The pregnancy was tough for many reasons:

  • my body had not recovered from the deliver of Evie and getting pregnant only six months after meant the hormones coursing through my veins played havoc on my stretching muscles.
  • It was a constant battle to keep me mobile and independent. By the time I got to 19 weeks I started having physio at the same hospital where Evie died. The almost weekly trips to have painful muscle massage to help me walk for the rest of the week were exhausting.
  • Trying to control my anxiety was also a constant battle. Managing my fear of losing this baby and trying to function threatened to bubble up and drown me at any moment.
  • I was trying to hold down the new job I had got at the University of Oxford, do my share of the housework, cooking, oh and appear sane and not let on that I was going mad.

SO… quite a list really!

I often found the enormity of the ‘big picture’ just too damn scary, the realities of death and the genuine possibility of babies dying was overwhelming. So in a way the ‘little things’, like whether my blessed husband had put the towels back properly in the bathroom, became much more of a priority. It was easier to be swept up into petty arguments to distract from the grim reaper permanently sat in the corner of the room.

Big picture

I’m sure you’ll agree the whys and the wherefores of how much cleaning each person has done that week are insignificant in the scheme of things, especially when compared to – is this as bad as Evie dying? Honestly though, I really do think it morphed into a competition between my husband and I to see who could be the most tired or hard done by. We irritated each other frequently in our independent struggles to keep going. I think I nearly drove my other half mad by rearranging the fresh washing he had spent half an hour laying out. This was exacerbated because increasingly he had to take on the lion’s share of household tasks as I drew nearer my due date. He also had to navigate my Jekyll and Hyde mood swings which would give UN Peace Keepers a run for their money – (I blame the hormones, oh and the huge stress I was under). So part diplomat, part housemaid = being my husband in 2012, and was a feat worthy of the Nobel Peace Prize – God bless my husband.

People don’t talk about the strain losing a baby puts on a healthy relationship

It was a very intense time with reality and our senses in a constantly heightened state. Our nerves were raw and frazzled and we had little reserves or resources to cope with the little curved balls life always throws at you (parking tickets, dropped jars of jam, bad driving of others – you get the picture). It felt more like a haunted house ride with one fright or scare after another or Total Wipeout (naff TV show with obstacles presented by Richard Hammond). Life had gone from feeling reasonably easy and straightforward – a ramble through country lanes if you will – to full on attempting to summit Mount Everest.

Now for the pseudo – psychology – wisdom according to me…

Within a healthy relationship there is a normal ebb and flow where each person needs to take from the other and both are happy to give to the other. This flow of support from one to the other and back again can be for small and big things, for example:

  1. Man reassuring woman regularly that she’s beautiful no matter her size and woman supporting man through applying for a new job.
  2. Woman putting man’s clothes away that have been there all week and man taking out the bins weekly.

In scenario 1. He may be annoyed that she doesn’t seem to hear him when he tells her she’s gorgeous but he loves her so will tell her as many times as she needs. She knows he’s shy about talking about himself and his achievements but he wants the job so she’ll talk interview tips with him and say how proud she is of him until he feels ready for it.

In scenario 2. Both parties are compromising to help the other and get the chores done. She doesn’t like doing the smelly kitchen bin so he does it. He’s often deals with work calls in the evening so doesn’t get chance to tidy and she is happy to help keep the bedroom tidy for both their ease.

In both scenarios neither partner feels compromised and both feel their efforts are appreciated, recognised and add to the overall well being of the household. Crucially neither feel taken for granted.


 

When a baby dies there are huge discrepancies between what each person needs at any one time in order to survive the day, moreover asking for what you need becomes ten million times harder.

So you’ve got two people who were very happy, felt equal and valued in their relationship who experience a trauma that tears at the very fabric of that well stitched union. Both want to take support from the other without being able to return the favour – something’s got to give.

Relationships can feel like a tug of war
Relationships can feel like a tug of war
For us, initially I was very needy both physically and emotionally. I was a support leech; you would offer it, I’d take it, and I wouldn’t be able to give you anything in return. But perhaps more significantly, after the first 2 years when my physical needs lessened, I still felt the dire need for emotional support and that it was my husband’s job to give it to me. I didn’t realise it but I believed he owed me. He owed me for suffering the physical trauma of our daughter’s birth and getting off without a visible scratch. I weighed our suffering and ruled my was more/worse and so he had to make up for this huge injustice and inequality of pain.

In essence my daughter’s death created an imbalance between us – a black hole that threatened to drag us down. There isn’t a statistic on how many relationships in the UK breakdown after the loss of a baby but it doesn’t surprise me. The strain can be intolerable at times and take you to breaking point. The long-term effect of me believing that my husband had the responsibility of making me feel better about what happened could easily have spelled disaster but it is not all doom and gloom.

Grace – sometimes it’s all you can have for yourself, your partner, your relationship.

This is what I think grace means:

Grace is the free and unlimited favour given to someone regardless of whether you feel they deserve it. It means forgiving and understanding someone when they cannot necessarily see the consequences of their own words and actions on you or others. You can also demonstrate grace towards yourself.

I truly believe this is what saved us – grace.

We needed it in spades but by hanging on in there when it was really tough, by remembering why we ever loved each other and holding on to the belief that we were stronger than this trauma helped us muddle through the darkest time of our lives and our relationship. We did not want our daughter’s death to come between us and destroy all the good between us.

The most difficult thing to tolerate is each person grieving differently and not understanding the other person’s demonstrations of grief. This is where grace can be a light in a dark place.

If you are reading this and feel you can relate to anything I have said, remember this:

You are not alone in your grief, you will survive this time, you only have to be good enough and try your best – it is all anyone can ask of us and the most we can asked of ourselves.

Relationships are so private and unique to each pair of individuals but I wanted to share what needs to be talked about so we can support each and not feel alone. I’d love to hear your comments if you feel the same.

Until next time, do what you can to find your smile.

Lydia

x

The art of convalescing

I had an overwhelming need to convalesce in the very old-fashioned sense.

I need to retreat into myself, my family and home to lick my wounds and slowly regain my health and mind. I spent just over 4 months at home after Evelyn died but I can’t really tell you what I did for most of that time. I clung to Matt up until Christmas as he was off on compassionate leave, I helped my brother-in-law with his business accounts and answering the phone; but other than that I can’t really recall. I felt physically possessed by my grief, riddled with it and desired nothing more than to be in intensive care with experts handling my fragile state. It does sounds rather melodramatic but I really did feel winded by the trauma of what had happened, it was so at odds with my expectation that I reeled from this sudden change in direction for some time.

Me as a 19th century woman convalescing
Me as a 19th century woman convalescing

Having said that, I did try to push myself back into the real world at the start of the New Year by joining two recruitment companies with the aim of getting a full-time job…it didn’t go well. To begin with, sitting on the bus ride over was agonising due to my enduring injuries sustained during the delivery. This vein continued when I blubbed like a baby (kind of no pun intended) when I explained why I was looking for a job to the bewildered but kind recruitment lady, who sympathetically suggested I stay home, try to get pregnant again and put this working nonsense behind me. Not wholly helpful but I took the caring intention behind her words and cancelled my other interview that day and spent it with my aunt instead.

This period of my life was a strange twilight zone where new events and experiences came thick and fast and as an extended family we all entered the kind of trance-like acceptance that this crazy was the new norm. My visit to my aunts after the fateful recruitment meeting is a prime example where my aunt comforted me and then asked if I wanted to have a walk down to the funeral home because she needed to sort out some details of my Nan’s funeral. “Of course”, I replied, “why not, I need some fresh air,” as if this were an everyday occurrence and there was nothing distressing at all about my morning so far and that fact that my nan had just died and would be lying dead behind a wall metres from me at the funeral home.

…And so life continued in this vein for what felt like the whole of 2012, ‘A Series of Unfortunate Events’ by Lemony Snicket was starting to feel autobiographical rather than fictional if I’m honest.

Sleep

Something that people may not realise when someone grieves intensely is the lack of sleep or disrupted sleep that often comes hand in hand with it. It takes that peace that allows you to sleep soundly at night; and of course everything is worse at night – it’s dark, quiet and there are fewer distractions from your thoughts. I can remember all to clearly crying my eyes out sat in the dark of my living room looking out the window at 2 -3 -4 am pleading for the pain to subside enough for welcome sleep to envelope me. Sometimes it did and others it seemed to elude me.

Insomnia or troubled sleep adds to the sense of living in some twilight parallel universe because you permanently feel like a zombie living off adrenaline. You’re energy feels thin and insubstantial – you have no reserves or resources to draw upon, you are spent in your primal desire to survive but surviving means somehow bearing the awful pain that greets your every waking moment.So sleep then is your relief…if you can get any.

For me sleeping was a small mercy because I did not dream about what had happened; my brain protected me from reliving it while I slept. I believe in total I have had 3 dreams about Evie since she died and I am someone who has vivid, detailed dreams that I can recall in the morning with clarity, so I was so grateful to have peace when I slept. I know, however, this is not the case for many.

Why convalescing? Because it means:

to become healthy and strong again slowly over time after illness, weakness, or injury.

Latin convalēscere to grow fully strong, equivalent to con- con-+ valēscere to grow strong ( val (ēre) to be well + -escere -esce )

Synonyms: ambulatory; coming back; healing; mending; rallyinggaining strengthgetting bettersgetting over somethingpast crisis; recovering; recuperating; rejuvenating; restored.

References: dictionary.reference.com ; merriam-webster.com ; thesaurus.com

 

Lack of sleep can:

  1. slow down your thought processes
  2. Impair your memory
  3. Make learning difficult
  4. Slow down reaction times
  5. alter your mood significantly – make you irritable, angry and may lessen your ability to cope with stress.

According to the NSF, the “walking tired” are more likely to sit and seethe in traffic jams and quarrel with other people. Sleep-deprived people polled by the NSF were also less likely than those who sleep well to exercise, eat healthfully, have sex, and engage in leisure activities because of sleepiness.

“Over time, impaired memory, mood, and other functions become a chronic way of life,” says Siebern. “In the long term, this can affect your job or relationships.”

Chronic sleepiness puts you at greater risk for depression. They are so closely linked that sleep specialists aren’t always sure which came first in their patients. “Sleep and mood affect each other,” says Verceles. “It’s not uncommon for people who don’t get enough sleep to be depressed or for people who are depressed to not sleep well enough.”  Reference: www.webmd.com

So now you can see why we all go loopy for a while when our baby dies. Please share you’re thoughts and experiences of needing to convalesce or the lack of sleep – this is not discussed and should be.

Until next time, do what you can to find your smile again.

Lydia x

The day after… the aftermath

The beginning of the rest of my life
The beginning of the rest of my life

The day after I stood looking out of the bedroom window at the clear blue, crisp late autumn day, my favourite kind – how has this happened, how was I here and not pregnant? Everything looked so serene, a beautiful day; it should have been my second with my beautiful baby. We had slept in my brother’s bedroom as we were too much in shock to enter our apartment. The fear of the day had followed us home and we were afraid to go back into our house, which hadn’t been told that the plan had gone awry. It was just as we had left it the night before, full of hope and excitement, full. To go back would emphasis our lack of full arms and highlight our hearts full of loss.

We were required to return to the hospital to been seen by a queue of doctors, midwives, chaplains and lastly a registrar. It was exhausting for us both. I just remember lying on a hospital bed in a side room, hurting from head to toe inside and out, with the chaplain telling Matt that he had to look after me and think about being off work to take care of me. My dear husband lent against the windowsill, sunlight streaming past his hunched shoulders, the weight of the world settling on them. As this experienced man spoke, as he had done this many times before I suppose, there was a tangible sense of Matt taking on the manly mantle of caring for his distressed and hurting wife. He was not asked how he was, it didn’t seem important, he must turn his attention to me in full and ‘be there for me’ in the days and months ahead. Poor thing, poor us.

Neither of us were in much of a state to care for the other and so began the months of swapping between being career and cared for. Sometimes our roles would fluctuate throughout the day and other it seemed an endless stretch of me being cared for, I just needed so much. I was a leech sucking on the goodness of anyone who got near enough – offer any morsel of kindness and I’d eat you out of house and home. I was so needy and it felt strange to be so reliant on others but I had no choice, the delivery was traumatic to my body and I had trouble walking, sitting, standing – everything really except lying down, as long as it was on my side. My once stubborn, independent streak had been worn down and I was forced to submit to my need for intensive support to move around the house and look after myself. I hated it! I was so vulnerable physically and in so much pain and discomfort it took its toll on my state of mind and lead me to some dark places I can tell you.

For a long time when I thought of what had happen to me that day to get Evelyn out I felt assaulted, man-handled and abused. At the time I really was secondary to Evelyn and getting her out, I was happy to let them do what they needed to. I’d never truly been in a position of genuinely putting someone else ahead of myself. I know you change when you find out you are pregnant – you immediately have to adapt your life, what you can eat and drink, to ensure the wellbeing of the little one growing inside, but this was off the chain (to quote Hot Fuzz, an excellent film by the way). Looking back it was a very humbling experience and a sense that has stayed with me ever since of how much unconditional love owns you, compels you and brings out the best in you. I was at my best that fateful day, it was my most unselfish and perhaps my finest motherly act, to not fight them as they tried to loosen Evelyn’s shoulders enabling her to be born.

Until next time, do what you can to find your smile again

Lydia

x

So… what happened? How did Evelyn die?

Ok – deep breath – I think I’m ready now to tell you about what happened, to explain why I’m so traumatised and why I’m writing at all…

Indeed, the house felt pregnant just as we were and one evening as I lay in bed recovering from the flu; which I had not been able to shake for two weeks, there was an excitement in the air as I called to Matt to come to our bedroom. I had rolled over in bed and mid roll I had felt a pop and then liquid, nervously I suggested that my waters had broken. I had a rush of adrenaline as I started to try and wrap my head around the fact that the mystically adventure of childbirth was beginning. The only way I can describe it is that my mind just cleared and I became very focused on my mission: Mission Baby. I knew I would be up all night so stayed in bed to get what rest I could, I recalled what I had read – that this stage could take hours and having been ill I wanted to conserve my energy.

Matt flitted around excitedly like a moth to light, fussing over me, checking then rechecking the hospital bag, that was his job and he took it very seriously. Another job he took up with extreme vigour was putting in the car seat. He spent goodness knows how long out in the car, in the dark, trying to fit the thing and conquered it just as I was starting to really find out the difference between Braxton Hicks tightenings and real contractions – am I right ladies? Slowly but surely the contractions started to come on stronger and more regularly; in fact I know this for a fact because Matt had downloaded a labour app and was helping my time each contraction and length of time between them – what a modern father. Actually it was really useful because when we decided to call the midwife unit again and they asked about the contractions, we could describe with twentieth century accuracy their development over the hours.

One vivid memory I have as we left for the hospital was the excitement, the expectation, the anticipation… the hope. As my mum and step dad waved us off it was all very civil and tame – a big hug and a ‘see you on the other side-esque’ farewell. We fully expecting to see them in the morning with a baby. The chilly October night air did little to quell our delight that the wait was finally nearly over and after a very uncomfortable but thankfully short drive we arrived at the birthing unit of our little town…

Now I can literally feel my fingers slowing down as I type this, my pulse is quickening as we draw near to the trauma. By writing this story I cannot pretend it is a story, a fiction, I cannot rely on one of my scripts to get me through. I feel like I am going back there, going through it again as I lay down the sentences, words and letters that spell out our disaster. Dare I go on to tell the details that few people have heard first hand – the long version that is, the uncut visceral version that means you can see me at my most vulnerable? I’ll just tell myself, “For Evie, my Evie”. If one person can be helped to feel not alone in their grief it is worth it, through gritted teeth I will tell you what happened.

After a routine labour, textbook progression to full dilation and pushing baby down – their words, not mine – it was time to see our little girl. I was in the birthing pool so they moved me around to get into better positions for baby to crown. Suddenly the midwife’s voice changed and she became very firm, concise and serious, “get out the pool now”, she said with a telling urgency. I complied unquestioningly asking for help to get me out of the pool with essentially my baby’s head between my legs (you get the picture). Then things moved very fast. It was clear she was not coming out easily and there was a rush to ease her stuck shoulders. All I am going to say is that they had to perform several, increasingly invasive manoeuvres on me to try and dislodge her and allow her to be born. The pain of limbs being grabbed and pushed beyond their normal limits, helped to stretch by hormones, an episiotomy with no pain relief and the echoes of my cries as several people rushed in to work on me is an experience branded on my mind forever.

The indelible ink of those moments are not images as such, my eyes tightly screwed up in horror meant most of the memories run deep in my muscles, the dark depths of my mind’s eye rather than in Technicolor, although no less vivid. Images, however, are all my husband has of those excruciating moments that determined our daughter’s life. He bravely held my hand and silently stifled his tears as his world fell apart literally before his eyes. It pains me to think of how he suffered, actually without sounding melodramatic it hurts my very soul to think how he suffered, how I suffered and how our darling girl suffered. Oh this is tougher than I thought to put down in words…

When the rush of relief swept over me, signalling they had finally got Evelyn out, it had been seven long minutes. The seven longest minutes of my life, too long, but long enough to destroy my daughter’s chance of a life. I just can’t believe it, I cannot believe I’m recounting an experience that is mine and not someone else’s… please let this be someone else’s story.

She was rushed away to waiting doctors out of my line of sight. Then, before I could comprehend what had happen she was taken out of the room to a waiting ambulance, I saw the side of her face and head. Incidentally it was the last time I saw her alive.

I was left lying there in shock, numb from the head down crying and looking between Matt and one of the midwives for reassurance that would never come. The midwives and other medical staff agreed that I could wait to be stitched up and that we could follow Evelyn in another ambulance to the large hospital 20 miles away.

The journey is the longest, most terrible I have ever endured. I started praying out loud and didn’t stop through the endless minutes and miles to the hospital as we traced the path our daughter had already taken. I remember at one point the midwife who accompanied us lamenting, “the power of prayer!”. I was doing the only thing I could for my family, crying out, pleading for my daughter’s safety and for peace, neither of which ever came.

We finally arrived at the hospital and the waiting staff opened the doors of the ambulance. This is the point when my husband says he knew she was dead because they did not say anything to us as they wheeled me out on the bed; they did not say she was critical and they would take us to her now, they did not say she was ok but poorly: they said nothing. In a cold, anonymous corridor a doctor crouched down beside me and before she could wipe the tears to speak I asked her, “she’s dead isn’t she?”. A silent nod confirmed my worst fear and I crumpled into my hands as the tears began to flow uncontrollably, my life energy flowing out of me with each hot teardrop.

I literally feel hot and close to tears just writing this, but I must write it, I must try to make sense of it, I have so many hurts and regrets about the hours after we were told she had died. The shock drew over me like a veil; I could not take anything in. I could not look at my daughter as she was placed in my husband’s heavy arms, I could not accept what I was seeing – a beautiful bundle of joy, but lifeless and still.

My mum and brother had followed us to the hospital and all I can remember is my mum sobbing, “I’m so sorry, I’m so, so sorry”. She asked what we had called our daughter, and without discussion we both agreed ‘Evelyn’, which means life and wished for child and she really was.

We were led to a private room where we stayed for the rest of the day. Slowly the rest of our immediate families joined us in our sorrow and to see Evelyn. It again was one of many perverse parodies of what we all should have been doing on the day she was born. We should have been showing her off, instead we struggled to be in the same room as her.

The first time we were along with her, just us three was to dress her in our clothes we had lovingly picked for her first day. Bizarrely for a few moments I enjoyed the decision making of choosing the clothes, rummaging through the carefully prepared hospital bag for the perfect outfit. A brief glimpse of what might have been. The saddest part for me about dressing our daughter is that we couldn’t do it. Every time we tried to touch her or thought we saw her head move we were frightened and confused that she may have made those movements herself. Like some horror show she was not dead, instead I was terrified she was hovering between life and death and would suddenly open her eyes or something equally disturbing. It was hugely distressing. In the end we asked the midwife to help us but she did it quickly so I never got to see my baby’s body in full.

This is where I get very upset, so many regrets pile up and threaten to overwhelm me and my memories of my child. In all we didn’t spend much time with her at all probably 40 minutes and after we left the hospital that day we never saw her again. I discuss this in my post “The conversation of Death” that I just wish someone would have gently shown us there was nothing to be afraid of, helped us to calm down and study our precious one, that she was not a dreadful character but our daughter, a human being to be explored and considered with dignity. I do not think I showed her the respect she deserved, that I should have shown her as her mum. I am so mortified that my shock prevented me from spending quality time with my daughter. I feel robbed of those moments that I can never reclaim, salvaging what I can from the wreckage is all I can do now; picking over these bones hurts and subsequently I do not do it often.

Even over three years later I cannot shake the sense of deep shame I carry for how I could not look at her when she was brought into us after we arrived at the hospital. I could not hold her or appreciate her. I could not touch her or take her in. I am so sorry. I am so sorry I could not look at you properly, as a mother should, and say you were mine. I regret that those precious hours were stolen from me by my shock.

I don’t know about you but I need a drink!

So until next time do what you can to find your smile

Lydia x

Our darling Evelyn
Our darling Evelyn