Letting go

A long journey home

We were lucky I guess that we had people we could call to take us home. We had left our car at the local hospital we had taken Lexi to and gone directly to Great Ormond Street with her in the ambulance. We hadn’t thought we would need to be leaving the hospital again so soon after arriving. Leaving the hospital without our baby. Not long after Lexi had died, as we sat in silent shock, we agreed we must make a decision on a time we would leave so as to be home before our other children’s bedtime. We were lucky I thought to have children at home we could run back to and hug and kiss. I don’t know if we would have ever had been able to leave Lexi’s side if not.

As we stood by Lexi’s side as the machines were silenced, wires removed and tubes disconnected time seemingly stopped.  I wasn’t thinking anything in those moments. Just taking in every inch of her little body. Holding her hand and singing through the tears hoping she might hear us instead of the constant alarms of the machines. As she slipped away a reflex in her hand tightened around my finger. I could have stayed in that moment for ever. Having my beautiful baby holding onto me. I never wanted to let go and it was as if she didn’t either. A kind nurse explained it was just a reflex. There was no hope, no miraculous recovery. She just silently slipped away. I don’t know how long we stood there for. Or how we ended up sat back in a side room. There with my husband the nurse explained she would wash and dress Lexi and then bring her back to us. When she left the doctor returned. I expect its a formality as he said to us, “Alexa has died now.” As if we hadn’t of noticed as we stood holding her hands as she did. He said lots of things then. Some I heard and others despite how hard I was trying to listen I couldn’t. All I was able to say for the first few hours was “she died.” “How can she have died”. My sister told me several weeks later as she had helped me find my way to a toilet that was all I kept repeating to her. She said she was searching desperately for the right words to reply to me with but all she found was “I know”. We are not designed to be in those situations. No one explains what you say. Nothing can prepare you for what in those moments it feels like. The shock prohibiting the brain to think clearly, to form a sentence or even to take in what is being said. So as I sat there I picked out certain words the doctor was saying before I jumped in; “Her organs, can we donate her organs.” His face told the answer. I was clinging to some hope that she might be able to help someone else. In our family my husbands twin brother was on the kidney transplant list and my husband waiting to be placed on it. “You could donate her organs we want to help another family.” I don’t know how he worded it to make me understand but it was clear there would be no way. He thoughtful mentioned that maybe at some point we’d be able to donate her heart valves. It wasn’t until days, possibly weeks later I understood why. They couldn’t take her organs because they knew already a post mortem would be required. The doctor explained he couldn’t say why Lexi had died. He couldn’t guess, he wasn’t allowed. I heard the nurse asking me if I was OK. I remember looking at her and saying “Oh yes i’m fine thank you”. I’m fine? Really. What a question to ask, and what a way to answer. Clearly no one was fine. Nothing about the situation was fine, but again there was no way to express what I was feeling. I hadn’t even realised that tears had been streaming down my face. I was aware of a strange noise, a muffled screaming sound and it took a while to resonate that it was coming from me as the doctor explained she would be kept in the morgue at Great Ormond Street and we could visit her as many times as we wanted that week.

We sat in that room alone with our baby. Nothing could prepare me for how cold she quickly became. How strange the colouring in her skin was or how her nails had almost immediately turn red. How the colour from her sweet lips had gone or how if we held her at slightly the wrong position blood would trickle from her tiny nose. As we sat there we vowed no matter what, we would not blame each other. We would survive this together. And I made my husband promise me he wouldn’t die. In those moments the world suddenly became a very scary place. My husbands illnesses that had never phased me before, because bad things happen to other people right? Well it now seemed like the most likely outcome would be he would die. Cause there I was sat on a sofa holding my baby who had died. The words we spoke to each other in that room made no sense. It wasn’t a conversation I ever thought I would have. Who did we need to call to tell she had died? Who was going to tell my parents, sister and her partner who were waiting in the waiting area of the hospital? What were we going to tell our other children?

The nurses came to check on us often. Offering us drinks seeing if we could manage any food. We forced ourselves to have a drink of water. By this point I had been awake for nearly 3 days with only an hours nap in that time. I didn’t feel tired, didn’t need food or drink but there was no escaping the fact I had only 2 days before given birth. She suggested we take a walk, explained there was a garden just down the hall we could go and sit in. We walked aimlessly for some time not knowing what we were looking for before stumbling across a zen garden. I sat outside in the garden watching a stream. Andrew mentioned it was raining and I hadn’t even noticed. We went back to the room and found my parents and sister sitting with Lexi. I was so pleased she hadn’t been left alone. My mum, cuddling her fifth grandchild speaking to her softly, is something I can look back on now and be pleased she had that moment. They thoughtfully left us alone to spend some more precious moments. The nurses attempted to take hand and footprints from Lexi. The nurse tried but nothing seemed to be working. She returned sometime later with red paint, the only colour she could find. I have them in a box, still too a painful reminder to look at.

At some point we contacted Andrew’s brother and asked him to collect us. Our parents had travelled with my sister and they would go and collect our car for us from the other hospital. Andrew’s brother arrived at the hospital. He spent some time talking to Lexi. And then we agreed to leave. I kissed my little girl. Told her how sorry I was that I couldn’t bring her home and walked slowly from the hospital. I was aware as we walked out that people were staring. I couldn’t compose myself. Couldn’t quietly leave. I wanted to scream to everyone looking. I wanted to shout that I’d had to leave my baby behind. We walked in the rain to the car. As we drove back to Kent I received an alert on my phone. “Congratulations she’s beautiful….” I never read the message fully. I immediately deleted it. We decided we needed to write something to stop anymore congratulatory messages, having announced her birth the day before on Facebook. As we drove further and further away from our beautiful baby we tried to decide what to write. The world had kept turning, there was traffic on the roads, people walking about enjoying their Sunday and there we were not knowing what to say, trying to decide how to announce the death of our youngest daughter and working out what to say to our other children. Andrew chose a picture from the ones we had taken the day before and I wrote some words to go with it, we posted it to Facebook as we arrived back at our house. We went into the silent house to find the heating was broken, the world had not stopped despite our lives changing beyond recognition that morning.

Sophie

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4 Comments

  • Reply Sue February 13, 2018 at 10:46 am

    It broke my heart reading this, you are so brave to be able to write all this down and I hope and pray it will help other people in a similar situation.
    Your mom’s cousin Sue xxxx

  • Reply Kim Pennock February 15, 2018 at 11:19 am

    Lexi is so lucky to have such a beautiful wonderful mummy and daddy sister and brother to always hold her very close. We will all never forget her. ?

  • Reply Luci Wright February 16, 2018 at 7:56 am

    You are so brave to write this. I also believe that it helps people around us to deal with the situation if we talk about how we are feeling. And that in turn helps you. I’ve not lost a child but I have lost a happy marriage, and my beloved dad, over the last 3 years, so I have felt immense grief. Losing a child is more than I could imagine coping with, however. One step at a time was the only way for me, and to lean on my friends and family. I wish you strength, and send lots of love xx

  • Reply Ilgin May 25, 2018 at 10:54 am

    Dear Sophie, I don’t know you but had read your post on Sevenoaks Mums back in December with tears running down my eyes and have been thinking of you ever since from time to time….As your other blog post said I do have no words to say other than to tell you that you are a one very brave, wonderful woman and Lexi would have been very proud of you….I cried my eyes out reading your posts and my heart aches for you….You’ll be on my prayers….Wishing you all the strength you will need…..xx

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