Today a wave of light has been travelling around the world remembering all the babies who left us too soon. People are invited to light a candle between 7pm and 8pm. As 7pm passes through the time zones the light in turn spreads around the world.
I haven’t found the right words this week to talk about losing Lexi. I’ve read, watched and listened to many grieving parents accounts of how losing a baby has changed their lives. This is mine. This is what baby loss looks like in my life.
What does baby loss look like…
As we travelled to London, just three days before Christmas, we probably looked like any other commuter. I had wanted to take the train. I don’t know why but I didn’t want to go in the car. I think it already felt too painful to drive back the route we had driven just a few days before without our baby. On the early morning train we headed into London, heads down, not talking to each other or anyone around. There was no room to sit down and despite having only given birth a few days before I wasn’t interested in my body trying to tell me it needed to rest. I needed to get to London. I needed to get Andrew to his hospital appointment. He had suggested moving it but it had already been cancelled a week before and I didn’t want to risk waiting any longer.
We sat quietly in the renal departments waiting room. We had realised we needed to get the timings right for Andrew having the injection for his isotopic GFR. It involves having blood taken at specific times split throughout the day. We had some small fragment of luck on our hands that day. The nurse called him at the time we had hoped and so we thought we had avoided needing to explain our reasoning.
The cheery nurse was busy setting out what she needed and making small talk with us. And then came the unavoidable question. “Are you looking forward to Christmas?” Awkward pause. Silence and a stare. “Not really” I said. I wasn’t looking forward to anything. I was reliving every second of what we had endured a few days before. I was looking at needles, hearing beeps and was instantly transported back to the intensive care room we had stood in watching as doctors tried in vain to save her. “We’ve had a tough week.” I offered in a vain attempt to end the conversation. “Oh well,” the well meaning nurse said “Christmas will cheer you up i’m sure.” “Our daughter died on Sunday.” It was the first time I had to tell someone. The first time I saw that look. A look in the nurses eyes of witnessing her worst nightmare being lived by someone else. She sat and talked to us, hugged us and listened. We explained why we wanted to have the injection at a certain time. The night before we’d received a call that Lexi’s post mortem had been completed. Another thing we had no say in, but it was done and they said we could come back one last time to say goodbye. But that was the only day. Christmas was on Monday and it would have been too distressing to see her any later.
After that call we had decided we would go. We would attempt to rush from one London hospital to another, we found clothes we wanted to dress her in and we set off that morning on the train, to say goodbye to our daughter.
The hospital where Lexi was had made such amazing efforts to soften the devastation of what we were doing. We sat with Lexi, held her, washed and dressed her. We read books, took photos and sang to her. We cried more tears than I knew was possible. And in the blink of any eye it was time for Andrew to leave to get back to the other hospital. I couldn’t get up. I couldn’t put her down. Despite the blanket of shock I was wearing I knew this would be the last time I ever got to hold her. So I sat there cuddling her as Andrew had to leave. I told her how indescribably sorry I was. How sorry I still am and forever will be. That as her mummy I wasn’t able to keep her safe. I couldn’t save her from sepsis. The harsh reality of the situation was I couldn’t hold her any longer. I had to let her go. I had to put her back in the moses basket, tuck her in and kiss her a final goodnight.
What does baby loss look like in me? I was told recently that I do myself a disservice by carrying on. That people assume I am coping and strong. Inside I am irreparably broken. I am still that mummy that put down her baby and had to leave her behind. I carry that inside me everyday. I carry the moments we stood by her side holding her toes as she was pushed full of drugs and as doctors tried in vain for thirty minutes to restart her heart after the sixth cardiac arrest she suffered. I carry the feeling of the world falling away from my feet and collapsing to the floor as I was told there is nothing more we can do. I carry every moment after that, through the funeral, inquest and the unimaginably painful everyday with me always. And with any weight that you carry with you, you gain strength. Carrying on, finding a way to cope and outwardly appearing normal doesn’t do a disservice to myself. For as the weight becomes heavier, so too will my strength. I do not need to be one or the other.
I am broken and strong.