Sorry for what?
That I couldn’t give him to you alive.
It has been 12 weeks since Otis was born in to the arms of angels. 12 weeks, already. Where is the time going? And I think it is safe to say that they have been the most confusing 12 weeks of my life. This road is such a long, hard one. I cannot even compare it to something more relatable to those who have never been through it, because there’s just nothing that comes even close to describing what it is like being on this journey. It has been long and exhausting but it has passed, so far, in the blink of an eye. This probably isn’t making any sense at all to people who have never had to deal with this inexplicable pain; but nothing about this ‘makes sense.’
It is not ‘right.’
It is not ‘fair.’
It is not ‘the natural order of things.’
Losing a child goes against every expectation, every law of nature, every innate ability to grieve …
You’re at the starting line, you’re about to set off, you’re nervous but happy and excited. You set off speeding, determined to make it to the end and you’re sure you want to get there quickly. A few seconds pass and you slow down a little, realising that you have quite a way to go and you need to take it steady. A few more seconds pass and you have completed over 1/4 of the race and you’re still in the lead – Phew! You’re safe! Nothing can take this away from you now – you continue at the steady pace you have found comfortable. A few more seconds pass and you have completed over 1/2 of the race – You’re definitely safe now, and you’re over half way there! This moment is definitely yours – you continue. You start to speed up a little, knowing you’re past the half way line and the end is in sight. You have prepared for this. You know everything you have been doing, everything you have been working for, is coming down to these final moments. A few more seconds pass, you’re 7/8 of the way there now, the finishing line is just milliseconds away …
Everything is black, you open your eyes but you can’t move, you can’t talk. You can feel that you still exist, you can feel that your heart is still beating in your chest, you can hear people talking around you, you can see people coming toward you but you just cannot function. You realise, at that point, that your hard work and determination, that your sheer excitement to be there, has come to an abrupt end. You don’t understand why. None of it makes sense.
You know you’re alive but you cannot live.
You know you have ears but you cannot hear.
You know you can see that people around you are talking but you cannot process the words coming out of their mouths.
You know that it’s over. You know that it’s done. That’s it. You were so close to that finishing line and you just didn’t make it.
5 weeks pass and you’re struggling to come to terms with how that race came to such an abrupt end – you’re trying to figure out how to cope with missing out on the glory of winning. You’re fighting with yourself every single day about what you could have done differently to ensure that you won. You blame yourself. You insist that you failed. You think constantly about the ‘what ifs’ and the ‘if onlys’ … WHAT IF I didn’t glimpse backwards for that millisecond? WHAT IF I had trained harder? WHAT IF I had focused more on the race at hand instead of being ahead of myself and focusing on life after I win? IF ONLY I didn’t take it for granted. IF ONLY I didn’t assume I would make it to the end …
Then you receive an email off your coach, telling you how well you ran that race, telling you how amazing it was that you got to the end (even though you didn’t), telling you that they’re happy for your achievement in winning a gold medal that you didn’t win.
You’re probably wondering why the fudge I just compared stillbirth to a race. It may be strange to those who have never walked this path but it was the only thing I could compare it to, to describe how quickly and how sudden stillbirth occurs.
One second a child’s heart is beating, then it just stops.
It doesn’t matter how prepared a person is; it doesn’t matter whether you know weeks or days before your child passes that they’re going to die, it does not change the course of it happening. A child’s life ends. Just. Like. That.
Death does not care if you have read all the baby books in existence. Death does not care if you bought a cot at 6 weeks gestation or at 32 weeks gestation. Death does not care if you’re an excitable buyer who was ready for your baby’s arrival at 18 weeks, or if you’re still not ready at 38 weeks. Death does not spare feelings. Death does not have morals. Death does not have mercy.
If a child’s heart is going to stop beating, then it’s simply just going to stop. And there is NOTHING that can be done about it.
Your child cuts their knee – you can put a plaster on it and it will heal in a couple of days.
Your child has a cough/cold – you can give them cough syrup and they’ll feel better.
Your child is teething – that will soon pass, they don’t teeth forever.
Your child has a nappy rash – that will soon pass, they don’t stay in nappies forever.
Your child is dead; his heart has stopped beating – there is nothing you can do to change that.
The feeling of being so powerless, so helpless, is overwhelming. It hurts, knowing there is absolutely nothing I could have done to ensure my child was born healthy and alive. It doesn’t matter how many people tell me otherwise, I will always blame myself for the death of my child.
I grew him. My body was supposed to nurture him. My body was supposed to protect him. My body was supposed to keep him alive until he was ready to be born ALIVE. And it didn’t. It couldn’t and it didn’t. I will never forgive myself for that.
So imagine sitting on the floor of your bathroom in floods of tears, completely vulnerable and cuddling your deceased baby’s blanket to your chest …
You have an email.
‘This week, you may find that your baby discovers his hands and feet. He’s just starting to realise that these wriggly bits belong to him! You can add to his fun by playing This Little Piggy with his toes. Your baby is finding new ways to express himself all the time. Enjoy his gurgles, coos and grunts as he gradually learns to communicate without crying.’
All that would ring true, if my precious son wasn’t buried 3 feet under the ground in a tiny blue coffin. I will NEVER be able to enjoy Otis’ gurgles, coo and grunts. I will NEVER be able to watch Otis learn to express himself. I will NEVER be able to play games with his perfect little toes. I will NEVER experience the joy of seeing Otis discover his beautiful little limbs. And receiving an email, after unsubscribing from said sender over 8 times, was just cruel. It felt like it was being rubbed in my face that I will never have the chance to do any of those things with him.
It physically hurt, reading it.
I live every single day with constant reminders. I know through having a MEMORY BOX under my coffee table in the living room with a picture of Otis on the front, instead of a swing or a bouncer; through having a MEMORY PLAQUE on my wall instead of pictures of my open-eyed bouncing 12 week old baby boy; through having to visit a GRAVE if I want to ‘see’ my son, instead of being able to hold him to my chest; that he isn’t here, that he is dead and that he isn’t ever coming home. I do not need reminders from outside sources of what he SHOULD be doing, of what he COULD be doing, of what I WISH he was doing.
The thing that angers me about the messages I have received is knowing that I’m not the only person who has ever received them. Hundreds of parents have been through the same distress – as if losing and burying / cremating a child isn’t enough.
Thankfully, since receiving the messages off said sender for the 8th time, I took it upon myself to seek the help of a friend who is like a brother to me, to ensure it stopped and didn’t happen to other people either.
After days of messaging, tears and stress, we have finally been told that the ‘unsubscribe’ system for this app/support network is going to be completely overhauled so loss parents can opt out of messages with a simple click of one button.
The silence and ignorance surrounding stillbirth needs to end. It should not be a taboo. Those beautiful children born in to Heaven should not just become part of a statistic and it is SO important for such issues to be addressed in order to achieve that. I am determined to speak for those with no voice.
Otis Dominic Anthony; I miss you, I love you, I will do both eternally.