I was so blind, so ignorant, so blissfully unaware of a lot of things before I became a stillbirth mummy. The world outside of my bubble was masked, to me. It was like I had tunnel vision. As far as I knew, every joyous or happy experience I had was just that – it was joyous and happy. As far as I knew, every upsetting or bad experience I had was the worst thing that could ever happen to anybody.
It’s amazing how differently you see the world once you have suffered the unthinkable. It’s amazing how you learn to see absolutely everything for what it truly is.
You know how, at some weddings, the bride wears a veil that covers her face? It’s like that. I had a veil over my life. I only saw what I wanted to see; I only heard what I wanted to hear.
After giving birth to Otis, that veil was lifted.
I remember having our first scan 2 weeks after finding out I was pregnant. It was on the 6th of December, 2015. I was 7 weeks pregnant. Even though Otis wasn’t my first baby, it was such a surreal experience – knowing that this perfect, tiny little peanut was growing inside me. It was amazing. Once I saw that tiny flicker of his heartbeat on the screen at that first scan, I assumed that it would stay there for as long as I live, and for many years after I take my last breath.
It didn’t. I couldn’t have been more wrong. I had 28 more weeks of his heart beating. Out of a possible 4,160 weeks (if I live to be 80 years old), I spent just 35 of them with my son.
Since my beautiful little boy’s heart stopped beating, I have really learned just how fragile our beating hearts are. That beat in our hearts isn’t ‘just there’ … It isn’t a given … It isn’t a right.
It can stop. Just. Like. That.
And it will. One day, it will.
One of the most difficult things that I, personally, have had to come to terms with since watching my little boy’s tiny blue coffin being lowered in to the ground, is being told that I will be happy again and then, in turn, how to respond when people say that.
The truth is, as much as people like to try and convince me that I will, I will never be happy again. It doesn’t matter how well I may be coping; it doesn’t matter how much I may be smiling; it doesn’t matter how much joy I experience; it doesn’t matter if I’m sometimes ‘okay’ … I will never be happy. If you are lucky enough to have never buried or cremated your child, then you’re probably thinking I’m being stupid; that I’m being irrational, even.
I KNOW that people will think that. Prior to giving birth to my cold, lifeless, silent child, I would have thought the same thing. But, that’s the harsh reality of being a parent to a child born still. The ONLY thing that will ever make me truly happy, is my little boy coming back to life and that is never going to happen.
Don’t get me wrong, my ability to experience happiness and to experience joy has not just disappeared. I CAN still do those things. However, regardless of how amazing a day might be, regardless of how wonderful a family day out with the twins may be, regardless of how much I am smiling or how well I’m coping, it could ALWAYS be better. How? … you ask.
Let me tell you … My little boy would be here enjoying those days too.
Through losing Otis I have mastered how to convince almost anyone that I am just as I was ‘before’ I became a bereaved parent. I have mastered how to LIE to almost anyone that I’m doing just fine – as long as the person I’m speaking to doesn’t look me in the eye for too long. My mouth says what people want to hear. My eyes? They say how I truly feel.
When people ask me if I’m happy; when people ask me if I’m okay; the most honest answer I can give and will EVER be able to give is the following
I’m as happy as I can be.
I’m as happy as I can be given the situation. I’m as happy as I can be, considering my son is buried 3 feet underground. I’m as happy as I can be, knowing that I will never celebrate one Birthday or one Christmas with my son. I’m as happy as I can be, when the only bedtime story I ever got to read to my son’s physical body was when I held his lifeless body to my chest. I’m as happy as I can be when, instead of kissing my little boy goodnight, I kissed him goodbye. I’m as happy as I can be when, instead of cuddling my son when he needs comforting, I cuddle his headstone when I need comforting.
Next time you ask a grieving parent if they’re okay; next time you tell a grieving parent that they WILL be happy one day … Maybe consider that, actually, they may not be. I know I, for one, certainly won’t.
Otis Dominic Anthony Cullen; you are missed beyond words and loved beyond measure.