I feel very honored and humble posting my friend Faye’s story about her baby boy James. Faye writes honestly and from the heart about when she lost her son, how it affected her as a woman, as a mother and as a wife.
Faye has her own business and work from home. You can read more about Faye and her business Living The Dream Forever.
Read Faye’s story below.
Something that changed me as a woman….
There have been a few. One of the most defining moments was having my children. One other defining moment that really impacted and changed me forever was also losing a child.
Nothing prepares you for that, nothing could make that ‘ok’? I thought I would share this with you as it is the month of James’ birthday, we are very close to his birthday which is on the 24th May. It is strange how 8 years ago I never knew that my life would change forever in just over a week.
James was born at 22 and a half weeks, if he had been born a week later he would’ve been formally acknowledged and given a birth certificate. Who the hell decides that a baby born at 24 weeks should be recognised and a baby born at 23 weeks is not? That’s a whole different discussion though. It always annoyed me, and made my quest to recognise James as a part of our family even more important to me.
The comments – ‘it wasn’t meant to be’, ‘time’s a great healer’, ‘you’re lucky to have the (then) 2 children that you have ‘ , all cut like a knife, not nearly as much as those who never spoke of him, or even acknowledged him though, not then and not now either.
For a long time, I couldn’t bare waking up knowing that it was not a dream. That it had actually happened. So many things stay etched in my mind, like the things the specialists said and done, I can’t bring myself to mention most of them, and no-one should have to experience that. It is the worst torture one could imagine. Hearing James had no chance of survival in a packed room full of 20 (not exaggerating) doctors, specialists and student doctors was somewhat harsh. I only allowed the student doctors into the room as I was asked if it was ok, so that they could learn from the rare experience and perhaps help others as a consequence. I was then told to sit and wait in the waiting room where other Mums and Dads were gushing over their scans. The shock of hearing the news that way, being informed of why he would die like that , just as they discovered it themselves by dissecting the scans in front of us, was a shock to say the least. It still shakes me to the core.
We went to the “bereavement suite” at the hospital on the day of his birth two days after hearing he would never survive. This seemed like it would perhaps be a gentler way to give birth to a baby you knew you were never going to bring home. However, this was not the case. The bereavement suite was in the delivery ward and I walked in amongst ladies full term in the height of labour.
After his birth, I left empty handed and with an empty heart and had to exit the ward past ladies who had had their babies, nestled in their car seats the mother’s dizzy with the post birth joy.
The days, weeks, months and years that followed were difficult to say the least. Normal situations and exchanges seemed so irrelevant I couldn’t quite understand how I could ever function normally again. Thank goodness for Holly and Sisi, because of them I had to get up, get dressed and had to do ‘normal things’.
James’ existence and experience is one that haunts my every day, and yet I would never not have it. It is all I have of him. Those few hours holding him after are so precious, even though as the minute’s past by I felt him slowly getting colder and colder in my arms. When the midwives entered the room after I had finally delivered him and they said how beautiful he was I never felt more proud. He may not have been rosy cheeked and his heart may have stopped but he was still my son.
I regret not having a funeral, my husband didn’t want one. I did and I guess it was for everyone else to know he existed and was and is important. This need to acknowledge him is still important to me. We always add him to our family when the members are mentioned. The children know of him. Holly wishes she got to see him but I still believe she was too young at the time. The girls both know they have another baby brother, they regularly wrote about him as part of our family and they think nothing of mentioning him. This made and makes me proud, the fact they were an are not ashamed, made me realise we had explained it in a ‘non-taboo’ way to them. He was poorly and had to go the heaven but he is still with us and a part of our lives. He is known as our baby boy in the sky. He is the brightest star in the sky and we look out for him all the time. The girls often let helium balloons off up to the sky – to send them to James. Things like this comfort me.
I never felt happy, not really happy, it took me ages to laugh and smiling was hard. I’m a smiley person too. Sometimes I would laugh hysterically in an attempt to try to release it. It was weird. I wondered if I would ever be happy again, I didn’t really want to be to be honest and nor did I care. My son was not here. I almost felt guilty for being here and thought that perhaps I should be with him, I mean the girls had Kevin, James was somewhere else and all alone without any of us. Nothing felt right without him. It still doesn’t, we couldn’t be without Holly and Sisi – so why should we be without James?
For a long time, I followed other people’s journeys on social media, those that had had still born children, and lost babies like I had. I became quite fascinated with reborn dolls wondering if I could secretly have one made to look like James. Even though I knew this wasn’t quite healthy. I expressed my pain on those sites and pages, sharing my experiences but after a while I un-liked them and stopped following them as I felt it was perhaps not good to relive it all the time and although I felt good that I might be helping support others it was a bit like picking at a wound.
I felt no-one understood, I wanted to scream and shout how I felt and that I wanted and needed my son here …I still do. But the need to scream and shout is not so bad, I am not angry about it but I am still sad. I found strength, a strength I didn’t know I had, I don’t feel sorry for myself one bit however I do feel sorry that James is not a part of my family, physically. I feel blessed I was pregnant with him. I feel lucky he grew inside me and I felt him move, heard his heart beat, that I gave birth to him just like I did my other 3 children. I feel very lucky to have delivered him and then held him in my arms even though it was for a short time. His smell is vivid to me even now and how tiny and shiny he was, I loved that time with him even though it breaks my heart to recall it. I wish I never had to say it was ok for them to take him away. How can that ever be ok? Thank goodness, I was returning home to my girls after that. I don’t know how you would ever say goodbye and walk away otherwise.
I always wanted to have another baby, but at the same time I never wanted to replace James. Kevin never wanted another baby in case anything went wrong again. He was so scared. We got through this – ish , how could we be strong enough to get through anything else? We were spent. So, because of this we never actively tried for another baby. He never had the snip either. 4 years later we discovered we were pregnant. Surprisingly I was so calm throughout the pregnancy. I had the best of care, scans every 2 weeks, and intensive monitoring. James’ condition was so rare it was not genetic just ‘one of those things’ , one in over a million. But even so I was still monitored for my sake and theirs I guess.
Towards the end of the pregnancy I asked for less scans and less monitoring, as I wanted to enjoy my pregnancy and let it be. We knew at that stage that the baby was fine. As like when we were pregnant with Holly and Sisi, we didn’t find out what sex we were having and we eventually had a little boy, Miller. I didn’t care what I was having, just that they were healthy and didn’t die! That’s the truth. The idiotic comments, ‘oh let’s hope for a boy’. ‘Oh, wouldn’t it be great if it’s a boy’ or ‘will you try again if it’s another girl?’ Seriously? We have two beautiful girls and they are enough, but if we had another girl or boy they would be also enough! Miller helped fill my empty arms, he has filled my heart but the gaping hole where James should be is still there. Miller makes me happy, not that the girls didn’t of course…but he feels like a special gift and has helped me heal in a way. The girls were here before, James they are the most amazing little people ever. They gave me so much strength when I felt like crumbling, they did the most precious of things, they were babies themselves at the time but a massive comfort to me. They acknowledged James like no-one else. They felt it too, but they made it seem so simple and sweet. Miller makes me laugh he understand none of it. I guess the fact he is a boy is wonderful now that he is here, it was not important before though. His boyishness is lovely, I don’t know why – it just is. Kevin says James sent him to us…I don’t know about that. He has definitely been part of a healing process.
The build up to James’ birthday is always hard, we didn’t want to be home the first year after his death and so a tradition followed. We didn’t want the day to be sad (well anymore sad than it absolutely is of course) so we took the girls to Chessington World of adventures (a theme park) we stayed overnight and it became something nice to do to recognise James’ birthday. A few years on we have not always been able to do that because the girls are now at school and so on, but we do try to do something nice as a family to recognise the day. I think I actually find the days before his actual ‘birthday’ the worst, as those are the ones we discovered he was seriously unwell and would never survive.
How has all this changed me, it made me harder, less inclined to cry at silly things. In many ways, it has made me somewhat cold towards some of those closest to me. It makes me less sensitive, yet more empathic. It sounds all very contradictory. I have little patience for self-indulgent ‘woe is me’, yet huge amounts of sympathy for those who have really lost and are suffering? I am strong, I am a good mum and person – I am EXTREMELY grateful. For what I have as well as for what I lost, I appreciate my children more than anything, every day. I never take them for granted and I want to make them happy. Beyond anything else, I always put them first, my needs, wants, desires are always second – however I am teaching my children they are valid and I am realising my needs also need to be valid. If I am entirely selfless and at their beck and call I fear I teach my girls that they need to do the same one day?
I am finding a balance. I’m less tolerant when need be and more tolerant in other ways. I am learning to be happy and embrace that. I’m positive about the future. I am desperately sad sometimes. I have repressed a lot of sadness of late I think you do this in a bid to conform to society and move on, but I have learnt how to not let the sadness suffocate me. I am training my mind to be strong and happy and that is key. I’ve learnt that bad things happen to normal people, it’s not just a news story on the TV and that life is not safe and secure, yet it is still precious and to be lived, we owe it to those loved ones that are here to make it the best it can be. It is important to be happy and live to the fullest because many souls do not even get the chance. I have learnt to let go of what people think, to live and let live, be less judgemental and more comfortable in who I am and what I think and feel. I’m a warrior, I have battled and come out the other side. I’m wounded, fragile and vulnerable – but I am not beaten. I am a survivor .