Guest post: "Knowing what happened is easy enough but I fear I will never truly comprehend why this had to happen."
This Baby Loss Awareness Week, we hear from author Elle Wright on the personal tragedy that moved her to start an important conversation. Following the death of her son, Elle has determined to break the silence around child loss, to improve awareness and support for those families who are affected.
Feathering the empty nest
Posted on: Thu 11-Oct-18 15:07:01
(1 comment )
Teddy. Edward Constantine Wright. Born on Monday 16th May 2016 at 6:45pm, weighing 6lb 2oz. He was full term (well, four days short of his due date). I was induced following leaking waters and reduced movements. After six hours of labour, Teddy arrived safely into the world and I felt a love so fierce, like nothing I had experienced before. “It’s a boy,” I told my husband, as I crouched on the floor, holding Teddy. We were over the moon. This was the moment we had been waiting for. But Teddy never got to come home with us.
I won’t lie: it’s hard to tell a positive story about what happened. But the moment Teddy was born was, and will remain, beautiful to me. It’s what I cling to in my darkest moments. He lived, he was here, I held him. Sometimes I feel as though I just play it on repeat in my head to make myself believe he was real. I know he was. I have a birth (and death) certificate that says so, along with a memory box and a handful of cherished photographs. As time passes, my memories blur and I forget details, so I speak his name daily, look at his photos and sit in his nursery. I feel him.
Teddy stopped breathing a few hours after he was born. It was the early hours of the morning and I was woken by a midwife shaking my shoulder, telling me, “He’s cold. I need to take him.”
Teddy’s arm flopped at the side of his body as the midwife scooped him out of the crib and took him away. I recall holding my breath and thinking I was living through a nightmare. The midwife came back, sat on the edge of the bed, squeezing my hand and rubbing my arm. She reassured me that Teddy was in safe hands.
Society doesn't need to shy away from the subject of child loss, especially as one in four pregnancies end in loss. We mustn't be scared. The more we talk, the better the support and the healing is for those families who are affected by loss.
The next morning, we were transferred to a Neonatal Intensive Care Unit where Teddy was cared for there for three days. They ran every test on him, did everything they could. My husband and I read Teddy a story “Guess How Much I Love You?” I didn’t want Teddy to know I was scared, as I didn’t want him to feel fear, only love. I scanned every detail of his perfect face trying to trace everything so that I would never forget it. I buried my nose in the crease of his tiny neck as I kissed him goodnight for the first and last time. I wanted to remember his new-born smell and the way his soft skin felt against my lips.
We said goodbye to our little boy at 8:30pm on Thursday 19th May 2016. I was flanked by my mum and my husband as I held him.
We found out later that Teddy’s condition was a very rare metabolic disorder; one that stopped him from processing acids in his body; it made him, as the doctors said, “non-life compatible”. His body simply shut down. I am so grateful that we were in such great care and that thankfully the dedicated team of paediatricians were able to find the cause of Teddy’s death.
Teddy’s condition wasn’t hereditary. I am still unsure how my mind has processed the fact that this could have happened by chance. Knowing what happened is easy enough but I fear I will never truly comprehend why this had to happen.
In the difficult months that followed Teddy’s death, I began writing my blog “Feathering The Empty Nest”. Six months later, I was working on a book about Teddy. I was writing about his brief entrance and exit from this world and the impact he has made on us as a family. About the £115,000 that my husband and I, our friends and family have raised for the Neonatal Unit who cared for Teddy, and how that has given us a positive focus during a heart-breaking time.
I wanted to tell the world how it is possible to live and laugh again after the loss of a child. I wanted to tell everyone that society doesn’t need to shy away from the subject of child loss, especially as one in four pregnancies end in loss. We mustn’t be scared. The more we talk, the better the support and the healing is for those families who are affected by loss.
I lose count each month of how many people ask me in casual conversation, “So, do you have children?” Do I tell them about Teddy? Or do I simply say “No”? The latter leaves me laden with guilt, so more often than not I tell them about Teddy.
Reactions are mixed. Most people are shocked and manage, “I am so sorry.” Often the conversation ends there. The pain, though, stays with me, and my husband, as it does for thousands of parents in our position every single day. In the UK alone, 15 babies are stillborn or die neonatally (in the first few weeks of live) every day. There are thousands of families like us. When I wrote Ask Me His Name, I wanted to let everyone know that the conversation around child loss doesn’t need to stop with “I’m so sorry.”
Elle Wright is author of Ask Me His Name
By Elle Wright
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