Next Saturday is the International Wave of Light.
A day when people
all over the world remember those babies who were taken far too soon. Whether that be through miscarriage, stillbirth or death in infancy.
The 15th of October is a day that will permanently have a place in our lives. At 7pm we will light a candle for Joshua. And will remember him and all of the other babies who were taken too soon. Too many children, too many lost dreams, too many broken hearts.
The idea being that as the time changes from location to location there will be a continuous wave of light. A truly beautiful concept. There will always be a light for those little ones.
Through Joshua I have made (and indeed lost) many friends.
Joshua was born at 34 weeks. He was stillborn. I’ve blogged about him before but that will never be enough to represent the magnitude of his loss. This week I went to his resting place in the cemetery. I stood alongside all of the other memorials for babies taken too soon. I looked at our son’s name, I stroked his plaque and remembered what he meant, what he still means to me, to us as a family. I don’t go there very often. I find it too sterile. Too unreal. Too separated from who he was to us. Instead he has a special place here at home. A memory tree given to us when he died, by a very good friend. We decorate it at Christmas, we bring shells back from holidays and scatter them at his base. I keep a leaf every autumn and date it to see how his tree grows, as he should have grown.
Joshua died because of foetal hydrops. He had oedemas on his head and tummy. He was a poorly little boy; those horrid oedemas and increase of fluid caused his little heart to fail. No one knows what triggered his hydrops…just one of those things.
When I think of him I remember how much we wanted, no, how much we needed him. He was born out of such love. At the time I fell pregnant we were having a torrid personal time for various reasons. My lovely mum was terribly unwell and it was only a matter of time before we knew she would have to leave us. We had had a run of the most abysmal fortune over a couple of years. We were bruised.
When we knew that we were expecting a baby, a sibling for Evie we had hope for the future. Hope that things could improve. I had a wonderful knowledge that my mum would know that she was going to be a Nannie again. But it wasn’t meant to be.
We lost my mum when I was around 22 weeks pregnant with Joshua. The pain of losing my mum is too hard to explain. She was everything to me and it’s only in recent years that I’ve realised the true extent of what she did for me, for us. I do so miss her. Terribly.
I miss her advice (though I rarely listened despite her being right). I miss her hugs, her love, her warmth and her ability to make me feel not only safe but her willingness to listen to me, to humour me and just make me feel as though I mattered. I miss her (have I said that? Because I do…every…single…day.)
I clung then to the gift that I was carrying, focusing my attentions on this child who would need me. We prepared for his birth, we protected Evie and lavished ever more attention on her.
When I think of him I remember love. I remember craving cheese salad sandwiches in midwinter. I remember adoring the smell of beer; we drove through Burton-on-Trent past a brewery to visit my cousin. The smell then can never be replicated. It met every craving I have ever had.
I remember sitting in the doctors’ surgery waiting for an appointment, watching him flip somersaults in my stomach. I was so proud of his movements. He was so active. I used to love watching him dance.
I remember my primal scream when I found out he had died, flinging myself back against the bed whilst I watched my husband’s face crumple, the tears running down his face. A living nightmare.
I remember the fear of knowing that I had to give birth, yet he was ready gone. I remember the doctor and midwife crying with us, crouching by our side…particularly when they found out that my mum had just died. I remember only kindness from all of the hospital because our baby had died. I shook. Physically shook. I couldn’t stop. I was wrapped in blankets but nothing took that shock away.
I remember going home and having to tell our bruised family that he had died. That was the worst thing that I have ever had to do. Telling people I loved the most awful news. Our hope was gone. Them realising that I would have to go back to the hospital and give birth to our stillborn baby.
I remember the pain of his birth; I wanted to feel pain. I felt that I deserved it. The pain made me feel alive. I connected with him, I was his mum because I could feel him. It wasn’t much but I could do that for him, for Joshua.
I remember my fear about holding him; not knowing if I wanted to…yet as soon as he was here, I had to. Nothing could have stopped me from holding Joshua in my arms. I ached for him. I still ache for him.
I remember us walking out of the labour ward with a cardboard box. I clung to that box and all it contained. I should have been carrying our son, not a box. My head dropped…I couldn’t look at anyone else. I felt responsible for his loss, I wasn’t…but I am his mum and I should have protected him…saved him.
A cardboard box with a teddy embossed on top. His handprints and footprints, some poems, his hospital tag, his hair safely placed inside.
We were given a teddy, leaflets and his stillbirth certificate…but no baby. Just empty arms. That box has a special place in our home. We’ve added to it since that first day. The star we bought for our tenth wedding anniversary in his name…that paperwork is there. The sympathy cards we received after he died…they’re there. A painting Evie did at preschool the week that he died…that’s safe there too. His scan photos…all tucked safely away inside.
When I think of him now I see his face. I see a perfect button nose, a chin like his sisters’. His ears were like mine.
I remember his smell. His warmth. The perfect weight of him in my arms. He fitted in the crook of my arm, all 5lb 15oz of him.
You see babies who died through stillbirth (or miscarriage or early infancy) are more than the bump that most people see.
Joshua was our son. Is our son.
Just because you never met him, doesn’t mean that he didn’t exist. He did and he left footprints on my heart, on my very being. I will never get over his loss any more than I will ever get over my mum’s loss.
They are part of me and me them. I take comfort that Joshua will be with my mum.
After he died Evie saved me. She was my reason to be. She made me laugh when I thought that I would never laugh again. She helped to heal my heart.
So on Saturday I will remember him as I do every day. As I light my candle at 7pm I will remember all of this. I remember all of the babies taken too soon. He changed my life, my very being.