I am numb. I sit here on the sofa in my medical robes, husband perched beside me squeezing my hand. They are looking at us with those eyes. Those eyes that are overflowing with sympathy and sadness. They feel sorry for us. They tell us so over and over again. I hear it and try to smile. We bought a crib five days ago, and now we are expected to make decisions on things we had never even contemplated.
What kind of postmortem do we want? Are we happy with cremation? What do we want to do with his ashes? Will I even remember this conversation tomorrow?
I am numb. It’s about 4 am, I haven’t slept. I’ve laid awake all night listening to the sounds of the hospital with my brain stuck on repeat.
Why has this happened? What did I do? How can a day go so quick and the night drag for so long? Husband is trying to get some sleep. He knows he has to drive us home tomorrow. It’s a long drive. There’s a world-shattering noise. It stabs my heart. My soul is screaming, my breasts are burning. It’s a newborn crying. Someone has just become a proud and happy parent. Their happy is too loud. I’m sobbing.
The tears come like a tsunami and all the devastation that follows. They feel like acid running down my face. I can’t breathe. Husband wraps his arms around me. He feels it too. The wrenching pain.
The midwife comes in. She’s carrying a small pretty white box and an envelope. It’s a memory box. The bits inside are nicely thought out, but it’s not him. There’s a certificate of birth. It’s the first time we’ve seen his name written. Inside the envelope are tiny hand and footprints. These are now our most treasured possessions. All we have of our son.
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Husband has been in the bathroom for too long. I’m concerned. I open the door to find him bent over the sink trying to wash the labour out of my sandals. He knows I don’t have any others with me to wear home. He’s silently sobbing. We sign all the papers; they give us some leaflets and my medication. They give us hugs. And we leave.
We carry out the pretty little white box in place of our boy. This is not how we imagined it would be. The summer’s evening air hits us as we leave the hospital. The tears start to come again. We are leaving without him. Sat in the car we hold each other. We tell each other that we can do this. We can get through it together.
Our hearts sting. Driving home we turn the radio on, we turn it off again. Every song on every station has new meaning. How do we carry on? Husband pulls the car over, he turns the ignition off. He is grief-stricken. What can I say? It’s ok baby?… is it? I tell him I love him and we grip on to each other.
We arrive home. Mum’s waiting with open arms; the kettle’s on. I am numb again. We show the few photos of our son that we have and the things in the pretty little white box, we have a cuppa, and we go to bed. On my bedside table are my baby encyclopedia and the doctor’s letter for my next scan appointment. Hung on the set of draws are the baby clothes I just bought three days ago. We cry and sleep and cry ourselves to sleep in the dark, wrapped up in each other’s arms and our grief.
Mum has told family our sad news. We have to tell friends. Husband and I each type a message on our phones. Neither of us is ready for that conversation. We check each other’s text for errors. We hit send. Message sent. We turn off our phones, we’re not ready for the replies.
I spend hours searching for the right piece of music; every song makes me cry. Husband tells me whatever I pick is fine. We agree to pick one each. It’s too much to do on my own. Done. Next, a poem. We should be picking a pram. How did we get here?? I want sunflowers. They are out of season, of course, they are. Nothing’s easy. I really want sunflowers. It’s ok, stop stressing, order online, fingers crossed they arrive on time. What do I wear, I don’t want black? Blue? Dress ordered, husband can wear a suit with blue shirt and tie.
We arrive at the crematorium 30 minutes early, we don’t want to be late. Just me and husband. We wanted to keep it private. After all, he is ours and we are his.
The Chaplin meets us and takes us through to where the funeral directors are waiting with him. Another little white box. This one is different. It has a brass plate on top with his name and a picture of a teddy bear. Husband picks up the box and holds our son close to him, tears running down his chin. The music starts, ‘baby mine’. We walk our baby down the aisle and place him on the little table covered with a cloth embroidered with butterflies. I place his sunflowers, a small stuffed elephant and a white rose from my wedding bouquet at the side of him.
We take a seat.
The Chaplin speaks, but I don’t really hear him, I know he’s reading the poem we picked. Before I realize it, the Chaplin is shaking husbands’ hand. He places a hand on my shoulder and tells me he’s going to leave us with him for a short while.
The song my husband chose to play, ‘There you’ll be.’ As I walk up to the casket, I realise my tears aren’t silent anymore. They’re desperate and painful. I place my hand on the box and run my finger over his name. It’s a beautiful name. Wish we had gotten to use it more.
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I turn to my husband. His strong arms are all that’s holding me up. My legs are giving way. The pain is too heavy. Husband whispers through his tears. He tells me that I can do this, for our tiny man. We each kiss the white box that encases our baby.
Goodbye, my love.
Five months on and I honestly don’t know how we got through those first few months. Funeral, postmortem results, just living without him. It still hurts, we still cry, but now we can smile. We took a short holiday for our anniversary, we laugh, we sing, and we make plans. We visit his forever bed, and we’ve made a memorial garden at home where we can sit and talk to him. I keep a diary where I write to him, not every day but when I need to.
We survived Christmas and new year by including him. We hung a stocking with his name on and family and friends gave ornaments in his memory. His name was written next to ours in Christmas cards. I have thrown myself into raising awareness and doing bits to help baby loss services in our area.
We can now speak his name without crying.
We are proud parents of an angel named Ethan.
Photo by Elias Schupmann on Unsplash
About the Author: Annalisa is a proud mummy of an angel named Ethan.