During June 2017, as part of our 15 babies a day initiative, we will share 15 blogs by 15 people who have been affected by the death of a baby. By doing this we aim to show the sheer number of people who are affected by the tragedy of one baby’s death. Visit our 15 Perspectives webpage to view other blogs in the series.
My name is Lawrence Waterman. My son Tom, our first child, was born in 1980 and only lived a short time. I felt very young, inexperienced and totally out of my depth trying to deal with my own emotional response to this horrible loss, and also a real pressure to be effectively supportive and loving to my wife.
With a scientific background, I think that I hid a little behind trying to understand technically, medically what the condition was that meant that Tom wasn’t viable for very long outside the womb.
Everyone I met and saw in the first few hazy days, the medical staff through to the registrar when I had Tom’s death recorded, was quite gentle and kindly. But there was no offer of support, assistance even guidance. Our friends were there for us, but they were our contemporaries and similarly unsure what to do, how to behave. There was a palpable sense of being alone in the midst of lots of people doing their best, but without real clarity as to what that could be. Everything seemed unreal, strange and slow – as if grieving had generated some sort of anaesthesia which threw a protective veil over everything – but there was an underlying strong feeling of unhappiness and anxiety and a nagging feeling that I should be doing something else to make things better.
Over 35 years later, I’m continually aware of this big absence in our lives. I find the idea of anniversaries rather strange, I don’t need a special date in the calendar to be reminded, that seems both too shallow and also almost an insult to my emotions, as if I needed nudging or I would forget. Of course, I am not remotely critical of other people’s way of responding to their own loss of a child but I’m speaking personally about what Tom means to me. Instead of dwelling on this, I have lived a full life since, without Tom’s early death determining who I am but nevertheless being a part of me. Looking back, I feel sorry for the young man at a total loss who was feeling unanchored, and I wish that I’d had a little more help at the time, but perhaps Tom helped me mature, become more kind and aware of other people’s needs and losses and that’s a good memorial.
15 babies die before, during or shortly after birth every day in the UK. 15 too many. We want to reduce this number, but we need your help. Support our #15babiesaday initiative by donating or fundraising now.