Today marks the 7th birthday of my beautiful Harry who was taken too soon.
Harry was stillborn on the 9th October 2014. It stills feels like yesterday. I was 40 weeks 6 days pregnant and had started early labour. I called the hospital initially at 7.30am and was informed I’m bringing my baby boy home today but wasn’t far enough along to come in. 2pm later that day I was informed by the doctors, midwives and consultants they couldn’t find a heartbeat and we had unfortunately lost him. Even to this day these words still go round my and with many questions I still have, and my heart still breaks and aches.
I've waited for so long to give my son Harry a voice and raise awareness without fear. I felt like this year I was strong enough to do so.
As you can imagine losing my child broke me and my mental health. It’s taken till now to put pen to paper and try and turn this pain and negative situation into a positive which is why I approached Sands to share our journey to help raise awareness. Also marking Harry’s 7th birthday this Baby Loss Awareness Week.
I have been a singer and performer for many years, and I tried to cope with the ‘show must go on’ mentality and paint on a smile. This was so detrimental to my mental health as I wasn’t allowing myself to grieve fully. I become a pressure cooker trying to keep it all in.
I’ve since learnt everyone journey is different and I’m so grateful to Sands as my mum approached them after I contacted her telling her the devastating news of losing Harry. They gave my mum such great advice which I’m so grateful for. Things like take pictures straight away, this is one of the best things to do. As it’s normal to take pictures. I’m blessed I have over 1,000 of him. Skin to skin contact and holding your baby really helps. I felt like I had to ask to hold Harry from the nurses but you as a parent need to remember your baby is yours. Getting them dressed, having handprints and footprints. Trying to create as many memories as possible.
These things will give you great comfort in your darkest of days. Nothing makes that pain go away. As a mother I left the hospital with a memory box and not my baby, to this day that still angers and breaks me.
I feel like I’m left with so many questions. Why? How? I felt so isolated and alone with my heart and arms left feeling numb and empty. Not the way I envisaged life after giving birth. All my hopes, dreams, aspirations shattered and ripped away. Just gone like it never really happened. Just left with the scars. Having a baby should be a joyous occasion not one filled with heartbreak, trauma, and emptiness.
After losing a child you can feel the lack of trust in people and loss of control in your life. For me personally I felt like I failed my Harry and the NHS system failed me and Harry.
Planning a funeral for a baby just feels so wrong and to be honest I was clueless. So, I was so grateful to my family who helped me give him the best ‘Celebration of Life’. The word funeral alone makes me still feel sick to the gut, it’s so wrong for a baby, it’s too dark and cold for someone so pure and innocent. I wanted people to celebrate my little man, my hero, and my inspiration.
I have worked hard with the right support to be able to learn to adapt to life without Harry. Taking each day as it comes allowing myself to grieve without care or judgement. Even now 7 years down the line I still struggle as the day approaches. It feels like everyone is moving forward and popping out babies and for me there is no escape as Harry’s birthday is the first day of Baby Loss Awareness Week.
During the healing process, I have learnt the difference between grief and my ill mental health which took time and honestly, I’m still learning. I find comfort in things that remind me of him, finding happy places and doing things to mark occasions and to add to his memory box. Journaling also helped me express my feelings and thoughts and it also shows the progression you make. Also indicating your triggers of thoughts and behaviours; what helped overcome them and what didn’t work.
No person’s journey is the same and I can only discuss how my feelings and thoughts are. Other people also can be so detrimental to recovery with what they say and do. I had people say ‘move on and let go’, ‘you’re allowing it to define you’. Which all still seem crazy. Firstly, you can’t move on and let go of your child it’s not what mothers do. Secondly, it won’t define you, but it does change you as person.
There have been many days I wanted to give up and just not be here. But I would look at my pictures of Harry, smell his little blanket and get up and try to make him proud to be his mummy. He may not be here in person, but that little boy is the one who stole my heart and that is where he will remain.
When I feel cloudy, foggy and lost I tend to head to the beach (my happy place) I watch the ocean and the waves and it reminds me to breathe deep. When I’m so consumed with grief I feel as though I can’t breath and like I have an elephant on my chest, but I head there to clear my head and try to heal my heart. The grief feels so overwhelming, unbearable, and incomprehensible. The little boy I imagine he is today is confident, bubbly, and happy. It’s hard to create an image of my 7-year-old as the image I have of him is still my baby and because of my PTSD flashbacks I have captured his baby smell baby touch and baby image.
Stillbirth and neonatal death still seem like such a taboo subject to discuss as people think you’re looking for pity and attention in fact all we are doing is mentioning our child existed and trying to keep their memory alive.
I’m hoping by sharing mine and Harry’s journey we can try and break the silence and stigma and try to show people they are not alone, and your mental health is important too. There is support out there. I wish I could say I have found the cure to bring our babies back but sadly not. I do recommend reaching out and speaking to others such as Sands support team, your GP, grief counsellors as they will help to unjumble your overwhelming emotions and thoughts.
I’m still on my journey and I have a long way still to go but I wanted to give Harry a voice and hope our journey can make a difference. My only advice I can give to expecting mothers trust your gut, if you are concerned go to the doctors you are not wasting their time. For those grieving mothers like myself we are not alone and however we decided to take steps forward it’s our journey and everyone’s journey is different.