Linda's baby boy, Jo, died 27 years ago.
In June 1974, I gave birth to my first born son. I never saw him.
Eighteen weeks into the pregnancy problems had started. I was told that I would miscarry, that unless I could hold on to my baby until twenty-eight weeks he had no chance of life. Nothing could be done, I was to carry on as normal. During the following weeks he grew, he moved, he kicked - but we only managed twenty-five weeks.
I went into labour, gave birth, he cried - more of a whimper really - but I heard him. They took him away. Hours later, they told me he had just died. I can remember exactly every work spoken, every action, every feeling, every detail of that day, right up to that point. Then nothing.
I never saw him, never held him. I have no memory of him, nor him of me, this side of birth. He lived and died alone.
I was told to forget, to get on with my life, to get pregnant again. That it was just one of those things. That he had had a twin who had died earlier in the pregnancy. I was told it was best not to talk or even think about him. I learnt later that as he was a live birth he had been registered and buried. But it was thought best that I didn't know. I wasn't told about the funeral of my son.
I had to forget. But you don't, do you?
Twenty-four years later various events happened in my life and memories of that baby became very prominent. I told myself that I was being stupid, it was long past. But the thoughts would not go away. The sadness, the aching, would not go away.
Eventually I was persuaded to see a psychologist, Anne, who was compassionate and wise. At last I was able to talk about my baby. It was allowed. It was not silly but quite normal, even necessary.
I found a copy of his birth certificate, there was a blank space where his name should have been. I found the cemetery, the entry in their records. Again, no name. I found the patch of grass that was his unmarked grave where he lay with three other babies. Now he was real, he had lived, he was mine.
Anne asked if I wanted to give him a name, maybe write what I wanted to say to him. Yes, oh yes.
I needed to know what he may have looked like, so Anne arranged for me to visit the special care unit at the local hospital. I met another mother and her tiny daughter and the nurses who were caring for them. I listened, I watched and that perfect, beautiful little person held my finger. I found out how things have changed. All the people in that room were special. Individuals - whatever their size. No blank spaces. There was so much love and understanding in that ward. I came way convinced that no-one, but no-one, ever has the right to separate a mother from her baby. Now, at last, this is understood. But there must be so many women of my generation and older who are still trying to forget and not succeeding.
That night I cried, wept for my baby, my son I never held.
On 14th June 1998 I awoke at 2.30 am. The same time as I had started labour so many years before. I lit a candle, just one that I had in the house, I had not planned anything, it just seemed the right thing to do. The perfect flame continued to burn until early afternoon. It finally went out at the time of my son's death. And I was there. I have no religious beliefs, no belief in the after-life, but at that time I wrote:
"You were waiting. Somewhere within me, within you. Waiting.
This time there was the candle, the flame.
This time I was with you, I protected you, I felt you. I was with you when you died. When the flame went out. Not the flesh but the spirit, your essence, your soul.
This time we did it together - you and I. Together. Always, at last."
Linda - February 2001