Empty arms

Once I arrived home, (it seems odd I know) but I was totally fine. I was so wrapped up and excited with the thought of seeing my boy the very next day, and shock (oh you marvellous thing) had fully kicked in. That night I made my first “post loss” public appearance. My mother’s employer had arranged for flowers to be delivered to us and as we were at the hospital, they had been delivered to a neighbours house. I ventured across the street to collect them. My neighbour (whom I’ve known for over ten years) handed me the bouquet with a look of complete bewilderment. He truly had no idea what to say, eventually he managed to muster words similar to “We’re always here to listen”. I mumbled a quick “thank you”, as I quickly grabbed the large package and made my escape.

I placed those flowers in the middle of a table downstairs, and I slowly made my way upstairs. I know, both myself and Lennon’s father continued the conversation of the previous events but I really can’t recall any of this….

I do remember vividly the excitement that consumed me the next day, I just couldn’t wait to see my boy. In hindsight, I’m not sure that my “new best friend” shock had fully provided me with the correct “tools for the job”…. This day, would be the first day I cried. We walked back into the room that we had occupied only hours earlier although it was somehow different this time. I can’t even begin to explain what the difference was as physically, the room hadn’t changed at all. There was just an echoing emptiness that seemed to hang in the air.

I also remember being ferociously annoyed with the new nurse who was on shift that day, through no fault of her own. She carried Lennon to me in the same Moses basket he was placed into the day before, but, as I eagerly reached out to grab my boy, my body suddenly froze. The little satin blanket that I had delicately snuggled around him just a few hours earlier, was now covering his face. “Why would they suffocate my boy” my mind screamed, as I reached out my hands and viciously removed the blanket from his little face. He didn’t look any different, he was still such a wonderful little bundle of perfection….. The little bundle that my body had carried for the previous 41 weeks, the little bundle that my heart now completely belonged to and the little bundle that would soon have to say goodbye, before he’d even learned to say hello.

I gently reached into the basket and wrapped my aching arms around him, as tears started to burn my eyes. The last time I had cradled my baby he was warm and now, as my skin made contact with his delicate little body, he was ice cold. Something that I wasn’t prepared for at all, despite being very educated and knowledgeable about death. My mind had tricked me into believing that things would be exactly the same as they were the previous day but unfortunately, this was not the case. I sat down with Lennon in my arms on a sofa that occupied the far end of the room. I held his precious hands in mine ever so tightly whilst constantly whispering how much I loved him. Lennon’s father was busy boiling the kettle in an attempt to soften the clay in the print impression kit we had received in the memory box. I just could not take my eyes off him! I had never seen anything as perfectly beautiful as my little boy……

I’m not sure how many people have attempted to take clay imprints from a still child, but boy was it hard! The object of using the clay is to push the hands and feet firmly into it to create a rather deep and lasting impression. We couldn’t and wouldn’t push his hands or feet firmly into it for fear of hurting him. We were ever so afraid to apply any pressure and as a result of this, it ended up taking us quite a while to complete. We did eventually manage to get a decent impression of his hand and while it isn’t great, there is enough detail there for my heart to skip a beat every time I look at it.

As I’ve mentioned in a previous post, I did originally have some difficulty persuading Lennon’s father to actually hold him after he was born. I knew that now was as good a time as any to make an excuse to leave for a few minutes, so he could have some time alone with his son. I made the excuse of wanting to pop to the coffee shop and I asked him if he wanted to hold Lennon whileI left (I wouldn’t have left if he had declined), to my surprise he said yes and with that I gently handed Lennon over to him and I exited the room. When I returned about five minutes later, I was overjoyed to see him clutching Lennon’s hand firmly and whispering to him. I didn’t ask any questions, I placed both cups on the floor and I sat down beside them. This was probably the only moment I look back on and feel as though we were a “family”. The three of us sitting there, taking in the moment and just trying to enjoy what precious little time we had.

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We spent a few more hours with Lennon that day before it was time to say goodbye. His father kissed him as I held him in my arms, and I placed him back into his basket. I snuggled him back up in the satin blanket just the same as I had done the previous day, I kissed his little cheeks and forehead so many times that I lost count and I told him I’d see him soon. The nurse then came back into the room, picked up the basket and carried him out behind us. The following morning he would head to a hospital in a neighbouring city so the postmortem could be conducted and I wouldn’t see him for approximately one week. Whilst this wasn’t “the final” goodbye my heart grew heavy again, as for the second time we as “new parents” had to leave the hospital empty handed.

True perfection is imperfect part 2

As I tightly cuddled Lennon and continued to marvel at his sheer perfection, my mother watched us, obviously eager to embrace her only grandchild, the grandchild that she had made so many plans for. I studied her tear-stained face and watched as a forced smile slowly crept upon her face as I slowly uttered the words “Do you want to hold him”, I didn’t need an answer. Not only did her face say it all, but she darted around the bed and held out her hands as fast as lightning. I carefully handed him over to her and I managed a small smile, as all of the love she held for him formed an unseen shroud around the two of them.

I am aware that some people who read this will ask why Lennon’s father wasn’t the second person to hold him, the reason being, he refused. During the birth he was fabulous and he did a great job of guiding me slowly through Lennon’s appearance, he even cut the umbilical cord. Afterwards though, he was completely distraught. Distraught to the point where he refused point blank to hold, or even look at Lennon. As mentioned in my previous post, shock is (sometimes) a wonderful thing and in the very beginning, it was my best friend. The fact that Lennon’s father didn’t want any interaction with him (at first), didn’t bother me as such. I knew that eventually, when we had time alone we could discuss this. Although time wasn’t on our side (Lennon’s little body wouldn’t last long) I felt as though I had this covered!

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Eventually after an enormous amount of cuddles with Lennon my mother decided to leave. Before her decision, she asked Lennon’s father outside for a chat. To this very day, I have no idea what they talked about (Lennon’s father could always confide in my mother). When he came back in the room however, he couldn’t wait to cuddle Lennon. It took some doing, but we eventually got there. And the sight of the love of my life, nestled safely in the arms of his twin (they are truly identical), completed me. Although it proved to be a struggle because, once his father had gotten a hold of him, I thought I’d never get him back.

We spent the majority of that day “making memories” with Lennon, the only way we could. Although not all of it was pleasant….. I opted to have a stupidly large amount of tests taken, to try and determine a reason for Lennon’s death. I also had to discuss and plan his autopsy, a procedure that I specifically requested before I even knew if it was a possibility (given my educational background). I had only held my newborn son in my arms for a few hours, and yet here I sat whilst some consultant asked me if I wished to donate parts of him here, there and everywhere….. “It’s just a question on the form” he stated, “It’s just another dagger in my heart” I thought!

Once all of the “form filling” and tests were completed, we remained at the hospital for another couple of hours. I had made arrangements to return the next day and  see my baby otherwise, I never would have left him. And as the nurse gently carried him out of the room in a moses basket, I reluctantly left. Walking out of that hospital that night was an event, that no one could have ever prepared me for. It was 9pm and it was pouring with rain, I clutched a bag containing all I was able to take home of Lennon – whilst all other new mothers had a car seat/buggy containing their very vocal, new baby. As a soaking through me, eventually reached the car park, I remember my feet grinding to a halt as I noticed the luscious green and fully decorated Christmas tree that occupied the centre of the car park. This wasn’t here before, or was it? Who am I? Where am I? How did I get here? But above all, this hit me like a ton of bricks, as I could hear the whole world mock “Merry Christmas Christie-Leigh”

True perfection is imperfect part 1

I don’t remember the drive home from the hospital that day, I also have very little recollection of the following day. I have tried so very hard on numerous occasions to try and remember, how I felt, what I was thinking etc. but all to no avail. So I’m afraid I’ll have to skip those days and just continue with our story…..

 

Tuesday 6th December 2016, I got out of bed and ran myself a bath. I was due to be back at the hospital for 10am, so I got myself ready as quickly as I could. Both mine and Lennon’s hospital bags were packed (they had been for weeks) and they occupied an empty corner of my room, I bent down and lifted mine and I stared at the bag left behind. That bag contained my hopes and my dreams, the hopes and dreams I’d been so busy perfecting over the last 40 weeks and in the blink of an eye, they were gone. I laid my bag on my bed whilst I tied my freshly washed hair back and I gingerly followed Lennon’s father down the stairs and out of the door.

 

The next thing I knew we were stood outside of the bereavement suite in the hospital pressing the intercom button to gain access. A suite, that only a couple of weeks prior, I had no knowledge of. How I longed to have that blissful ignorance back once again. We were directed to ward 8 and shown into room 10, we were to make ourselves at “home” in here whilst we waited for the consultant to come around. About 5 minutes went by when she entered the room, she entered with another girl who introduced herself as Jenny, she would be my midwife. I was given 2 options for induction, I could be given the smaller dosage which would be topped up every hour or I could be given the full dosage all at once, to hopefully speed the process along. I opted for the latter.

 

Jenny administered the medication via pessary at exactly 10:30am and as she tidied up the little trolley she had brought with her, I got off the bed. Lennon’s father was sat on the sofa to the left of the bed whilst “Homes under the hammer” (a television program here in the UK) played on the TV in the corner. I remember asking her rather harshly “How long” this whole process would take, I don’t know why but I just needed to know. I remember my horror as she nonchalantly replied “I’m hoping labour will start before my shift finishes at 8:30pm tonight”! So not only had my baby died but, I was facing the possibility of waiting for labour to start for another 10 hours yet, lucky me!

 

In an attempt to take my mind off things Jenny told me about the memory boxes the hospital offered, on behalf of the 4Louis charity. These beautiful boxes allow parents to make and store memories of the small amount of precious time they spend with their little ones, and are made for bereaved parents by bereaved parents. Poor Jenny, everything she was saying I just agreed to. I was too numb to do anything else, and so she left the room. I sat down next to Lennon’s father on the sofa, feeling a little “uncomfortable” but believing this was from the pessary I thought nothing of it. Within about five minutes I was totally engulfed in pain, pain that I had never experienced before, every part of my body felt as though it was ripping apart slowly. At 10:45 Jenny entered the room once more, she put the package in her hands down on the sofa and informed me I was in labour. My mother (who chose to follow us to the hospital) just arrived as Jenny had turned on the gas and air.

 

I persevered with the gas and air for what felt like an eternity (in actual fact it was only 1 hour) and then I allowed Jenny to administer the Diamorphine and anti sickness injection into my right thigh. It was at this point that something profound happened……. Lennon’s father who was sat right beside me clutching my hand, passed me a drink (nothing special right? wrong!) He forcefully instructed me to “take a drink” and I looked at him rather puzzled, noticing my curiosity he quickly remarked “You’re about to have another contraction” and without even getting chance to take the drink from his hands, that searing pain consumed me once again. How on earth he knew when my contractions were coming, is something I still can’t explain. I used to believe it was because we had such a strong and unbreakable bond, but, unfortunately people change.  All I do know is this, the man who was once my soul mate and is a complete stranger to me now, was certainly excellent that day…… 

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The physical pain was only to last for a little while longer, and just over 2 hours after induction the absolute love of my life silently entered the world just as the John Lennon song “Give peace a chance” started to play. Born at 12:42pm weighing 5lb 10oz, Lennon George Carr-Stout stole my entire being, in a way I never believed possible. He was perfect! He looked just like his father, his head covered in an absolute mass of gorgeous black shiny hair and he filled my arms perfectly. We had already chosen a birth outfit for him, Lennon’s father had bought him a little elf outfit (merchandise from the film Elf), it was supposed to be used for cute photographs and future blackmail attempts for him to do household chores (under the ransom of us showing these pictures to his friends as he got older). As it turned out, it was the outfit we laid him to rest in. 

My little Christmas elf stole my heart instantly, he was beautifully perfect in every single way. Everyone stood around us crying and I remember asking “why are you crying”? “Look at how perfectly beautiful he is”. Shock (while it lasts) is such a wonderful thing. I had no tears (at that point) why would I?! I had just given birth to the most beautiful, precious and perfect little person my eyes had ever seen, the only difference being, his little heart failed to beat……

And so it begins

Finding out I was pregnant was one of the biggest shocks I had (at that point) ever experienced. By the time I had attended my first midwife appointment I was almost 15 weeks, I had completely skipped the first trimester. A lot of people ask me how I never knew, but I really had no idea. My body never changed and I never experienced any of the “usual” symptoms associated with pregnancy, for someone who was very career focused and never wanted children until later in life, I adapted quite well.  I started shopping for the baby straight away and as each week passed by, my excitement grew. The pregnancy itself was an absolute breeze, I suffered no ailments and I never began to show until I was 6 months. Emotionally it was quite hard, Lennon’s father’s serial infidelity both before and during my pregnancy coupled with his complete lack of interest in my baby led us to part ways, and that was extremely difficult for me. I hung on in there though and by September 2016 I was working 7 days a week, saving every penny and feeling as ready as ever to take on my role as a single parent.

Fast forward to October 2016, the 29th saw me start my 12 months maternity leave from work and the finish line was finally within sight. Lennon’s father had somehow made his way back into my life with all of the “I’m sorry”, “Let’s start again” and the short-lived “I love you” lines and I finally felt happily content! Lennon was due to arrive on 27th November, ironically enough 1 day after his father’s birthday. We spent all of the time before then decorating and putting those little finishing touches into place. We celebrated his birthday with a coffee and a take out and we waited……

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A couple of days later I had an appointment with my midwife for my first membrane sweep, I was exactly 40 weeks pregnant. Upon performing the sweep we were informed that “It wouldn’t work”, this was because my little boy was fully engaged in the birthing position and his head was so low it was covering my cervix. We were told to attend another appointment one week later, but in the meantime we hoped he’d decide to make his appearance. He certainly made us wait because he didn’t budge! So off we went to our next appointment, still full of excitement but now impatience had kicked in. It was at this appointment that my whole world crumbled around me. The image of the tears building up in my midwife’s eyes as the fetal Doppler only detected my heartbeat, is an image I will never forget. I remember Lennon’s father looking at me so full of hope and telling me that everything was going to be alright as we made our way to my chosen hospital, but I knew. Something definitely wasn’t right and all I kept thinking was “this isn’t good”.

We arrived at the hospital and we were shown into a side room, where we silently and rather impatiently waited for a consultant to scan me. He came into the room and I lay back on the bed, trying to ignore the feeling of dread that had completely engulfed me. I never looked at the ultrasound screen, I turned to my right and I just kept looking at Lennon’s father as he tightly gripped my hand. As I looked at him I saw within an instant, the colour completely drain out of his face and floods of tears began to fill his eyes and make their way down his cheeks. It was then that my worst fears were confirmed, my baby had died. The consultant (whose name still evades me to this very day) told us he was going to seek a second opinion and asked if we’d be okay to wait whilst he went to bring a colleague, I told him not to bother and ordered him to turn the machine off. There wasn’t any point in prolonging the “false hope”, there was no going back.

After waiting for what felt like an eternity another consultant entered the room and talked us through what would happen next. I was given a tablet to “cut off” the hormone levels in my body and told to return 2 days later to have labour induced and with that, we left.

From then on in, the rest (as they say) is history, life for me was never going to be the same again. As I sit here and type this, I can still feel the numbness that overtook me that day. It shoots through my body and leaves goosebumps on my skin and at the same time sending those ever so familiar shivers down my spine, “I shouldn’t be here” my head shrieks “I shouldn’t be typing this” yet here I am and, unfortunately, here I’ll stay…….