My daughter died. My beautiful daughter. What her life would have become will forever be a mystery.
I picture her growing into a little girl with auburn hair, glistening brown eyes, a big smile and an even bigger personality. She would have been a cheeky little thing with a mischievous laugh. She would love playing peek-a-boo. She would be stubborn like Mummy but relaxed like Daddy. She would run to Daddy when he came home from work and together they would play tricks on Mummy. She would love listening to bed time stories and then beg for more, declaring she wasn’t tired yet as she yawned the widest yawn. She would pull Figaro’s tail and chase her around the house. She would pull out all of her toys from her toy box and scatter them all over the floor. She would tiptoe into our bedroom in the morning, trying to be as quiet as a mouse. Then she would pull back the covers at the bottom of the bed and worm her way in so she could squeeze in between us for morning cuddles. She would pour milk all over the table instead of in her cereal bowl. She would run with her pigtails swinging, trip and cry out for Mummy. She would insist that Daddy watched another episode of The Clone Wars. And another.
It’s not a mystery how my heart pours with love for Evelyn. It’s not a mystery that she will always be missed. It’s not a mystery I will run to her with open arms when it is my turn.
One day my darling, I will hold you and you will feel the love I have all for you xxx
I was so happy. This is a photo of me and my amazing friends at my baby shower. I was 37 weeks pregnant. I had no idea what Life had in store for me. And why would I?
Before this, I had no idea. No clue that this could happen. One hundred years ago, maybe. In a high risk pregnancy, possibly. In 2016 during a ‘low-risk,’ text book pregnancy in the modern world? Never. I was even led by the health professionals that once I was past the 12 week mark, I was in the safe zone. I was so blissfully unaware of Life’s shit dealing. Look at my full smile. I hate that face. How did an educated 34 year old not know this happened?
Nobody tells you, that’s why.
A stillbirth is a baby born dead after 24 weeks gestation.
What people don’t know is 1 in 4 pregnancies end in death. 2.6 million pregnancies end in stillbirth every year. 3,500 of these occur in the UK. Britain is 21 out of 35 of the world’s richest countries. Fathers of stillborn babies are not entitled to any leave unless their company has a heart. There is such a long list of possible causes; placental problems, bleeding, infection, preeclampsia, the slipping of the umbilical cord which ends up round the baby’s neck, genetic problems, liver disorder, diabetes… …but around one third of these 2.6 millions deaths are unexplained.
How can that be in this day and age? With the technology we have at our disposal? How can this happen in a country like ours?
There is no reason for Evelyn’s death. That doesn’t sit well with me. I was told ‘these things just happen.’ My baby was taken away from me for no reason? Well excuse my French, but fuck that.
I have really struggled with this prompt today. To be able to fully understand how I feel, unless you’ve walked it yourself, is impossible. Even other loss parents I have spoken to won’t fully understand my thoughts and feelings. They can’t. They are not me and I am not them. Everybody’s story is different. Everybody’s baby is different. Everybody grieves differently. Everybody honours their babies in different ways. Yes, some people can imagine how it feels and we can cry together, but unless you can reach into my heart and mind, you’ll never fully understand. For those of you who are not on this journey, I am so thankful you can’t.
However, I have been so blessed by so many people. I have heard stories of friends unable to know what to say, so they say and do nothing. Another loss for somebody to deal with on top of the loss of their baby. Family members who have felt like the grieving parents haven’t called them enough. I have to say, it is so hard to wake up each day and try and sort out your own feelings, that there is no motivation to call and appear ‘normal’ to the outside world.
But I want to take the opportunity to thank everybody who has sent me text messages to say ‘I’m thinking of you’, to those who continue to ask me out, even though I might say no. Thank you to those who sent cards and flowers, to those who continue to do so. For everybody who took Evelyn on holiday this summer. To those who say her name and ask to see photos of her. To those who have seen a rainbow and text me to say Evelyn is with them. To those who have raised funds for Sands. For those who have donated books to the bereavement room. To those who visit me because I am unwashed in my pjs and hold my hand. To those who have cried with me, laughed with me, screamed with me, prayed for me. To those brave loss parents who have shared their babies with me. Thank you. You will never know how huge your acts of kindness have been. They have pulled me through so many dark times. I am so lucky to have friends and family like you in my life. Thank you doesn’t do it justice. But I am so grateful. I love you all xx
So I have been participating in #captureyourgrief these past five days. Not for sympathy. Not to anger or upset people but for my own grieving journey. When I saw the prompt ‘The Unspoken’ I wanted to write about the day we found out Evelyn was gone. It is something I’ve not talked about in any great detail and not something Toby and I have been able to talk about. Our counsellor is very concerned that this is a major part in our grief journey, and I agree, but it’s too painful.
Instead I thought I’d share words which should be unspoken but of which I’ve heard since the death of Evelyn.
You’re young, you can have another.
When are you going to try for another.
Everything happens for a reason.
I know how you feel, my dog died.
At least you didn’t know her.
At least you didn’t have to give birth to her.
I miss the old Claire.
I had the same symptoms but my baby is alive.
You’ll get over it.
Don’t make a shrine of her. She’s gone.
You’ll have another and forget this all happened.
I could go on and on with the fucking useless advice and stupid space-filling comments I’ve had in the last seven months. Yes, it’s hard for you because you don’t know what to say. But you try living this. I’ve had enough of trying to hide my emotions to buffer other people’s feelings. You might feel awkward for a few minutes to hear my baby girl died but I live with that every second of every day.
Words of wisdom are not needed. Your presence is. You don’t need to say anything. Nothing will make it better. Knowing you’re there for us will help.
For the first two months following Evelyn’s death, I cut out my friends. I couldn’t function normally. My grief was debilitating physically and emotionally and my thoughts were consumed by my baby. I only wanted to see people who had met Evelyn at the hospital so I spent my days with her Daddy, her grandparents and my midwives. I hadn’t left the house in a month, barely washed, didn’t eat. I will be eternally grateful for my family and midwives for comforting me as I cried, screamed, pulled at my hair, rocked and finally wanting to end my life.
The first person outside my immediate circle was Hayley. A loss Mummy who didn’t know me, just knew I had experienced the same thing. I know she was meant to be at the hospital when we were.
I reached out to the #sandscharity forum and spent hours reading other people’s experiences. I need to feel like I wasn’t alone. Through them, I found the Southampton Sands group. I would be lost without these women. We share so much and our friendships are instant and deep rooted. I can talk openly about Evelyn. I don’t need to hold back any details which might make ‘normal’ people wince or run.
Some have run from me. Some have been blocked because of their insensitivity and hurtful comments. Others have been unfollowed. Mainly the new and expectant Mums. I can’t see that. It’s like rubbing salt in the wounds. But they seem to leak through the cracks at times, taunting me. I hate seeing them so blissfully happy and unaware of Life’s shit dealing.
To Toby my rock, to my friends who see me at my lowest and have still stuck by me, to my family who have been gentle with me, to Anthea who left to be with Evelyn, to my new friends who understand and have shared their precious babies with me and have allowed me to share Evelyn with them, to my non-social media friend who sends me daily text messages, to my incredible midwives who held my hand and marvelled at Evelyn’s beauty and perfection, to the acute mental health team who pulled me away from my darkness, to my online baby loss friends who have lit candles for Evelyn and made me feel less alone, I am so thankful to you. I am so grateful you are in my life.
Nothing can prepare you for the death of your baby. You get past the 12 week mark and you’re led to believe everything is fine and you make plans for your lives together.
I had a vague birthing plan but I remember telling my midwife I just wanted her out safely, that was my birthing plan. I had bought a tens machine to help with the labour pains and I was looking forward to some gas and air! I was terrified but so excited. On that fateful Tuesday, I got out of bed and felt her fall. I thought she was getting ready to enter the world and the panic left me and instead I was eager for labour so I could meet her.
Ten hours of labour. There were many tears shed but also laughter with my midwives. They were so supportive. I didn’t scream. And neither did Evelyn. The silence was deafening.
Saying goodbye to Evelyn was the single most heart wrenching thing I’ve ever had to do. We read her one last story. Gave her the last hugs she would ever have. Kissed her sweetly and left her in the Moses basket. We said goodbye and closed the door on her. On our future together. On everything we had wished for. I’ll never forget the guilt I felt. For letting her down and not keeping her safe. For leaving behind the most precious thing to me. I hope she didn’t think we were abandoning her. I hope she didn’t think we chose to have her little body put inside the cold morgue. I hope she knew how much love I had, and do have, for her.
In my arms, laid a memory box. Inside were her hand and footprints and a curl of her hair. That was it. That’s all we have of her. We walked to the ward exit and as we went through the doors, there walked a proud, smiling Daddy carrying his baby girl in a car seat all ready to go home and begin their lives together. I clutched my memory box as tears fell down my face. I felt my heart break right there. It tore in half. No, it ripped. Shattered.
Words will never do justice to the range of emotions I felt and continue to feel. That I will feel forever. My baby died. She died inside me. I continued to carry her for a day, convinced I could feel her kick, convinced the doctors had got it wrong.
I am broken.
Evelyn Katie Ward. Born sleeping at 22:22 on 3.3.16 weighing 7lb 7oz, 53cm long with a head circumference of 35cm.
Planned for and longed for; our daughter. The first grandchild.
I had wanted a baby for years. Excited doesn’t come close to how I felt when Toby said we could try for a baby. Every fertility app I could download to increase our chances, I did (although, don’t tell Toby, but I had already been tracking my cycles just in case!) Even years before we got pregnant, I dreamt of bringing our baby girl home. Reading Winnie the Pooh to her in her nursery. Plaiting her hair for school. Turns out, dreams are all I have now. Dreams of what it could have been and how it should be.
Those two lines meant the world to me. They were sign of things to come and the beginning of the ‘me’ I always wanted to be; Mummy.
She made me sick for the first few months but I would do it all again in a heartbeat to get her back. Then I began to grow. I loved my bump. It was a perfect bump. I used to wear tops which would cling to my bump so people could watch her move. She moved a lot. She loved music, especially classical and country and western. She loved it when I sang along. She loved to keep me up at night with her pushing from the inside. She didn’t like the morning, just like me.
She came into the world silently even though I prayed so hard for a miracle. She was perfect. The most beautiful thing I have even set my eyes on. She had her Daddy’s hands and feet and her Mummy’s mouth. How I longed for that mouth to cry out for me. I don’t know the colour of her eyes, I never will. They didn’t open. Her button nose, oh how I love her button nose. I spent hours with her in the hospital stroking it. Her little finger was the length of the tip of my little finger. So tiny and perfectly made. Her skin was soft. Her hair was fair at the front, red around her ears and dark and wavy at the back. She would have had curls.
Evelyn is my everything. My body yearns for her. She is the first thing I think of when I wake up, the last thing I think of at night and every other moment in between.
My grief will never end because my love for her will never fade.
I realise I have been very quiet on here, but I have continued with my writing on Instagram. October was Baby Loss Awareness Month and I participated in Carly Marie’s Capture Your Grief project. Each day, I was given a prompt. I took a photograph and wrote about what that prompt meant to me. I thought I would share these for my blog readers.
Today, the 1st October, marks the beginning of the 2016 #captureyourgrief project and Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month.
Today’s prompt: Sunrise. I had grand plans of climbing St Catherine’s Hill to watch the sun rise over Winchester. Marvelling in the beauty as the colours changed. But after a weather check, and an artistic meltdown at dawn, I changed my mind. What would a climb up a hill signify anyway? So I stood, in the rain, outside my house. The sunrise was not colourful. The sky was not painted in a myriad of colours. I did not marvel at the beauty of a new day. How I thought this challenge would begin and how it actually began were very different. Just like the beginning of our lives with Evelyn. Before her birth, I saw rainbows and pink skies. After her birth, I have seen nothing but grey clouds. A new day does not bring excitement and hope. It just takes me further away from when we first met her.
This morning, I stared at our house. It’s not perfect. It needs paint. It still needs rooms decorated. But it is full of love. I was so excited to carry my baby through the front door on her first day out of the maternity ward. Her home. The home in which we would watch her grow, squabble at 2am over whose turn it was to feed her, watch her crawl, take her first steps. We would walk her to her first day at school from this house. It was all planned. But inside our house, there is an empty nursery with an empty crib. A wardrobe full of clothes never worn. There is no 2am wake up call from a hungry baby.
Our dreams have been shattered by her death. We are trying to rebuild our lives but it is hard when the path you were walking down suddenly stops.
There wasn’t a beautiful sunrise this morning but nothing sums up how I feel better than these heavy, rain soaked clouds hammering down on my head.
I am sure that I have become known as the crazy lady with a bear. I see the looks I get from people as I pass by them on the street with a teddy in my handbag or dance the night away at a family event with her in my arms. Yes, I am 34 and yes, I carry a bear with me but she is no ordinary bear.
Let me take you back to March. In the weeks following Evelyn’s birth, I should have been holding her, bathing her, changing her, feeding her. Instead, we were making plans for my baby’s farewell service. Instead of laying her down to sleep in her crib next to our bed, we were planning her forever bed.
After we heard those awful words in the hospital ward, my brain rushed forward to Evelyn’s funeral. My first uttered words to my husband were ‘we can’t burn her.’ I knew she would be beautiful and I couldn’t dream of destroying the very thing I had taken nine months to grow.
A week after her birth, we found ourselves at the funeral directors. I had never set foot inside one before. Any deaths I had experienced before had been grandparent’s and so my parents had made the arrangements. We were handed a brochure. There was a brochure for baby death funerals. What? I felt like I must have time travelled back to the Victorian era. This didn’t happen now, surely. We skimmed through the pages of tiny caskets and miniature urns. It was heartbreaking. How could we possibly be in this situation when we had lovingly cared for our baby as she grew inside me?
Our funeral director was the loveliest woman I have met. She advised us on the types of services she had held before, who was best for flowers and explained it was our baby’s service; she would help us make it as beautiful and personal as she could.
At this time, we were unsure if Evelyn would be buried or cremated. Being buried, I knew her beautiful body would remain as I had seen it. But to lower her into the cold ground inside a dark box? What if she was claustrophobic? Aren’t babies afraid of the dark? I can’t cuddle her to comfort her. So cremation. Could I bring myself to have her body destroyed? It would be so hot. What if she screamed out in pain?
Our funeral director talked about wicker caskets, wooden caskets. Pink ones, blue ones. Wooden urns, silver urns. She showed me a pink tube with white feathers on it. How beautiful, she marvelled. Toby picked it up as I imagined my baby’s powdered body inside. At that moment, he pulled it and broke it. I almost choked on my heart as I pictured her ashes being blown about if we were to break our own tube. I cried. The funeral director rushed out of the room as she called out ‘I’ll just get my bear.’ Who is this mad woman? She keeps a teddy bear in case people cry? She came back into the room with a cuddly brown bear with a zip down it’s back. I grabbed it for comfort and cried my tears into it’s fur. She told us that it was a special bear with a special pocket. If we chose cremation, Evelyn’s ashes could be put inside so we could cuddle her whenever we needed. That was it. Decision made. We wouldn’t be able to bring our baby home as we had planned, but she could be with us.
A couple of weeks after Evelyn’s funeral, we got an eagerly awaited text message: ‘there is a very lonely bear here waiting for cuddles.’ The day she came home, I’ll never forget. Toby left work early, collected her from the funeral director’s and brought our baby home. Finally.
So here we are. I am a lady with a bear, but no ordinary bear. Evie Bear comes everywhere with us. Every day. She wears Evelyn’s clothes and sleeps in our bed. Knowing that I have my baby’s body with me brings me comfort but nothing is better than a cuddle with Evie Bear.