Nicole describes herself as "a thirty-something charity worker from the North East of England. Xander was our first baby, conceived after years of trying, and just when we were about to give up. After an uneventful 'text book' pregnancy, I was nearly 2 weeks overdue when I went to the hospital thinking I was in labour, only to be told he'd died in the 10 hours since we'd last heard his heartbeat. He was born silently on Tuesday 16th August 2011, just before midnight."
Where am I now? Not where I should be. My son should be nearly 10 months old. He should be here in my arms, not existing only as ashes in a tiny box. It’s a funny word, ‘should’. I often catch myself using it - it’s when I temporarily exist in the make believe land where my boy is alive and my life is whole and complete. Where our house is full of noise, and smells, and Jim stubs his toe on the baby things left on the floor. Where the cats run away from our little lovely boy, to avoid getting their tails pulled. Where we’ve had to move things off the bottom shelves and fit stair gates, to keep him safe. This land doesn’t exist. Our house is quiet. The cats undisturbed. Our lives are much the same as before, but forever changed.
I think of him a million times a day. Everything reminds me of him. Sometimes that’s comforting. I can remember the love I felt when he was growing inside me and the joy I felt every day, and I feel warm and content in the memory. Sometimes it’s as far from comforting as it can possibly be. I miss him so much. I ache to hold him and I rush round the house trying to find something of his. But I’m thwarted at every turn. I have nothing that was his – nothing he touched. We bought a soft toy for him after the 20 week scan, and I sat with a couple of times on my bump, telling Jim I was letting them bond. This is the nearest thing I have to something of his and sometimes I sit with it, to try and be close to him. But it’s a poor substitute for a living boy. Sometimes I take the glass off the frame that holds his footprints, and run my fingers over the marks his feet made, desperate to touch something he touched. Nothing quite does it. Nothing can ever satisfy the need to see him, hold him, to mother him.
I keep having to remind myself I am a mother. It’s hard to feel like one when the object of my affection has ceased to exist. I am a different mother to all of my friends. I can’t possible understand their reality, and they can’t ever understand mine. I feel separate, different. I am a freak in a world full of normals. The sense of isolation is enormous.
I would love another baby. I hope that one day it’ll happen for us, but I’m not so sure. It took so many years before we had Xander. Sometimes I think he was our only chance at having a family, and I swear I can almost feel my heart breaking all over again. The road ahead is filled with danger – if we ever conceive again, will I miscarry? Will the baby be stillborn again? Will they die of SIDS? Will they die at age 2, or 5, or 15? The innocence of pregnancy is gone, and I can never feel it again. Sometimes I wish I could see the future, other times I’m glad I can’t – because if I knew more loss of this magnitude was coming my way I think I’d fall down dead. I worry about everyone in my life, especially my husband. If he has a headache, or a cough, or comes home a little late, I’ve half convinced myself he’s gone. I know that having one loss doesn’t protect you from another – there’s an unlimited amount of bad in the world, as there is of good.
People ask me how I am and I say ‘okay’. I’m coping. And I am. I’m not staying in bed, not avoiding the world, I’ve not lost my mind and I’m not trying to kill myself. I’d be lying if I said I hadn’t thought about all of those things, many times. But I get on with life. Hell, sometimes I even enjoy it. I go out, see friends and family - sometimes I enjoy things so much, or I laugh so hard, that life feels wonderful. Other times I am so sad I can’t stop crying. I want to sit very, very still and hope the world goes away, or spontaneously ends without me having to do anything about it. Apocalypse? Deadly virus? Gigantic asteroid on a collision course with earth – bring it on! Sometimes I’m so mad, so filled with rage at the world that I want to kick things over, shout at people, punch god in the face, or scream until I have no voice left.
So where am I now? I am coping. I get by. Sometimes I’m even living. But my reality is forever changed. Nothing and nobody can bring my boy back. I read somewhere that life goes on, but so does death. I know this to be true. I’ll carry the strength of his memory, and the weight of his loss, with me until the end of my days