Our door remains empty, on the first day of school. No awkward photographs. No fussing over a clean uniform. The first day of school but you are missing.
The first day of school.
Jason should be starting Reception this year. I should be rushing around buying his new shoes, the uniform I had forgotten about and preparing him for what school is like. Our lives would be filled with excitement, our little boy growing up so fast.
School starts and the internet is flooded with those first day photos, standing so smartly in the new, clean uniform in front of the door. Their book bags, water bottles, lunch boxes and PE kit piled in to their hands, promising yourself you won’t cry but knowing you will when they step through the doorway in to this whole new world.
This year, instead of watching Jason on his first day of school, I will be working in a reception class. I’ll be right there in the thick of it, watching the parents on the playground, the children excited/nervous for their first day. It’s going to be so hard knowing I should be one of them. Oh how I wish I was one of them.
When an adult dies, you grieve for the memories and the lives you shared. When a baby or a child dies, you grieve for all the memories you don’t get to have. Everything, for the rest of our lives, is tinged with sadness, there is always someone missing. I don’t know how Jason’s first day at school would have gone, due to his Down Syndrome and other health issues I don’t even know if he’d have been able to go to a mainstream school or whether he’d have needed extra support. It’s hard being a mother and not knowing your child. Not having the chance to know them or even be able to imagine the child they would be.
A huge milestone that has been taken away from us again.
To all those parents who are struggling at the beginning of the school year, I am with you, I hear you and I am there for you.
One definition of Hope: to want something to happen or to be true, and usually have a good reason to think that it might
19th August in the baby loss community is A Day of Hope. A day to remember all those babies and children who died. A day where people are encouraged to break the silence around baby loss. Whether that is a miscarriage, a stillbirth, neonatal or infant loss, they all matter.
Hope is a strange emotion after loss, for me I found it hard to hope for anything that couldn’t be guaranteed. I didn’t want to feel excited about things if they weren’t going to happen. The hope of meeting your baby during pregnancy is the best feeling in the world but once my eyes were opened to the fact that babies can and do die, having hope wasn’t something I found easy to do. I hoped for my Son, I was so excited to meet the little person growing inside me and although I did meet him, it certainly wasn’t in the way I was expecting and all my hopes were shattered.
Today, I hope that someone is given the courage to talk about their loss, their baby or child. I hope that someone reading this knows that their children matter.
I am not afraid to openly talk about my son who was born, lived and died on the same day nor am I afraid to talk about my loss. Jason’s story is still one of my favourite stories to tell, the ending isn’t happy but, as most of us know, not all stories have a happy ending. I will say his name and share his story for as long as I live. I will break down those barriers that stop parents and others talking about the loss of their own babies.
Ever since I was a teen I’ve loved taking pictures, I was always hiding in my bedroom trying to find new ways to take “the best selfie” or posing in some way. Yet actually, I hate having my picture taken, I get awkward and self-conscious and always feel like a whale. I remember when Luke and I would go on holidays (always a coach trip abroad and they were AMAZING!) I would take roughly 2000 pictures to remember every single detail of that trip. Of cause, I don’t even look at them and the thousands of scenic pictures mean nothing to me as I don’t remember half the places we visited. Yet, I still take them.
I remember not wanting to take any photos of Jason the day he was born. It felt wrong and insensitive somehow. He was dead. I didn’t hold him alive and I didn’t want to fake how I was feeling for a picture either. I was told that the midwives would take some photo’s of him so there would be some if we ever wanted them. I didn’t want anyone to meet him but allowed close family in to say hello and goodbye; I denied those who would have loved him so much that chance but I knew I’d have put on a brave face and pretended this was exactly what we were expecting if they had come. I wanted to be true to myself, I wanted to cry and grieve for the little boy in my arms who didn’t even get to meet his Mum. Right before we said our final goodbyes to Jason I took one photograph on my phone. I placed him in the incubator/cot, wrapped his blue blanket around him (a hospital one as I couldn’t bear to see him with anything we had in our hospital bag…nothing would have fit any way) and took the only photograph I have in colour of my beautiful little boy. A decision I regret every day of my life. I wanted more. I need more and I can’t go back to take them. I’d give anything for one picture of the three of us. One moment where we could pretend our family was complete, regardless of whether we were happy or sad, just one photograph showing for a brief moment we were complete.
Since Ellie’s birth I have taken far too many lots of photos. I want as many pictures of her as I can possibly get because if ANYTHING was to happen to her at least I would have them to look back and remember that she is here. I know that sounds morbid but when you have lost a child you never fully believe any other children are here to stay either. I try to take as many family pictures as I can and i’m always asking Luke to take pictures of me and Ellie together. He doesn’t. He forgets. He’s not very good with photographs and the ones he does take seem forced because i’ve asked for them. I want those pictures where we are just being us, the pictures where we are playing…like I take of him and Ellie all the time.
What saddens me the most is that our family is complete. Not physically of course but complete all the same and I will never be able to have that family photo of the four of us together. However, I do have something pretty close and it means the world to me.
I have been Instagram friends with Nin for a while, our mutual loss of our children bringing two random strangers together and building a friendship. She has started her own small business creating beautiful family portraits so I messaged her to see if she could create something for me. We talked about what I wanted, we discussed whether I wanted Jason to be as he was born or as he should be now. I sent Nin pictures and she used what she knew about me and my little family to create something that is perfect. Every little detail was done with so much thought and care. Nin’s illustrations are stunning and she managed to get this drawn, coloured and sent all within the space of a few days! I was totally surprised when it arrived just 4 days after first talking through what I wanted.
If you are looking for something a little different, a bit more personal or even a way to make your family complete then please get in touch with her. These illustrations would make the PERFECT gift for any occasion and she isn’t afraid of a challenge either!
To see more of her work please head on over to her instagram page
Disclosure: this is NOT an ad, I paid for this illustration and just wanted to share how amazing it is!! All views and opinions are my own.
In an ideal world I’d have been one of those nervous parents waiting to find out what school my boy had gotten in to. In an ideal world he’d have been accepted to the primary school where I work! In an idealworld I’d already have his uniform, or parts of it in preparation and be excitedly making him try it on for pictures. In an ideal world we probably would have had to put Jason in to the special needs school because that is where he’d have the support he needed. In a less ideal world we’d have to settle or appeal the decision.
I would give so much to be able to take that less ideal world. To be one of those excired/nervous parents dying to know.
Things like this shouldn’t cause me grief, I probably wouldn’t even acknowledge it if I didn’t work in a school however when September comes and I see all those parents and little reception newbies on their first day I know it should be me there too. I will see their anxiousness and wonder whether I’d have felt the same or whether we would both be ready for him to start school. I feel like Ellie is ready to start nursery so I know she will be fine but I will never know what Jason would have been like.
My life with him seems further and further away with every milestone that we don’t hit together. I’ve missed his first words, first steps, first hug, first smile and now ill be missing his first day at school too.
Of cause I miss him constantly and the ache I have to have both of my children here is never ending but sometimes days are harder to deal with than others and there are some days where you just can’t help but think how fucking cruel the world is.
Wow, as always, the final few days of March were horrendous. I have said for a while now that for me, the build up to an anniversary is always harder than the day. This has been the case for all of Jason’s birthdays. I find the days leading to his birth/death hit me far harder because I carry so much guilt with those days; what if I’d have gotten checked out earlier, what if i’d have known I was in labour, what if I could have done something and I didn’t. Those who have lost a baby/child will understand what I mean by all this. The guilt seems harder every year too, i force myself (more like torture myself) to read past status’ complaining of feeling tired, having swollen ankles, feeling sick, I can’t help myself. I only ever activate my old facebook account on the build up to his birthday, knowing I will see these past status’ and knowing it will feel like a knife to the heart the closer it gets to his birthday.
This year as many of you know, Jason should have been turning 4. He should have been having a party with our family, friends, possibly even some nursery friends and I should have been knee deep in cake, balloons and presents! I wasn’t. I went to work, I pretended I was fine, I sat through a meeting about the mental health and wellbeing of our pupils which then turned into a discussion on a bereavement course our SENCO had recently been on and I just sat there. I wanted to storm out, I wanted to sob, I wanted to scream that Jason wasn’t just a bereavement, he was/is my Son. I didn’t do anything of those things, I welled up at times but composed myself. I decided I was going to ask to leave early, only half an hour so I could see Ellie. I needed to be with her. While I was waiting to speak to my boss, a male teacher got a call, his wife was in labour. I knew it was going to happen. I knew it would be that day. I just knew it. I felt like I was right back in the thick of my grief, the first days where the world kept on turning, everyone’s lives carried on but mine seemed to stop. I felt like I was watching everything in slow motion and it hurt. I did manage to finish early and in the end spent a really nice afternoon with Ellie, in our favourite garden, where I have taken her every year since she was born on Jason’s birthday.
A little garden in Ironbridge, with beautiful flowers, a little wooden park and a cafe that sells the most amazing cake which I treated Ellie too because I couldn’t treat her brother.
The weekend was pretty okay, we took Ellie to Chester Zoo, another tradition we have started since Jason was born. We have gone every year to celebrate his birthday as close to the date as we can. We had such an amazing day, Ellie was really well behaved and walked around most of the day. We walked 6 miles around the zoo, saw loads of animals and thought about Jason all day.
I was gutted that the elephants weren’t out of their house due to illness, I always feel closer to Jason when I see an elephant. Ellie loved watching the baby animals, her favourites being the Meerkats and I enjoyed seeing the animals we have watched on The Secret Life of The Zoo with her. We spent all day there, not getting home until late but it was worth it. Ellie was happy, so we were happy.
Sunday was Mother’s Day. Those mums in our baby loss community know how difficult mothers day is. Regardless of how many children are living, there will always be one missing. I’ll never get a card made at nursery from him. I’ll never have a mothers day hug from him. I’ll never get to spend a mothers day with him. It doesn’t matter how many living children you have, when one is missing it tarnishes the day. I found not acknowledging it helped, I spent the day cleaning, washing, doing our usual Sunday chores. Luke struggled more so I naturally took on the strong role to help make his day seem easier. The Sunday after Jason’s birthday is always difficult for him and this one being Mothers Day made it harder this year. It sucks.
The following day I found the hardest, I couldn’t function. I couldn’t get out of bed. I didn’t want to either. I spent an hour in bed crying, my alarm went off and I just didn’t want the day to start. I didn’t go to work, I couldn’t. My head wasn’t in the right place at all. I felt just like I did when Jason first died, the world was once again moving on and I wasn’t ready to carry on. I needed another day to grieve for what should have been, for the life that was taken away from us and from him. I needed another day to feel sorry for myself because this year felt like more and more people weren’t that bothered. “It was 4 years ago, surely they should have let it go by now” It’s exactly what I would have thought before Jason so in my own mind this is what people would be thinking too. It’s okay. I get it because unless you have held a dead baby, sat and cried looking at their tiny coffin, knowing they are in there and there is nothing you can do to turn back time and make it all better, then of cause you aren’t going to understand.
Of cause, I have had 4 years of practise now at pretending I am okay with how my life is, pretending that his loss hasn’t left a giant hole in my heart where he should be. For the most part I’m not even pretending any more. Life does get easier to manage, you start moving forward because you can’t stay stuck in the same loop forever. Except when you do find yourself with anniversaries, celebrations, it’s hard to give yourself time to readjust and if you are like me, you burn out. I have felt pretty drained all week however already I am feeling that glimpse of happiness return, the anniversary is over and although I NEVER stop thinking about Jason, missing him, loving him, each day becomes easier to carry on as if i’m not broken slightly.