For Aneurin’s first birthday I knew I wanted to write something special but whatever I wrote would be sad because no matter how much joy and pride he brought and continues to bring to our lives, celebrating this day without him is so incredibly wrong and painful. Instead, I thought I would share his birth story. I toyed with the idea of publishing the events surrounding his death on another day because for me, his death and his birth are such completely separate events. His death is without a doubt the worst day of my life, a day that brings me nothing but trauma and pain. His birth is a series of beautiful, positive memories that make me smile and bring me an enormous amount of comfort. However, it makes sense for the two to be together but I hope that the difficulty of reading the first part is easier knowing that at the end of it, we got to meet our son. Our beautiful, soft-as-clouds, sweet baby boy.
At 1.03pm on Friday 31st July 2015, immersed in the fiercest waves of love from my mum and husband, our beautiful baby boy was born. His little pink face was peaceful, his soft mouth open as if he were breathing through it and one perfect hand tucked under his chin. He looked so serene and perfect it was hard to remember his precious heart had stopped beating four days earlier.
He never moved much in the mornings anyway so I didn’t think much of it. We got up as usual, Haydn had finished work for the summer so we had our breakfast and decided to put the last coat of paint on the chest of drawers before my routine appointment with my midwife at 1pm. I had been painting for about 10 minutes when I suddenly felt really odd. This wave of something washed over me and I felt like I was going to pass out, as though every energy in my body had disappeared. I went for a lay down which is when I felt my beautiful boy move for the last time. It was strange. Not a stretch or a kick but almost like a gentle shift and flutter. I didn’t really think much of it at the time except that it felt unusual.
My mum had been staying with a friend in town so popped in on her way home to say hello and immediately said my bump had dropped drastically. Haydn had had a not-realising-the-paint-was-gloss-incident and tried to wash it off so was amusingly covered in white paint which meant my mum took me to my midwife appointment whilst he attempted to clean up.
I never for a second thought anything untoward had happened to my baby. Not even when my midwife couldn’t find him with her little handheld doppler. He had a habit of being a little bugger and moving around whenever he was being listened to so I laughed and said he was obviously just messing about. She tried for ages, in every possible place. When I think about it now I realise she was panicked, and my mum was panicked. They both tried not to be but when I think about their faces, they were. I didn’t think for a second it meant anything serious which I almost feel silly about. My midwife sent us over to fetal health to be checked out and I should have realised when she didn’t even type any notes up, just wrote on the bottom and told us to go straight there.
When we arrived it was lovely Abi who met us and whisked us not into the usual little ward but into a side room. She had been on duty for most of my day care appointments for the few weeks before and we had gotten to know eachother (she’s a fellow blogger too, oddly). I was glad it was Abi. Despite being taken into the side room it wasn’t until she couldn’t find his heartbeat a few minutes later that I started to let myself think something might be wrong. Usually they found it straight away with the CTG monitor but she tried everywhere and nothing. Another midwife came in to swap with Abi and tried all over again. Silence. Horrible, cold silence. Not even the garbled alien sounds of him shifting around, just nothing. My mum looked as though someone had pulled her heart from her chest. I was so glad she was with me. The midwife eventually wiped my tummy, put her hand on mine and said ‘I’m so sorry but I can’t find a heartbeat’.
All I could think was, ‘we’ve been through too much to not make it to the end.’ Yet still, almost half of me was hopeful. I still believed they were wrong. That he was just in the wrong position, that the monitor was wrong. She said she would get someone to scan me to confirm it and I truly believed he would be on the scan waving his little arms and legs about as normal. It was at this point when Haydn arrived. I had rung him in the car and told him we were on our way to be monitored but not to worry. He said he was going to anyway so he’d rather be with me and worry than at home and worry. Seeing his face made the reality come crashing down. In the seconds it took him to open the door, walk towards me and sit on the bed my naive hope made way for reality. His face. His poor, beautiful, rugged face looked petrified. He buried his head in my neck and we both started sobbing.
We sat in silence, bar the sounds of tears splashing on our clothes, with my mum and waited for my consultant who took us into the scan room. The first scan room we ever went in at 8 weeks when we thought we’d had a miscarriage. The first room we ever heard the sweet music of his heartbeat. There was no sweet music now, just silence. I stared at the ceiling willing him to move, praying to something and someone for him to be okay. I remember thinking it was strange that she had the scan probe so low down but now I realise it was because he had dropped to the bottom of my tummy. It didn’t take long for her to say ‘I’m so sorry but there’s no heartbeat, your baby has died’. Both my mum and Haydn made the most awful sound, like wounded animals. She turned the screen and showed us his heart wasn’t moving. I couldn’t look for longer than a split second, just turned my head back and stared at the ceiling for what felt like forever feeling nothing. Absolutely nothing, as if every ounce of life and soul had been sucked out my body with the words ‘your baby has died’. I don’t remember what happened after that, only that eventually it was just the three of us and someone had wiped my tummy, put my clothes right and was pulling me up.
The rest of that day is a blur. I know at some point my mother in law arrived and that we were taken downstairs onto labour ward to their bereavement suite where he would be born. I remember talking about having to deliver him and saying I didn’t want to do it, I wanted them to just take him out, that I couldn’t go through a labour. I remember not wanting to go home knowing I would never take my baby home. I remember feeling like I was watching all of it happening from somewhere else, that this couldn’t possibly be happening to us, not when we had made it so far. Four weeks exactly from my induction date.
I don’t know how long we were in that room for. The Snowdrop Room with paintings of snowdrops and a horrible arrangement on the wall that looked like a wreath. Folders on the shelf labelled ‘memorial book’ and lots of things with the word ‘bereavement’ on. Eventually I accepted I had to give birth to my baby. It seemed like the most cruel, unfair, painful thing in the world but I knew I had to do it. I needed to do that for him. They explained what would happen, that I would be given some medication that day to prepare my body for induction then I would come back on Wednesday (this was Monday) and be induced via a pessary to soften my cervix and kick start labour. It all seemed so cruel but necessary and something I came to be very, very grateful for.
Walking out of the delivery suite was awful. My mum and Haydn either side of me I could feel the midwives’ sad eyes on me. I really don’t remember much after the scan but I know at some point Haydn’s mum went to our house and moved all of Pea’s things that were downstairs into his unfinished room. I’m glad she did because I couldn’t face looking at the piles of clothes I had been sorting through the few days before, or his mattress leaned up against the living room wall. It was a shock though walking into the living room and it being so obviously void of baby things. She had tried to move bits around so it wasn’t noticeable which I will forever love her for but I knew and it was like being punched in the stomach. It was only when we walked through the door of our home that the overwhelming grief and despair truly hit me. Suddenly being in our own home, our familiar surroundings where we had planned and created our family, it felt so very real.
I don’t know how we got through Tuesday. The only things I remember from that day are oddly really lovely things. I knew I wanted to have one last bath with my Pea in my belly and Haydn wanted to read to him one last time. Those memories are so incredibly precious to me. Laying in the bath with Haydn sat on the floor next to me, kissing my belly and splashing water on it as if he could still feel it, having a flash of hope that he would suddenly wake up and jump but having my heart break realising he wouldn’t. Haydn’s head resting on my belly reading him in a broken voice the same book he had been reading him for weeks and feeling such pride and love towards him. Towards both of them. Both Monday and Tuesday night we slept with the Peter Rabbit comforter Haydn had bought him long before we ever even knew he was poorly. We were going to give it to him to keep him company so we wanted it to smell of his mummy and daddy. Going to sleep that night clutching my belly trying to savour every single second I had left with my precious baby safe inside me, trying to imagine what it would feel like when he was gone.
I had never realised how aware I was of him in there. Even when he wasn’t jumping around or trying to stretch his way out of my skin, I knew he was there. I felt his life inside me giving me life and I cannot explain the void his lack of heartbeat left. It was horrible, the worst pain I had ever felt so far. I never truly understood the expression ‘heavy heart’ but I did then and I still do now a year later. My heart physically aches sometimes. There are moments of reprieve but my heart is heavier now, forever bereft.
We arrived at the hospital on Wednesday morning full of sadness, confusion, apprehension and for me, an odd excitement. Haydn dropped me off outside the maternity wing with my giant birthing ball and went to park the car. I went to go and wait in the little waiting area inside but there were four people sitting there so I stood just outside instead. I couldn’t face the inevitable excited looks in my direction when they realised why I was there. Whilst I was waiting one of the midwives from antenatal screening arrived for work. She was there the day they found abnormalities on Pea’s scan and was the main person we saw during his diagnosis. She had come down to see us on Monday and asked if she could come and see him when he was born. She had been with us during the worst parts and had actually joked the week before that she was cross I would be delivering at Leicester because she wouldn’t be there for the best bits. She waited with me until Haydn came back, just nattering and holding my hand then when he arrived, took us round to the delivery suite and settled us in before going upstairs to start work. I was and still am completely overwhelmed by the incredible support I’ve had from all the midwives we encountered. Every single one was wonderful and so many stuck with us through to the end.
We entered the hospital with very heavy hearts knowing what lay ahead of us would be the most difficult experience of our lives but expecting it to be over quite quickly. I took a photo of myself once we were in our room and it quite perfectly demonstrates how I felt knowing I was about to do the most difficult thing I would ever do. It’s really difficult to look at now. I look completely broken and terrified. The polar opposite to the photo I had taken three days before, hand proudly on my bump.
We settled into our room and tried to make it cosy by unpacking the little bits I’d brought rather than just keeping them in my bag. Fortunately the room had its own sink, fridge and tea and coffee bits so we wouldn’t have to keep going onto the ward full of lovely pregnant women giving birth to their lovely, live babies. We unpacked the little Peter Rabbit comforter and I kept that in my hand every second I was in that hospital until he was born when I gave it to him.
My mum arrived to meet us around 10am and the first Prostaglandin pessary went in that Wednesday morning at 11am. It was bloody horrible! I naturally have a very high cervix and at 34 weeks my body was nowhere near ready for labour. My lovely first midwife had small hands and I remember looking at them and thinking ‘not a chance, love.’ People had said to me before that internal examinations are the worst part of labour and birth and I’m confirming that! I can honestly say I would happily take a contraction or pushing a baby out over an internal examination of an unsoftened cervix any day.
The day was long, slow and full of very mixed emotions. We tried going for a walk a couple of times during the day but every time we did there would be other women in labour or couples putting their newborns in the car and it was just too upsetting. The longest we managed outside of our room was about 15 minutes during the middle of the night when it was a little quieter.
We passed the time by talking about what we thought he would look like, what was about to happen and what our options were for his funeral. My mum had brought a puzzle book with her so we did crosswords and quizzes but none of us could concentrate for very long. Although the day began with us covered in a heavy blanket of apprehension and sadness, as time went on and we got settled in our little bubble and the air felt a bit lighter. We laughed when we talked about him, made hideously inappropriate jokes with the midwives (I feel like that is a true testament to our characters, that even in the midst of the worst tragedy imaginable, we can still be our true inappropriate selves!) and we reminisced over the last 34 weeks. We also went through all our options with the midwife as to what happened once Pea was born. What we wanted to do immediately after birth, if we wanted to bathe him, dress him ourselves and then beyond that in terms of a post mortem and funeral arrangements. We decided we didn’t want a post mortem, that we were okay with knowing he had a heart condition and a severe problem with his oesophagus and was generally just a very poorly baby. I couldn’t face the idea of him being touched by people that weren’t us, although I know if the circumstances were different we would have felt very differently because we would have needed answers. There were a few things we wanted to do but were made aware that due to the fact he had passed away two days before and we didn’t know how long my labour would be, his skin may have been too delicate to do certain things. The midwife was so gentle with us explaining all this, they took incredible care of us all.
I had another pessary 6 hours after the first but there was still very little progress until around 7pm when I began to feel my first tightenings. At first I wasn’t sure if that’s what they were but I could actually see the muscles in my belly moving up and then releasing, it was amazing to watch! Although my contractions were quite irregular I didn’t go longer than 15 minutes without one as soon as they started. Some were 3-4 minutes apart, some 14-15 minutes. This irregularity carried on right up until the morning Pea was born which baffled the midwifes somewhat!
I was offered pain relief which I declined. I knew from the beginning I didn’t want much, not because of some silly need to be strong but because I wanted to feel as much as possible. I wanted to be in every moment as best I could, feel every last second with him and I was worried if I had a lot of pain relief I wouldn’t be able to do that. However, that did change further down the line!
There was very little sleep on Wednesday night from any of us. I drifted in and out for a couple of hours and mum and Haydn took turns dozing in the chair. I had another examination at midnight where I was 2cm so it was decided I wouldn’t need another pessary which frankly was the most welcome decision anyone had ever made for my cervix and I. With the lack of sleep we switched the tv on for the first time only for my mum to scroll through and discover an abundance of adult channels! She was reading the channel names out loud in a way that only she could without realising what they were which was incredibly amusing. The tv got turned off pretty soon after that!
By 8am on Thursday morning I was 4cm dilated but my contractions had slowed right down which meant another pessary. This time I asked for the Entinox (gas and air). To be honest, I don’t think it did anything to help with the discomfort but it was a bloody good distraction. Later in the morning I went for a bath in the world’s tiniest bath that barely covered my legs but did provide a little bit of comfort. It also brought on a few tears for the first time since we arrived.
As soon as my contractions started I realised I managed them far better if I was up and moving about. I spent a lot of time bouncing on my ball or rolling my hips on it, although further along when my waters began to bulge and Pea was descending down it became too much pressure for me to sit in that position. For the first couple of days though it was really helpful. Walking around our little room helped a lot too but mostly, I just wanted to lean on Haydn and sway. In order for labour to progress the key thing is producing Oxytocin, the ‘love hormone’, and being near Haydn clearly helped. He spent hours massaging my lower back with the Lush Wiccy Magic Muscles massage bar I’d bought a few weeks before which made the room smell amazing. All the midwifes commented on how good the room smelt and how amazing Haydn was for massaging my back constantly for hours with no complaint.
Infact, Haydn was incredible. Both him and my mum were fantastic with me in their own way. My mum cared for me in a way that only mums can and I am so, so glad she was with us. We needed her there for both of us, and for her too. Her being a part of the birth is something very special to me and I know seeing her grandson brought into the world, even under such tragic circumstances, was something very special for her too.
Haydn amazed me though. We had talked quite a bit about birth but with Pea being so poorly our conversations were more focused on that and what would happen after he was born rather than labour itself. Somehow though, he knew exactly what I needed and was there for me in such an incredible way. He could see when a contraction was starting and if he wasn’t right next to me, he appeared. He was so attentive and loving, I could not have asked for me. When contractions got stronger he told me it just meant we were closer to meeting our baby, that he was trying his hardest to help move down and that we would meet him soon. It was exactly what I needed to hear and I didn’t even realise it. If I wasn’t completely overwhelmed with love for my husband before, I certainly was after that. I didn’t think I could possibly love him more but he was so present and so supportive despite how incredibly difficult it was, I cannot explain how deeply I feel for him.
Despite managing my contractions well with support from both my mum and Haydn, by early evening on Thursday they were getting so intense I knew I needed something a little more than the Entinox. I don’t know whether it was so intense because my body had been kick started into labour when it wasn’t ready or just because they were but eventually I asked for some Diamorphine. That took the edge off for a couple of hours but my contractions just kept getting more intense seemingly without any progress. My waters were bulging but showed no sign of breaking. The doctor came to see me and suggested an epidural because by this point, I had a couple of broken hours of sleep since Tuesday night. My body was exhausted and I think everyone knew we weren’t really that close to the end yet. I declined an epidural again but reluctantly agreed to have a Morphine pump. The midwife, doctor, Haydn and my mum were all quite relieved because I think they were getting a bit concerned about my lack of rest. I realised too that I needed energy for the second stage of labour and as Pea couldn’t help with any of this, it was all down to my body.
Once the pump was in and I had a couple of doses I finally slept for longer than half an hour. I was pleased in a way that it only slightly took the edge off the contractions and amusingly I woke up for every single one, drifting straight back off to sleep when they eased.
Thursday night became a bit hazy after that. At some point during the night I pulled the sink unit away from the wall in the bathroom during a contraction (whoops!) so we were moved to a room opposite the hall. I don’t know whether it was because it was nighttime or whether it was the morphine coursing through my veins but I liked this room a lot. It had a birthing pool in the middle and a strange blue-y purple-y hue. I later found out it’s called the Serenity Suite which suits it perfectly. Haydn finally slept on Thursday night which I was so glad of because he was both physically and emotionally exhausted. He slept in a chair to the right of my bed and my mum dozed in a chair to the left of me. Contraction support duties were down to my mum that night and it might sound strange but it was lovely being looked after by my mum. She stroked my hair, put a cold flannel on my forehead, handed me my gas and air and best of all, hit my morphine pump when I kept falling asleep in between contractions. By this time the morphine was doing its primary job of having calmed me down and was allowing me to sleep. I only woke up for contractions and drifted back off most of the time with the Entinox still in my mouth. Without mum being on morphine pump duty I wouldn’t have had any because I didn’t stay awake long enough to press the button myself!
My contractions were still not following any pattern at all. Mum was noting down the times of them and how long they were lasting and when Haydn woke up so mum could sleep, he took over. Some were only 4 minutes apart, some were 11. Some weren’t so bad and some were excruciating. Mum and Haydn said they knew when one was particularly bad because my legs would move up and down on the bed and I would push down in the air with my hand. I remember pushing down in the air because I knew tensing my body would only make it more difficult and doing that was reminding me to relax my body down. Sounds silly but it really worked! I could really feel my muscles relaxing. I also counted down from 10. I’d have to do it a few times but it helped. I drifted in and out of sleepiness Thursday night, occasionally getting up and shuffling to the bathroom with either my mum or Haydn making sure I didn’t tangle myself in the wires from my pump. There was also toast during Thursday night. Beautiful pulpy white toast with buckets of butter on. I remember every time we were offered toast we asked for Marmite because it was the only thing I had really craved during my pregnancy. We didn’t eat it but just piled it up in the room feeling weirdly comforted by it. Now, every time we see Marmite we think of our boy!
At some point early Friday morning they had fixed the sink in my room and I was wheeled back round by a paramedic. I really don’t remember this happening but I do remember saying out loud I felt like Cleopatra and a very Irish voice replying with ‘I don’t think she had an Irishman wheeling her about’!
After spending Thursday night quite sleepy, I was far more awake on Friday morning. I had my first examination in 24 hours fully expecting to be told that I was still only a few cm dilated. When she dove in she looked a bit confused and I thought ‘ah great, she’s lost my cervix again which means it’s still really high’ but to everyone’s surprise she whipped her glove off and said I was 10cm! My contractions were still quite irregular, some 2 minutes apart, then 8 minutes, 5 minutes, 11. It was very odd and I think that’s why nobody thought I was as far along as I was.
Around 10am I became very agitated. There was so much pressure from my waters which still hadn’t broken, and Aneurin was pushing hard on my sciatic nerve. The majority of my labour pains had been on the left side of my back which is where his head was but as they got more intense they spread right round my back and front. I couldn’t get comfortable on my ball, sitting down in the chair or laying on the bed. The only way I was comfortable was standing up leaning on Haydn. I think as well, knowing I was 10cm made me realise how close to the end we were. I was desperate to meet him but I was very aware of how difficult the next few hours were going to be. This was really only the beginning and the enormity of what was about to happen really hit all of us.
Seeing how distressed I was the midwife brought in the birthing stool for me to sit on. The relief that brought was heavenly! It meant I wasn’t actually sitting on the point of pressure so felt far more comfortable. It was at this point that I reached my most glorious, dignified moment and piddled on the floor. I had gotten up to go for a wee but annoying nothing happened. I sat back down and quickly realised it was going to happen then. My mum and Haydn thought it might be my waters but I knew I was infact just having a wee on the floor! Haydn, god bless him, caught it in a sick bowl just in case and showed the midwife who said ‘no dear, that’s definitely wee’!
Ironically though, after my floor widdle and sitting on the stool for about half an hour my waters finally went. We knew there would be a lot because I had quite severe polyhydramnios due to Pea not being able to swallow but crikey, it was like a giant water balloon bursting! The relief that came with it was amazing. I didn’t realise at the time but with my waters came the cord, something we were concerned about had he had been born alive. Immediately after that, I got the overwhelming urge to push.
At 12.30 I got on the bed on all fours, leaning over the back to start pushing but for a while it felt like nothing was happening. I didn’t have very much strength either so felt quite wobbly like that. After 20 minutes like that the midwife suggested I sit in a reclined position but I was so reluctant because I knew it meant I would have my legs open which would be painful with my SPD. However, she put two little foot rests either side of the bed for me to push against and it was actually quite comfortable. This second stage of labour was incredible. It didn’t hurt or burn as I expected it to, it just felt amazing. At first it felt as though nothing was happening but I could feel him moving further down with every push. All I kept thinking was, I’m going to see my baby soon, and after ten minutes of pushing, at 1.03pm, Aneurin was here.
All I saw was a bundle of pink, Haydn staring at him with tears streaming down his face and my mum staring at me with tears streaming down hers. The look of love and awe in both their eyes for their children is something that will never, ever leave me.
And my baby. My beautiful baby. The first thing I noticed was how his hand was tucked under his chin like he was sleeping. Then I took in the rest of him. His squishy bottom, his big feet that he clearly got from me, his sweet little nose flattened on the end that he got from his daddy, the smattering of dark hair plastered to his head with vernix and the rounded little ears I’ve ever seen. I didn’t care that he wasn’t moving, that I couldn’t hear a sound, all I saw was my perfect son.
The second thing I noticed were things you don’t really want to notice. How soft his head seemed, but still so adorably wrinkled, his mouth open, but seemingly as though he had just forgotten to close it and his delicate, pink skin. His watery skin so delicate that it had begun to blister in places which meant that sadly, we couldn’t bathe him. Nor could we dress him ourselves. In the moment though, I didn’t care. I just wanted him in my arms.
As one midwife carefully and so tenderly helped Haydn cut his cord I was ready to birth my placenta. I was so mesmerised watching them do that, then the midwife delicately putting a nappy on him and dressing him in the white sleepsuit with pale green elephants we had chosen, I barely even noticed what was happening with my placenta. Fortunately it came away in one and I hadn’t torn so I needed very little, except my baby. Before I could hold him though they weighed him, a snuggly 5lb 11oz (which at 33+5 weeks wasn’t bad at all!) and took beautiful little hand and foot prints for us.
We had brought two blankets for him. My cream knitted christening shawl and Haydn’s soft knitted blanket. The midwife wrapped him in Haydn’s blanket and finally, 20 minutes after laying eyes on our son for the first time, he was placed in my arms.
He fitted so perfectly, so neatly with me. I was surprised by how heavy he felt, how warm his body was. His toasty little bottom, exactly the same temperature as me, resting on my hand. Haydn came and sat next to me on the bed and we just stared at him, touching his face and marvelling in how we could have possibly made something so perfect.
The next few hours were magical. There were very mixed emotions but the overriding one for me was by far, joy. The room felt so peaceful and serene, so incredibly full of love that I imagine anyone entering the room would be hard pressed not to feel it. Haydn’s mum arrived to meet her grandson which I’m so pleased she did. We took some lovely photos of Haydn holding Aneurin and her holding them both which are beautiful. There are ones of my mum kissing Aneurin’s head when he’s in my arms, her talking to him in his little cot, the three of us together. We took so many photos which are so incredibly precious but they’ll never, ever be enough.
Our mums went off for a coffee and left us to have some time alone where I promptly fell asleep with Aneurin in my arms. Haydn climbed up on the bed with us and all three of us had a little snooze. When we woke up we decided to listen to Aneurin’s song. We sobbed and cradled him, the three of us so close and so perfect I didn’t ever want to move.
After a while the midwife suggested we move Aneurin into the cuddle cot which is essentially a refrigerated cot designed to allow families to spend longer with their babies. He had already started to change a little so we decided to do it. At the time I don’t think I realised it meant that I wouldn’t be able to hold him again. Due to how delicate both his head and his skin was we couldn’t move him around too much for fear of causing damage so putting him in there meant he would stay in there. I’m glad I didn’t realise that at the time though because I’m not sure I ever would have put him down. We laid the Sands blanket from the memory box in the bottom, then laid my shawl over top, placed him in and wrapped the shawl around him.
Eventually after spending a few hours with their grandson, ours mums made their way home. Thinking about it now I feel so heartbroken for them, especially my mum, having to leave the bubble she’d been in for the last three days. I know she pulled over a few times on the way home to come back but didn’t and that breaks my heart. My mum and I have always been very close but having her with us as part of the most important and significant experience of my life is an incredible bond. I’m sad for her, that she was there for all of it because I know she will live with that trauma forever but selfishly, I’m so glad she was.
Once he was all snuggly in his cot, I took the opportunity to have a shower. Haydn came with me and as strange as it sounds it was so nice doing something so normal knowing our son was just a few metres away. I was amazed at how well I was physically, nothing particularly hurt other than my tummy muscles feeling sore. I had prepared myself for searing pain down below and feeling like I’d been hit by a bus but thankfully, adrenaline and hormones kept me going.
Whilst I was in the shower a few of the midwives who had cared for us over the last few months came in to meet him, including my wonderful Abi. It made my heart so happy knowing they wanted to meet him and to anyone walking past the room you would never have known they weren’t meeting a live baby. I can never fault the care we had during the last few weeks of Aneurin’s life. Everyone was so caring and supportive, they made our devastating experience gentle and loving for which I am incredibly grateful.
We spent the next few hours just sitting with our baby, sometimes talking to him, sometimes just sitting in silence. We put the tv on for a little while and sat together on the bed, me with my hand on Aneurin’s tummy all the time. It felt so normal. We took photos of him, kissed him, talked about how beautiful he was, how much we loved him and eachother and just drank up as much of him as we possible could. Those hours are now my cherished and precious memories.
Strangely, we both knew when it was time to leave. It sounds awful that we wanted to leave our baby in someone else’s hands but I think (and hope) we’re not alone in knowing that the time had come. It wasn’t an easy thing to realise and after hours of such calm and peacefulness, a lot of tears came. We knew this would be the hardest part, harder than coming home on the day he died, harder in some ways than being told he had died. We spent a long time with him preparing ourselves. We sat side by side on the bed with Aneurin in his cot infront of us and told him all the things we needed to tell him. We kissed his cheeks, his pink little fingers, ran our fingertips round his perfectly circular ears and round his beautifully soft jaw. We unwrapped and rewrapped his blankets making sure not to move him too much so they were just right and made sure his Peter Rabbit was tucked in with him, close enough for him to feel on his face. He looked so cosy and so serene.
Taking those steps out of our safe bubble, down the corridor, past the reception desk where everyone fell silent and out of the labour ward were impossible. Haydn quite literally propped me up, my legs felt as though they were made of paper and the second the labour ward door closed behind us they gave way. The walk to the car was the longest walk of my life. Every single fibre of my being was screaming at me to go back, to go and get my baby and take him with us. I wanted to be struggling to walk in a straight line because I couldn’t take my eyes off my newborn baby swinging by my husband’s side in a car seat, not because I was trying to juggle a pillow, a sharps box and a memory box. It all felt so wrong.
We got in the car, closed the door and just sat there. Eventually Haydn spoke and these words only reinforced every single thing I love so deeply about my silly, hairy husband. In his flat, broken, exhausted voice he said, “Well, we’ve really fucked ourselves there haven’t we? We used our best name; any other child’s name is going to be shite in comparison.” We both burst out laughing and it was hard to tell which tears were silly and which were sad.
Chronologically, the leaving part has to come at the end but I can’t leave it there. I don’t want the last thing in this story to be the saddest. Not when so much joy came before then. When I think about Aneurin’s birth, I don’t think about leaving, to be honest it doesn’t even feel like a part of it. The parts I remember are the perfect hours we spent with our son, the day we became a three. The moments spent gazing at him and smiling at eachother knowing we had done something truly magical. I think about how soft his cheeks were where they met his jaw, softer than anything I’ve ever felt in my life. His dark hair that dried to be so fluffy at the back, how I can recreate how that felt with Haydn’s hair sometimes at just the right angle. I remember falling asleep with the weight and warmth of my baby in his arms, waking up with Haydn’s arms around us both and feeling so content and complete. Seeing my beautiful husband, the man I love so deeply holding our first baby in his arms. The look of wonderment on his face the second he was born.
Most of all though, I just remember Aneurin, our sweet Pea and how lucky we are to have had the time we did with him. Regardless of the heartbreak we feel every day, I wouldn’t change him for the world. I would choose him over and over again, exactly as he was.
Mrs D x