MY BABY SON LEFT A LEGACY OF LOVE

EMOTIONAL, MOTHERHOOD, PREGNANCY, BIRTH & BABY'S

The visceral descriptions of the pain and the love that Georgina describes in her list are heartbreaking. Her baby boy, Grey, will forever be three weeks old but all that he left behind in this terrible, fragile and wonderful world is huge.

Thank you, Georgina, for sharing your deepest thoughts and your perfect words. 

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  • I started bleeding on a Sunday morning.

  • I was 31 weeks pregnant and on holiday in Whitstable with my husband, Mike and son, Finn.

  • Our second son, Grey, was born that evening via emergency C-section at a hospital in Kent. He was nine weeks early.

  • Grey was born on World Prematurity Day – 17th November 2019 and he died on the last day of Grief Awareness Week – 8th December 2019. He liked to make an entrance (and an exit…).

  • He was tiny and gentle and fragile and perfect and wise and knowing and innocent and serene. He had thick whirls of dark hair (yes, terrible heartburn) and long fingers and teeny navy watchful eyes and a snub nose and little curled ears. He weighed 1.5kg, or three and a half pounds.

  • By the time I was allowed to meet him, in the NICU (Neonatal Intensive Care Unit), he was eight hours old. Not sleeping next to your newborn is a particular kind of cruelty. I knew he was in the best place and the best hands, but it still goes against nature.

  • I remember the moment our world changed forever. I can replay it in my mind in perfect technicolour, every detail filed away. It was around 10:30 on Friday 29th November 2019. Grey was 12 days old. His kind Scottish neonatologist took us into the Quiet Room and in gentle, steady tones explained his devastating diagnosis. There is life before that, and life after that.

  • It’s hard to find the words to describe the miracle of Grey’s NICU nurses and doctors – their care and kindness in the worst moments of our life brought light to the darkest place.

  • Things were still funny when everything was awful. We laughed in the NICU, we laughed on the day of Grey’s diagnosis, we laughed on the day he died. Before, I couldn’t imagine how that would be possible, in real life. Now I know it’s essential.

  • Part of me still thinks Grey’s diagnosis, and his death, was my fault. I will always hate that I couldn’t save him. Somewhere in my head I think I failed at one of my most fundamental roles as a mother.

  • The first time I saw Grey’s face properly, without wires and tubes was as he was dying. I was mesmerised by his impossibly small rosebud lips.

  • Grey’s death was so peaceful. I know how astonishingly lucky that is. He truly did slip away, silently, gently, nestled in my arms. The doctors told me he felt no pain. I wonder if they always say that, but I believe it was true, when I remember his face. The pain was ours, not his, and that is a very precious thing.

  • I never dream about Grey, I wish I did. But sometimes my mind takes me back to the incubator by the window where he lived his whole life. I can smell the NICU smell – newborn mingling with disinfectant mingling with hospital. I can hear the bleeps and see the flashing lights and feel the anxiety and the wonder and the quiet sense of purpose. And in the middle, my tiny boy, nestled there.

  • There is peace in knowing that every second of his life was filled with love.

  • My friend Sam, whose son died before he was born in 2018, said planning your baby’s funeral is like a f***ed up scavenger hunt, and I can’t think of a better way to describe it.

  • I dreaded the crematorium and then I never wanted it to end. When I hear the closing bars of Caliban’s Dream, which played as we walked out, I see his tiny wicker coffin sitting on the catafalque, the light streaming in through the window behind him, the sun flickering on the blue irises on top of his coffin. It sounds strange, but in that moment I can feel some of the gentleness of death.

  • It’s messed up to know the date your child dies, to watch it roll around each year when they should be learning to walk and talk and run and one day going to school and falling in love and travelling the world.

  • Missing someone you never got the chance to get to know is complex and confusing.

  • I miss all the things we should have had together – the mundane and the magical, the big events and the everyday things. Grey waking me up all through the night and refusing to eat his broccoli and wiping snot on my arm. And discovering his favourite kind of icecream and celebrating his birthday and watching him grow into him.

  • I miss him just as he was, small and silent, snug in his incubator, kicking his legs and blinking up at me as he curled his long fingers around mine.

  • We drove back to London two days after Grey’s funeral, it was five days before Christmas.

  • Without Grey, Christmas will always be a little bit worse. I hope that is never obvious to my living children.

  • My subconscious processed Grey’s death differently. For weeks, somewhere inside me a voice screamed for him. Screamed that I was missing him, that I’d forgotten him, it asked me where he was, when he was coming back. I think that voice will always be there, but now its tones are softer.

  • In my first session my therapist told me I needed to process my trauma. I hadn’t thought of that, I’d only thought of the sadness. And trauma is a slippery beast – a shapeshifter. It’s taunting and disconcerting and malevolent

  • I miss the clarity of Grey’s life and the immediate aftermath of his death. I knew so clearly what mattered, what was important. Sometimes now I lose sight of that. But I think that’s ok.

  • Nothing in Grey’s memory box smells of him anymore – a kind friend told me that is because we smelled it into ourselves. I love that thought.

  • Olfactory memory is astonishingly powerful. My sister bought me a pastel pink face wash from Waitrose the day after Grey was born. I keep it in my bathroom cupboard and use a tiny bit once in a while. The smell of it takes me straight back to the airbnb where we stayed before we knew Grey was going to die. It is the scent of hope and worry and love.

  • In the beginning the lack of Grey was like a searchlight, shining straight into my eyes, making it almost impossible to focus on anything else. I could dodge it for a few seconds, then minutes, but it quickly found my eyes again. Now, most of the time, the light doesn’t shine straight at me, but it’s always there, sweeping across my life.

  • The pain of living without Grey still has the power to floor me.

  • On Grey’s second birthday the sun shone and the sky was clear, deep blue. We walked along the beach and then reached our hands into his tiny vial of ashes and scattered them into the lapping water. Teeny tiny shards of pure white flecked the soft grey ash and I remembered something that rattled around the back of my brain, never before relevant to me. Ash is not just ash. After a body is burned it is put through a grinder. The white is bone. Tiny shards of my boy in my hand.

  • The day after we scattered his ashes I couldn’t breathe. Those days don’t come very often anymore.

  • My heart will always be healing. Like sea glass, tossed amongst stones, some of the sharper shards have softened, but there are always fresh edges to find. Maybe none of us lives with a whole heart. Maybe ‘broken’ things are the most beautiful.

  • Sometimes I wish we were a normal family, that there wasn’t always someone missing. But what is ‘normal’? No one lives without pain, trauma, loss – that’s the nature of this precious, fragile, terrible, wonderful life.

  • I remember sitting at our kitchen table a few weeks after Grey died. ‘So we have to get used to never feeling happy again’ I said to my husband. ‘How will we hide it from Finn?’ We asked each other. But we were wrong. I, we, do feel happy. Truly, wonderfully happy. Sometimes I think I feel happier than before. Life is weird like that.

  • At some point after Grey died he transformed in my head from a three week old baby to a grandfather figure. My wise little life barometer.

  • Eighteen months after Grey died, his baby brother was born and I will never ever get used to the (perfectly valid) assumption that I have two children.

  • I find it impossible to fathom that there is no world where all three of my boys exist together.

  • My three year old is better at death than I am, than most adults I know are. ‘Who is Grey?’ someone will ask. ‘That’s my brother, he died, he’s not coming back’ he will answer. No hushed tones, no averted eyes, no faltering awkwardness. I wish I could be like that, I wish we could all be like that.

  • I look at my sons differently now. In awe that they’re here, while their middle brother stays forever three weeks old. My oldest, who can ride a bike and tell me he loves me. I squeeze my youngest’s soft pink arm, just to check he’s really, really here, growing up in front of my eyes. Sometimes I stand and watch them sleeping, marvelling at the simple, involuntary power of their little lungs drawing breath after breath after breath.

  • Sometimes I still don’t think it’s real. How were we allowed our middle boy for only three short weeks? How is he not here? Where did he go?

  • I miss him. Every second of every minute of every day. I don’t think that will ever change, and I don’t want it to.

** Georgina’s book If Not For You: A Memoir is published by Little, Brown and out now.

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HELPFUL RESOURCES:

Tommy’s: tommys.org

Sands: sands.org.uk

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FANCY SOME MORE?

–  Read Michelle Cottle’s list A Letter To A Woman Who Has Just Been Told Her Baby Has Died which she wrote after losing her daughter Orla.

–  Read Finding Happiness Again, a list by Sarah Tobin who, after the heartbreaking death of her precious daughter Alice, found tapping therapy as an incredible tool to cope with anxiety and stress.

–  Read Sarah Kirker’s list Born At 24 Weeks which was written while she was in the thick of things, when her baby was just three weeks old.

–  Listen to Jennie Agg and Ele Wright speak about the unbearable experience of Baby Loss on Honestly podcast, where they explain how their different experiences of grief have led them to encourage a more open dialogue for others.

 

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OR HOW ABOUT WRITING A LIST?

Find submission guidelines here.  All writers and topics are welcome.

 

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** ‘But why don’t I feel happy all the time?’ ‘But why do people die and are they just sleeping?’ and “But why do adults drink beer and what does it do?’ are some of the tricky questions I tackle in my debut book BUT WHY? which is available to order now  and also on audiobook.**

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