I haven't blogged for a while as I haven't really had many adventures to blog about. Edinburgh Marathon was going to be my next chapter but even I found that too cringe worthy to write about (projectile vomiting at mile 16 and then being almost beat by a large bear are moments that I'd rather forget, albeit rather funny).
So what am I going to blog this time?
Well I write this on a very special day.
Eleven years ago today I was a 29 year old expecting her first child. I was nine months pregnant and the excitement of being a mum was and is something that you really can't put into words. Being a mum is paramount to me. I've wanted children my entire life. I've worked with kids in many different jobs. I love kids and being given the chance to nurture, love and care for my own is the biggest blessing of them all.
Back in July 2001 England was, believe it or not, experiencing a heat wave. My poor feet were like giant loaves of bread, swollen beyond all recognition. But I was healthy. And my baby boy growing inside me was healthy too. The day started well; boyfriend was in a fab mood as Celtic had beat Sunderland the night before in a friendly. He kissed my tummy and set off for work at building site in West London.
I pottered around, tidied the nursery, packed and repacked my bag......
But by lunchtime it was all over.
The details are still a blur.
Phoning my boyfriend and telling him I was going to the hospital, the pains, the sonographer, the look on her face as she told me that my baby had died. I remember my nose bleeding and gushing down my face. I remember screaming for them to do an emergency Caesarian. I remember them pinning me down. I remember them sedating me. I don't remember much more.
Labour continued into the night, all of the next day, all through that night too. The heat in the delivery room too stifling to breathe at times. I heard babies crying all night. I heard babies taking their first precious gasps of air. I heard whoops of joy. I heard mobile phones ringing. I heard dads outside my window calling relatives. I pushed hard throughout the night and into the early morning of July 27th. It was a tough labour. My body wasn't coping well. I was exhausted and emotionally near collapse, but finally at 9am I gave birth to my first child. He was tall and lean and weighed 7lb 2oz. Little patches of red hair and huge rosebud lips. The midwives placed him straight onto my chest for skin on skin contact. And then it hit me. The silence was deafening. There was no noise from our room, no hustle and bustle and clicking of cameras. The staff tidied up quietly around us and gave us precious time alone.
But this was a busy London hospital and they needed the suite so where was I to go? This next bit is really important and I'll explain why at the end.
I was allowed to keep my son with me until nightfall when he would have to go to the mortuary. The staff needed somewhere to put us but had nowhere. Well they did sort of have somewhere and were clearly embarrassed at offering us this room. It was a disused ward in the old part of the hospital. A dark corridor with no electricity. Doctors used the rooms (which had no en suite) to sleep in between duties. And so we were led there. We sat in the room as evening drew in hugging and cradling our son. We managed to get some electricity about 7pm, but by then we were beyond caring. We were different. Our baby had died. Someone had given us membership to a club that we didn't want to be part of but were given no choice.
Seven days later on August 3rd it was time to bury our baby. We had been granted visits at the mortuary everyday. That was important to us. Important that family and close friends could hold him, tell him how much they loved him.
His daddy wrapped him in a Celtic flag and gently whispered "you'll never walk alone" and then it was time to say goodbye.
The grief was immeasurable. I discovered just what the true meaning of a broken heart was. It was standing in the rain at 2am outside locked cemetery gates knowing that your baby was inside when he should have been at home. I channelled my grief into something positive. I found the most amazing charity SANDS and quickly became a committee member of Surrey SANDS. We were a strong committee and so embarked on ten years of fundraising, raising awareness, lecturing at study days and the icing on the cake....opening a bereavement suite in the very same hospital where my son had died. I found positives in everything that I did. So I couldn't take my son to the park, but we could run half marathons together! And we certainly did.
As I embarked on this journey of discovery it became apparent that I was travelling alone. My boyfriend (who was now my husband) had been left behind and was struggling to find ways to cope with his own grief by trying to permanently put on a brave face.
More children didn't come easy for us Each time we celebrated another positive test result our joy was later dashed by devastating miscarriages. And then one day my body just gave up. It refused to conceive and after two years I too had given up. But a meeting with a consultant who wanted to operate on me asap saw all that change and in June 2005 our daughter Kiera was born. She was joined by Erin in December 07 and then finally our son Kellen in July 10. A red haired little boy just like his brother. Sadly the marriage didn't survive but we remain on good terms.
And then I met a friend on Twitter!
His name was David and just like me he too had experienced the same terrible loss. We began chatting via tweets and realised that we were local to each other. David was passionate about making a change, especially within hospitals and so set up a charity in memory of his precious daughter Abigail. Stillborn at 41 weeks.
So here we are in 2012! David is putting the finishing touches to setting up the charity Abigail's Footsteps and I am delighted to say that I have been invited along as a trustee and to be one of the team. I thought my fundraising days were over last year as we saw in my sons 10th anniversary but here I am now, on his eleventh anniversary, working with an exciting and incredible new charity.
Abigail's Footsteps will focus on providing bereavement suites in hospitals so that other parents don't experience the alienation and bewilderment as we did. Rooms will accommodate family members, be private and above all calm, in what will inevitably be the families darkest time.
So please support David, myself and the team in our quest to make a difference. 17 babies die a day in the UK. http://www.uk-sands.org/
This is a statistic that sees no sign of decreasing.
So another door has opened for me. Another chance to make a difference and remember a little boy who I only got to keep for a week but who made me realise the love I had to give was immeasurable.
In memory of
MICKY STEPHEN DOCHERTY
27th July 2001
"When you’re going to have a baby, it’s like planning a fabulous vacation trip -to Italy. You buy a bunch of guide books and make your wonderful plans. The Coliseum. The Michelangelo David. The gondolas in Venice. You may learn some handy phrases in Italian. It’s all very exciting.
After months of eager anticipation, the day finally arrives. You pack your bags and off you go. Several hours later, the plane lands. The stewardess comes in and says, “Welcome to Holland.” ” Holland?!?” you say. “What do you mean Holland?? I signed up for Italy! I’m supposed to be in Italy. All my life I’ve dreamed of going to Italy.”
But there’s been a change in the flight plan. They’ve landed in Holland and there you must stay. The important thing is they haven’t taken you to a horrible, disgusting, filthy place, full of pestilence, famine and disease. It’s just a different place.
So you must go out and buy new guidebooks. And you must learn a whole new language. And you will meet a whole new group of people you would never have met.
It’s just a different place. It’s slower-paced than Italy, less flashy than Italy. But after you’ve been there for a while and you catch your breath, you look around… and you begin to notice that Holland has windmills… and Holland has tulips. Holland even has Rembrandts.
But everyone you know is busy coming and going from Italy…and they’re all bragging about what a wonderful time they had there. And for the rest of your life, you will say “Yes, that’s where I was supposed to go. That’s what I had planned.”
And the pain of that will never, ever, ever, ever go away… because the loss of that dream is a very, very significant loss.
But… if you spend your life mourning the fact that you didn’t get to Italy, you may never be free to enjoy the very special, the very lovely hings …about Holland"