You exist….

Henry its been a while since I have written my words to you, it’s not been out of not wanting too, it has not been out of not trying, I have sat and started and typed an ongoing letter, I have left it open to continue but if I am honest Henry, completely and utterly honest my anxiety has got the better of me, its got the better of me to the point I doubted myself, I doubted my words, I over thought, I thought no one wants to hear it, no one wants you to write, everyone thinks you should be getting on with things etc etc the thoughts, the doubt, the lack of confidence all of it just over took me.

We passed your 6 month mark, six months of you gone, six months from when we were supposed to be looking at introducing you to the world and bringing you home, not trying to work out how we tell everyone you weren’t coming home, not trying to get our heads around the shock of this and how it all happened, how it shouldn’t have happened. On the day we reached six months Henry I struggled your Dad and I both did. That day I said to your dad “I don’t want to be here anymore I can’t do this I just want to be with our little boy”. On that day I meant it.

I also cried that day Henry, I cried as I started spotting and thought to myself “here we are another month, another month missing you incredibly, aching for you to be with you, to not wanting to carry this heavy load we bear and then knowing another month has passed, another month of trying so incredibly hard and yet no siblings for you. It just adds another hurt on top of the pain we already experience. It often comes with mixed feelings of knowing if you were here as you should be we wouldn’t even be thinking of trying yet which then causes a whole other feeling of guilt that we are.

Henry I am often reluctant to write about how this journey affects our mental health, I have done though and will continue too, I have poured out my feelings, I have said when it has all been too much, I have talked a bit about panic attacks and nightmares, about sobbing in the bottom of the shower and not wanting to get up. At times Henry I find it difficult to put this all in to words as I worry, I worry about what others may think, that they think I won’t be capable, that they think I won’t want to do things, so they won’t ask me, I worry they won’t still rely on me to be a friend when they need something as they think I can’t do it, I can still do these things and I always recognise when I need to look after me,  it’s often these distractions that provide some relief. All the worry the nerves, the toughts its a part of the toll this trauma has taken, I lack confidence where I had it before, I question so much and feel like my brain is a steam train that has lost control and the brakes are broken.

I am learning Henry there is such a stigma around, grief, mental illness and the death of a baby of a child. it makes others uncomfortable, they don’t know what to say and that is ok, but sometimes its difficult because as a society it means they shy away from it rather than face that uncomfortable feeling which is what helps people in these situations through. There can be such a stigma that mental illness means you shouldn’t be able to function and some days I don’t feel I can, but for the majority of people suffering these illnesses you wouldn’t know, a bit like we never know whats happening for anyone Henry, in our culture we are all so good at hiding these things from the world. Maybe its time we talked more.

I listened to a Ted talk Henry on grief and the end of life, one line in that talk stuck out to me, the speaker said “That’s how we make it ok, even when it’s not, by saying it out loud by helping each other through” and its so true Henry, how do others know unless you say it out loud. How can they know unless we open up conversations and share.

Last weekend Henry your Dad and I dealt with a few things, we did some stuff we needed to do, lately we have found lots of mixed and confusing emotions. I think its been about recognising we can love you and grieve you, we can be grateful for you having blessed our lives and we can feel pain of not having you here, we can smile and be sad. It is trying to balance this, the fact that you will never be here in our arms and we carry that for the rest of our lives, always it will be with us, it’s trying to get to the point of wanting to live a good life for us and for you, while still dealing with the storms of grief as they pass over us. There will always be storms.

Then there’s the more complex layer, the layer of dealing with the damage the trauma has caused, the flashbacks that haunt me sometimes during the day almost always at night, these lead to my heart racing, me getting out of breath, of feeling like I can’t breath of ending up either in absolute sobs or in absolute panic. Theres the days where I still struggle, to leave the house to be around other people out in public to do the simple things such as order a coffee, to run to my car and breakdown as the simple tasks I used to do so easily some days are so difficult. Theres dealing with the days I can not move from bed of the depression sinking in, of not wanting to go on with life of not being able to pick myself up. There is so much more to it, I am doing what I need too, I am seeking help, I see my psychologist Henry, I talk to her mostly weekly, I do everything I can to help myself, exercise, I am trying meditation, however it takes a lot of time to work through those more complex things and they affect our lives.

A couple of weeks ago Henry I finally made a decision, one I had been putting off, I had been putting this decision off for many reasons, one in the beginning it had been one that had been too hard to think about, I couldn’t imagine myself going back to work, to doing what I do as it wasn’t what was meant to be, it wasn’t what I was supposed to be doing, I am supposed to be looking after you… Then as a little time went on I procrastinated, I didn’t want to make the decision, I was anxious about it, I kept saying I will just wait for… There were many wait for things that I thought may help me make that decision, I will just wait until it gets to the end of the month and I will see if I am pregnant, I will just wait and see the outcome of certain things we were following up, I will just wait until after we get through Christmas. Plus Henry I didn’t want to make that phone call, the thought of that call made me incredibly nervous, I didn’t want to make the phone call as it made this reality even more real, I didn’t want to cry on the phone, I didn’t know what to say and I didn’t know what choice was right, for me, for us.

I finally one day sat there, with tears in my eyes I sat there gearing myself up to make that call, I can not put this off any longer, I need to make a decision I said to myself, getting more and more worked up, my heart beating faster my eyes filling with tears. I phoned a work colleague and good friend first to try to calm myself, I told her how I wanted to call my manager to discuss things but that I was feeling so anxious about it that I felt like crying that my heart was racing. After speaking with her and gaining some reassurance I rang, the phone rang and rang and rang and…… no answer it went to message bank I let out the breath I had been holding in I left a message and sighed. All this work up to finally make the call and no answer.

Later that afternoon Henry I got the return call, tears started in my eyes as I spoke with my manager, I spoke with her about the decision I had made and what I was thinking Henry, no more procrastination, Next week I will return to work, I know it will be a really difficult transition, I know it’s not going to be an easy task at all, but it is what I have to do for me and for us, I will start off part-time. I spoke with your Dad after the call I spoke to him about his first day back at work months ago, he told me, he told me how that morning he got up filled with dread and anxiety, about how hard it was and that when he got to work he sat in a room and cried, he spoke to me about how that’s ok and its normal and about how hard it still is some days. I know Henry, your Dad thinks I don’t but I do, I have seen the tears in his eyes some days before he leaves for work, he thinks I don’t know, but I know he cries, I am so incredibly proud of your Dad Henry for doing all that he does, I hope I can make him proud of me by trying.

That night Henry a sense of relief I had finally made that call and a decision, is it the right decision? we don’t know, but do I have to try, yes! I need to try. I felt proud of myself that night Henry for the first time in such a long time I was actually proud of me for having done it, considering I had put it off, considering nothing made the decision from like I had hoped and considering that weeks ago talking on the phone was something I found difficult and yet that day I did all of those things.

On friday night Henry we had dinner with some friends at their place, it was nice and a welcome relief from all of my thoughts, it was great to be with friends to share food to listen to stories and what others have been doing. Later in the evening another of their friends arrived to pop in, I had only met him once but your Dad knew him, he lives in Victoria and because he’s not someone we have seen often or that I don’t know well, he didn’t know. “Whats been happening for you guys?” he turned and asked us I stumbled I couldn’t get words out I didn’t know what to say, not the place to say it, not the time I didn’t want to ruin the evening. “Not much” your Dad replied, I felt so bad, I felt rude he was being so polite trying to make conversation and either of us could barely say anything, “It would be about 12 months since you got married?” he questioned us “I don’t go on Facebook anymore” he said, “two years” I answered again keeping conversation short as I just didn’t want to ruin anyones night.

Its moments like that I still get so unsure how to navigate, or later that evening when your dad and I went to leave and were giving another couple a lift home, we still have your car seat in the car, neither of us wanting to take it out so when they went to get in there it is and you just don’t know if anything will be said, if it is I am always happy to answer but it’s again worrying what people think, or how it may make them feel.

While your Dad was out the other day Henry I decided to finally put your hand and feet casts up on the wall, they had been sitting in your room, we had been waiting until we felt we could, that day I finally thought to myself, we could never put them up we could leave the beautiful framed casts away in the fear, the fear of the emotion that comes along with seeing them, the fear of it upsetting us of making us sad, of reminding us, making us cry… but you know what Henry we do those things anyway, they don’t remind us as we never forget, the emotions the sadness, the tears well that arrived whether they are visible or not, so I set about placing them up in the lounge room to acknowledge, remember and honour you, Henry our beautiful son. I stood back after with some tears but proud that they are up that they are there. Your Dad noticed them a little later after getting home “You put them up” he commented “I did” I replied I looked at the tears in his eyes “Its hard but good” he replied and hugged me.

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One thing that has happened in this last week Henry is that I won an instargram competition, I couldn’t believe when I saw they had tagged me in a post to say I had won. It was a competition four accounts had run for bereaved parents, my name was there. I have won some beautiful gifts to help remember and honour you. Some lovely affirmation cards for pregnancy and baby loss by Aila and Lion Megan created these beautiful cards after her own losses, c.l.keepsakes Charlotte and Lilly’s keepsakes Kellie named this after her two beautiful angels she creates a beautiful range of personalised keepsakes such as keepsake boxes, frames and other pieces, she is able to custom design and there are beautiful boxes you can purchase personalised for your child’s Christmas presents, treasure boxes to keep things for their 18th birthday and other lovely items. A beautiful album made by the talented Jenny McGregor her album love and let go has been created for bereaved parents as Jenny and her husband Ben have lost a child themselves all proceeds of her album go to red nose charity to support families through these times and a lovely remembering me book from Hapermartinau Shaela creates beautiful keepsake books to document the most precious memories, she worked with a number of bereaved mums to include their thoughts to create the remembering me book for parents who have experienced loss. I feel so humbled Henry that this community has come together, they came together to honour bereaved parents and create awareness and I feel grateful to be the one to receive these items even though there are so many deserving parents out there.

Your Dad Henry he has a habit of talking in his sleep, last week he woke me up during the night with his sleep talking, I then in turn end up waking him up as I reply thinking he is awake, we spoke about it the next morning “You woke me up” your dad said to me “I woke you up because you were talking in your sleep and I thought you were awake” I replied to him. He looked at me “If I ever want to talk to you during the night I will tap you” he said to me “ok” I replied. Well Henry that night then went something like this, I was drifting in and out of sleep your Dad taps me on the shoulder “Ask them do they want to move there” he says to me, confused by this comment and still half asleep trying to get my brain to work out what he was on about “What who?” I asked him “The emojis to the Almafi coast” “Huh what Almafi, emojis what emojis” I asked so damn confused “The thoughts in my mind like the Almafi coast” your dad replied, it was at this point Henry I realised that even though he had tapped me he was sleep talking, Oh dear…. It was funny telling him this story once he woke up.

I participated in an online support group this past week Henry, one of the things that came up during this was sharing, sharing about our children and how we do that, there was talk about how sometimes we all felt ‘were we sharing too much?’ the facilitator of the group spoke with us about this “If your children were here with you, you would be sharing with people, you would be sharing about milestones, funny moments, smiles, family holidays many events so why should a bereaved parent share any less, we still have children we still hold a parents love”. It is so true Henry I share because you are our beautiful son and you existed and we want to share you with our family and friends as any parent would. We just share in a different way.

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I remember being pregnant with you, I remember walking in a store about a week before I ended up going in to labour.. We had walked in to get cake!! 😋 but there were also other items in the store, I stopped as I noticed your dad looking at a sign.. Boy noise with dirt on it, the sign said… see also little rascal.. I looked at your Dad in wonder “Do you want to get it?” I asked “yeah” he said and smiled, I remember in that moment smiling too as your Dad hadn’t actually chosen anything for you himself, I always asked his opinion on the items and set up for your room, but this was the first thing he chose specifically for you, it made my heart melt.

We recently finally completed one whole section of the screen for your garden Henry, your Dad and I have cut, screwed and placed together piece by piece to create it, it looks good. We are now just trying to source some more old fence pailings to complete the other part of the screen. We decided that seeing as Christmas is going to be tricky and really tough that we will spend the day finishing your garden together, that can be our project to keep ourselves busy and it is something for you. So I am hoping to find those pailings soon to have the screen done so we can on Christmas plant and put together your garden and hopefully by the end of the day we can sit together there to take some time to look at what we have achieved, our greatest achievement will always be you.

Sunday morning as we drove to the beach with the sun shining, such perfect weather an instant thought of ‘we would have been taking you to the beach today’ I felt sadness wash over me at that thought, we would have packed up all the extra things required to have a baby at the beach including the shade tent and taken you, I would have sat with you under the shade of the tent listening to the water while your Dad jumped in to capture photos, when he come out we may have taken you in the water together to at least feel it on your toes, to see your reaction, although I feel by six months we would have had you used to the feel of the water, we will never know if you would have liked it or not. All the never know, all the wondering, all the never will be, I let the tears fall silently down my cheeks as I thought of how it shouldn’t be this way, we shouldn’t be going to the beach to remember you, we should be there with you.

Your Dad and I Henry have some other plans, other ways to honour you while doing things that are important to us, we are taking our time slowly, to put it together, to create it, sharing ideas, thoughts. It has been a process and still will for some time, It will be good when we can share our ideas with all our family, friends and the world.

I have been making a habit most mornings now Henry of getting up to go walk on the beach here, it started because one morning I was having a really bad morning the thoughts started but I managed to catch them early enough ‘get up and walk’ I said to myself, so I did now I am going to try to do it everyday even before work, there’s always something calming about the ocean, the sound, the waves, the feel of the sand between my toes, the water when it rushes over my feet.. and I feel a closeness with you. This morning as I walked along the beach with a coffee in hand two whales a mother and calf kept breaching it is such an amazing sight to watch, their big bodies propel out of the water, I stood letting the water rush over my feet taking in the magnificent sight… it’s those simple moments Henry that mean so much in the days. The moments that help to ground me a little that help to ease the burden if only for that short time.

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After I got home this morning after having some breakfast, and doing some things I lay on the bed in your dads arms knowing he soon had to get ready for work “Don’t go today” I said “I don’t want you to go” “I have too” he replied “So we can have money to pay the bills” “I know” I replied “I’m just feeling really sad” I said some tears falling from my eyes your Dad looked down at me “Me too” he said his eyes watery as he said it we just lay there together until he had to get ready for work.  I stopped him from getting up. “You need to write a blog post” your Dad said to me, I explained to him my fears how I had been feeling, what I had been thinking…. “You need to do it for you” he replied and as I have been typing Henry I realise he is right. I’m not sure I admit that your Dad is right often, so I am lucky he still doesn’t read.

This evening Henry the sadness is the there, I feel the familiar ache right down to my bones, I feel the tears wanting to sting my eyes, I feel a heaviness in my heart. All I ever wanted was to show you a world of love, all I ever wanted was to give you the best I could be as your mum, to take you out, show you nature, enjoy our time with you, to support you as you grow. All we ever wanted was not to be the perfect parents as they don’t exist but to do what we could to make your life a meaningful one.. now we have to try to work out how we make it meaningful while remembering you.

As the rain pours outside and I hear the sound, I look for you but you can not be found

Not physically, no you are not here, but as I hear the rain I listen as it whispers you are near

When I see the waves crashing at the beach, as they travel up the sand over my feet, I am reminded of you

On days the sun shines, and I see a sunset or sunrise, the beauty of it it’s like you sent it just for us to see

At night as I look at the stars and say goodnight, as they shine so brightly, I look in wonder at all those stars and feel as though you are surrounding me

As I feel the wind hit my face as it blows my hair over my shoulder, I know it was you

You are all around me, in everything I do, You are in the rain, the sunshine, the waves, the stars and the wind.

You are in the beauty I see in a flower that has started to grow, you are in the bird which comes to sit by us, you are in the strange sounds we sometimes hear at night.

You are…. You may not be here physically but you exist, you exist in every aspect of my life awake and asleep when I dream of you.

You exist as you are a part of us both, a part of our DNA, you exist as I grew you, you were born and now you are not here in my arms, you exist in all of me, in everything. 

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Author: Letters to Henry

My husband and I live on the beautiful south coast of NSW, Australia. We are currently learning to rebuild and navigate through life after the loss of our son Henry to stillbirth due to medical negligence in April of this year.

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