My best and worst year.

Holidays Henry, Christmas holidays, New Years, the season to be joyous, to celebrate to give each other gifts, see family and friends. Christmas cheer. New Years where we all reflect on the year we’ve had and often make resolutions to make the year ahead a better one or better ourselves. Yet how do you reflect on a year that was both the best and most awful year of your life, how do you find joy in Christmas when your child is gone, how do you even begin to process a year in which you started the most happiest of your life, full of dreams for what would be ahead, all the fun, laughter and thoughts of how we’d watch you grow and it finished with you knocked so far down to the very bottom and its been the biggest fight of our lives life to try to get back up and continue.

How do I Henry? How can I look at this past year, full of the joy and thought as we walked in to that hospital of thinking we were bringing you home, of listening to your heart beat on those first two days when they did check and then nothing on that third day I was there, of the very moment my own heart felt like it shattered in to pieces and can never be repaired, of reliving the look on your Dads face as he arrived back that morning to be told you weren’t coming home. How Henry? how? This year I became a mum, this year you were born, meeting you was something else, my words are not even enough to describe the immense amount of pure love I felt seeing you, of how much I had dreamed of that moment and to finally be here, this, You, made it the best year of my entire life, yet the absolute heart wrenching aching, shattering pain of losing you made it the absolute worst… the best and worst year of my life.

My beliefs have been challenged to the very core Henry, the everyday platitudes we tell ourselves as we go through life, well they don’t apply, I can’t believe them anymore. I guess they have their place in life for other situations and are good for some to help them ‘make meaning’ of what’s happened in their life, after all we all seem to need meaning, to make some sort of sense of things, but there’s no sense in this Henry none at all.

“Something good will come of this, it always does with these things” I had someone say to me recently and while I smiled politely in reply and bit my tongue as I knew they meant well and did not want to offend them by arguing that point. There’s nothing good that comes of this, it’s not the way it goes… I sat and repeated this to my psychologist during a session, she turned to me and agreed, then she said “There is a reaction to every action” I stopped and thought about it, I liked that because its true, there is a reaction to every action. This didn’t ‘happen for a reason’, This wasn’t sent to us because something ‘good’ will come from it’, there will however be a reaction to every action. So as your Dad and I wander further down this road and navigate it, if we choose to do things to honour you further Henry, there’ll be a reaction to these things good or bad… It doesn’t mean though ‘it was meant to be’ because we choose to take action that creates something good.

“God only does this to the strong ones” I had someone else say to me, “Because I couldn’t handle it, losing a baby, a child full term” they said again another moment where I didn’t want to upset them, not the place to say otherwise.. This isn’t something I ever imagined that I would ‘handle’ it isn’t ever something I thought that I would have too, but losing a baby at any gestation or a child at any age, isn’t something that anyone is ‘chosen’ for and it’s not for a ‘select few’ of super humans who have this inner strength where they can handle it, it is something you (anyone) are just thrown into, you are not super human, you do not have any more strength than anyone else that makes you have the ability to ‘handle’ something like this, you just find yourself completely lost in this dark world of pain, grief, hurt, anger and shock and you somehow in a haze make your way through each dark day and night, trying to find what may get you through the next minute or hour and you look for others who may have travelled this path before to know that you can keep going. You look for support from family and friends for them to listen or make you a meal, to be there on your bad days and the good. There are plenty of moments where you find yourself drowning in water so deep you don’t think you’ll make it out alive and yet somehow you do.

I used to believe those platitudes Henry and goodness knows I probably have said to others in the past “Everything happens for a reason”, I know I have said it to myself but the truth is Henry life is life, There’s no reason behind this or a reason why it’s happened to us. So all my beliefs about ‘you bring about what you think about’, ‘you choose happiness’ and other things that got me through what I thought were hard times in the past. These are not my beliefs anymore, that is not to say I don’t think you can’t do things in your life to make positive changes. I didn’t ask for this, I didn’t ever think this up or imagine it to make it happen, but it’s where we find ourselves Henry, navigating this world without you in our loving arms, I can only do things like see my psychologist to help myself and my mental health, to get coping mechanisms to deal with the anxiety and panic attacks I now get, to talk about what I need to and discuss ways to help myself when flashbacks and PTSD kick in, to continue going to the gym and my PT sessions to help myself physically which contributes to my overall health and to on the days where I fall to the floor sobbing, when I sit in the bottom of the shower with the water running over me, tears streaming down my face and feel as though I can’t face another day, in those moments where the anger is so raw or I wake from nightmares crying softly in to my pillow, allow myself to feel that too as it’s all a part of it. These are the ‘positive’ things I can do to help myself.

I can continue to write my letters to you, to help let others know ‘it’s ok’ to speak your name, to talk about death and grief, I can offer others an insight in to this monstrous ever-changing mountain we constantly climb in the hope that maybe, these words might help someone else or change someones reaction to what they say or how they care for a loved one or friend who loses a child. I can attempt to with many others I know break the culture and stigma around grief and loss, so that we might Henry and others be able to grieve openly and honestly without any shame or guilt in a society that can become very uncomfortable around those who have lost a child.

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Its been a big lead up to Christmas and the holidays Henry, there’s been anxiety of not knowing how we will be, what we should do, yet there’s no right or wrong way to be, I have noticed so many ways in which others have chosen to honour their children, ways in which they have included them in to the season. Everyone does this differently and I respect this so much.

We didn’t decorate the house this year as neither of us ‘felt ‘like it, I am glad we were able to in our ways honour and what we needed and that our families could give us the space and understanding we asked for. Christmas Eve we had your Dad’s family over for dinner, we prepared most of the day, cooked, cleaned, I made a baked cheesecake, Pavlova and two salads while your Dad prepared pork, brisket and roast veggies. Everyone came it was like a whirlwind, watching your cousins run around the house I found myself having to rescue your urn and a few other times placing them up higher this didn’t annoy me it made me giggle, they ran outside and waited for Santa to drive past in the fire truck, laughter and smiles it was so good to see. I watched as I moved back and forth to the kitchen everyone sit outside and talk, run after the kids play, laugh and I almost felt as though without you here we somehow weren’t a part of it. That’s not to anyones fault, they didn’t do anything to make us feel that way, I just felt a distance we couldn’t join in talk about you as a child and where you were at, we couldn’t play with you like we could with the other children, as I lifted one of them up and held him upside down and tickled his belly as he laughed. As we ate Henry there were small conversations but missing for us was any talk of you. What can others say though Henry?, thinking of it now I should have perhaps cheers to you, everyone sat so quikly and staggered to serve themselves to eat, I am not sure we even did a cheers this year.

After dinner and dessert everyone rushed off so quickly, I understand there were kids to get to bed, and routines and things people wanted to do, there also is not a lot of toys at our place for the kids to play with, but it was so quick, one minute so much noise, then just quiet and your Dad and I left standing looking at one another, I felt as though because we were preparing the food we barely got the time to actually talk to anyone and then they were gone. I wondered how different it may have been if you were here, if they maybe would have stayed longer, felt more comfortable, I wondered if you were here would we be rushing off from somewhere to put you to bed, how would it have been? very different that’s for sure.

Christmas Day as I woke I reflected on the silence, it wasn’t a silence we thought we would have, last Christmas we talked about the next one with excitement about all of our plans, about how it might go about what we would do… Yet we were finally here and none of it would ever be, we woke to the same silence we do each morning and hate, we woke to that silence and I moved in to your Dads arms and tears fell from my eyes so slowly down my cheeks and on to his bare chest, he held me tighter until I finally suggested we go to your beach Henry and we got up and got ready.

I took with us your little blue bear and a paper daisy I had dried out from a bunch I was given, we got their early and not many people were out yet, as your Dad and I stepped in to the cool refreshing water and waves washed over me as always it was like a relief from the pain I always feel just for a moment, as we got out far enough I released the flower in to the water and your Dad and I watched as it floated about, staying near us for quite some time, your Dad captured some images as he had his camera to take photos in the surf. We held on to one another and watched it gently float in the water until a large wave came and took it away and we stood after the wave and saw it float further and further away from us. I do wonder if anyone found that flower on the sand that day Henry, and wondered where it came from? Without knowing it, by their wondering they would be thinking of you.

After we left the water we came home and cleaned, so much for Christmas, spending Christmas Day cleaning but we needed the distraction as we cleaned your Dad got a message something was left on our doorstep. I went out later to get it and bring it inside, three boxes high one on top of the other wrapped carefully with ribbons. The card had a not to open last, so your Dad stood close by as I opened the first box labelled ‘for Henry’ inside was the most beautiful blue bauble with silver writing ‘Henry’s 1st Christmas’ instantly I couldn’t even lift it out of the box as tears started in my eyes I looked up at your Dad tears in his eyes too, we both laughed a little at the tears the other had like ‘we knew it would happen’ we wouldn’t be able to open this without tears It was so very thoughtful and beautiful seeing your name.

The next box as opened it on top a wrapped present for Missy and Snikkers, even your fur sisters were remembered with some treats, next was some wine for me, some young Henry’s beers for your Dad, chocolate and other treats. As we opened the next box a candle that smells like the ocean, cook books full of healthy recipes, and some other small treats, we could tell it was all picked out with us in mind, thoughtful gifts, a candle like the ocean to light for you, treats and recipes of good food as we love to cook. I opened the card and the incredibly heartfelt words inside brought tears to both of our eyes once more, talk of lighting the candle as I cook so that I can think of you while doing something I love. it reminded me a little more of the me I have not seen a lot of, of the me that makes a rare appearance these days and of how I do need to when I feel I can do more of what I love to do.

The rest of the afternoon was spent playing monopoly, your Dad got a head start buying some of the more expensive properties and put houses on them quickly my finances got low and I found myself bargaining prices giving your Dad money and other properties to help me pay the rent I owed. We left the game to go back to your beach to watch the sunset while I held your bear in my hands.

Since Christmas Henry we have had some good and some bad days, we’ve been swimming in secret creeks to keep out of the heat with friends, we’ve swam in the ocean and floated down another creek in the current. Yesterday the though of you and my physical ache that I feel to hold you, to want you here was too much, I spent the day in sadness with lots of tears, I had flashbacks which brought panic and found it hard to breathe your Dad holding me as he encouraged me to breathe and I could eventually talk through it with him. I still remember what it was like to hold you, your weight against me as I held you close what you felt like, I long for that so often, my arms they ache to hold you close.

Since our miscarriage Henry, we have seen the obstetrician, I was having blood test every couple of days to follow my HCG levels back down to zero, the last time we saw him, he really didn’t have to see us but we wanted to keep the appointment with him, I needed something, some advice, a plan….. We sat in his office ” What can I do for you Kristy?” he asked compassionately I sat and I looked at him “Well I am an organised person” I said to him “I need to know where to from here, I need a plan” I almost pleaded with him he looked at me and smiled “You go home and you have sex Kristy that’s your plan, have lots of sex and drink some wine to help relax but not too much” your Dad and I laughed at that “See” your Dad said as though he thought he were right “Here I am telling him he shouldn’t drink too much as it’s not good and your telling him to drink” I said to our Ob, “Well he doesn’t want to much so as not to perform” he laughed “You have a job to do” I said to your Dad jokingly. We talked a little more and I said to Dr W, “How long do we try for though, considering with Henry it took so long”, “give it three months” he replied “I was going to do some tests and give you some medication to ovulate but you are showing you are so just give it a bit more time”. We left there feeling listened to and heard at least which was nice. As we walked to the car I said to your Dad “Never advice I thought I would hear from the Dr drink wine” we laughed.

As we walked to the bedroom one night Henry I held a phone charger in my hand I walked up behind your Dad and poked him cheekily in the bum with it “It’d be a shit charge” he said to me laughing at his own joke I shook my head and laughed a little too as we climbed in to bed I moved closer to him, after all I had drunk my wine, now comes the other part right… “What happens if I plug it in the front” I said to your Dad my hand moving further down “Woah woah” said you Dad “You can’t use all the charge at once” I moved my hand slower “There that better” I asked laughing and poked my tongue out at him “How am I supposed to know when its ready to go” I asked jokingly “bdp” your dad makes the noise our phones make when you place them on charge and we both laughed and laughed and laughed at least we don’t take ourselves to seriously”

Oh we continue our game of monopoly Henry and I finally got some houses and hotels, Your Dad began landing on them and the money came my way, he eventually began a tab owing me, it kept happening at one stage he rolled a double landed on my property with hotels, rolled another double of two ones and landed on my next property I tried but couldn’t contain my laughter as how could that happen “Oh go ahead laugh at the poor boy, this is just my life” he said sarcastically and playfully “Naw sore loser” I said “you had all the money now your losing it’s not as fun” we continued to play until your Dad worked up a tab of $5000 and gave up I jokingly kissed the Monopoly money and threw it in the air, ever gracious winner.. I can tell your Dad is already planning the next game and how he will win.

As 2018 draws to a close Henry, as many make their resolution, put up statuses reflecting on the year that’s been, the highs, the lows and how they will take all of their positivity in to 2019 and leave the old things behind and they have every right to do so, as they celebrate their achievements and the year thats been. For some of us it’s not a celebration, it’s not about leaving things behind, some things won’t magically change or be able to be different because the clock strikes midnight. We can however as we move in to 2019 continuing to carry our grief and love in whatever way we need too, we can continue to speak of you and say your name as you are ours and we are yours, we might not be able to say things such as ‘New year, new me’ or make resolutions for the year ahead to be our best and better as we know how precious life is and that it can all just change in an instant.

We can however Henry go in to 2019 continuing to honour you, continuing to recognise and learn about how we grieve, to allow ourselves to grieve, we can say we are still going when we thought we wouldn’t be, we may not be able to ‘choose happiness’ as some would think, as the trauma we have been through took away that choice… it’s not as simple as just put on a smile and be happy when you have been through what we have. We can though recognise the bravery we have found in ourselves, how loving you has forever changed us and continue to support one another through. We can take what hope we have to keep us holding on in to the year ahead and know

I don’t know what 2019 will bring, I have no expectations, I know there will still be days I hurt so badly and my whole body will ache for you, I know there’ll be days I can get up and go about my day ok too, I know there’ll be further firsts and challenges to face as memories of my pregnancy, baby shower, start of maternity leave and then your first birthday approach , I still wonder how we do those days too. Maybe there’ll be small joys to be found, maybe we will face the challenges and hurdles of another pregnancy after loss and wondering if it will all be ok. Maybe we will find more hope and hold on more to the love we have for you everyday.

I won’t go in to the New Year with the same outlook I had last year, I won’t go in to the New year wanting to celebrate, I’m not going in to the New year the same person I was, I will go in to the new Year as a mother, your mother, I will go in to the New Year knowing your Dad and I will always speak your name, I will go in to the New year knowing there are so many lives you have touched this year and how incredible this is and I will go in to the New year with all the love we hold for you forever. We love you to the moon and back Henry, forever and always.

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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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