Our whole lives are made up of decision making, every single thing we do in fact is a decision. Those decisions however small they may seem, can impact our whole lives. When dealing with baby loss as I have said previously, I believe there is no right or wrong answer or way of doing things. Grief is an incredibly personal thing, and it is everyone’s own right to choose how they navigate this and speaking from experience additional pressure from outside influences are not helpful or relevant to how you are feeling.
When anyone loses a child in whatever form that may be, the key aim is to survive it, because the agony of this type of grief is indescribable. You are not only grieving for that person, you are grieving for the loss of a life you thought you would have with your baby. And it is my firm belief that you must do anything you can to learn to survive and deal with the consequences later. By saying this I don’t mean down 5 bottles of wine until you pass out, it’s important to try and make healthy choices where possible, what I mean is making decisions that feel right for you at the time. Since losing Ollie and returning to social media and the internet generally, I have read so many times about the guilt some women experience about their choice not to see their baby. I was particularly touched by a message I received on social media from a lovely woman who had lost 3 children, one to miscarriage and one to stillbirth, who was struggling with her decision not to see her baby. I admit this is something I really struggled with in the weeks following his death but it is something I have gradually made my peace with.
When Ollie was born, initially Reece and I made the extremely difficult choice not to see him. He was taken into the room next door and washed and dressed by the midwives. Throughout our hospital stay at Calderdale Royal, we repeatedly made it clear to everyone involved in our care that we did not wish to feel pressured to see our son and we would request to do so when the time was right for us. However, it transpired that the time never came where we felt able to. The only way that I can describe the feeling for me is that I was already walking on the edge of a cliff, and I wasn’t sure if I would fall off the edge, and it is my belief that if I had seen my little boy when he was dead I would not recover and would fall off the edge. I know what my son looked like, I know what he felt like, I know his patterns, his likes and dislikes….he lived inside me and he still does. I did not want the image I had of our baby to be taken from me and replaced by an image that I was unfamiliar with and knew I would never un-see. When Ollie reached 24 weeks we had a beautiful 4D scan taken of him, the photographs were incredibly clear and you could see his features perfectly. We also thankfully paid for a USB video of him where he was smiling and yawning, whilst I may never be able to look at that video again and it honestly brings so much pain just writing those words, I’m so grateful that we have them.
Whilst I only remained in hospital for 3 days, the pressure continued throughout our stay after his delivery from the Midwives and Healthcare Assistants. One Midwife in particular completely disregarded our repeated wishes not to keep asking us to visit him, and cried in our presence telling us how beautiful he was and how ‘important’ it was to have no regrets. It was not her place to tell me that I would regret not visiting my son, as I keep saying one size does not fit all and this was not right for my little family, already at breaking point. Our Doctor asked if instead we would like some photographs taken of Ollie and his hand and feet prints, which I am incredibly grateful for. We haven’t found the strength to do this yet, we may not do so for many years but eventually I know that we will. These photographs are kept in his memory box which we received from the hospital and are kept in a very safe place, which I check every day to make sure is still there! I have since written a complaint to the trust about how our care was handled and met with the Deputy Head of Midwifery and the Head of Patient Safety and Quality midwife to discuss our horrendous experience which I will write about in more detail at a later date…we are STILL awaiting the outcome of this investigation which has been delayed numerous times.
I’m aware that a lot of people will not agree with our decisions and cannot comprehend how we could make that choice, and I am truly sorry to anyone that feels this way or that I have upset by writing this. The only answer I can give is that we made this decision to survive, to preserve our memories and images of Ollie and to give ourselves a fighting chance to make it through what we were faced with. Thankfully neither of us have ever been through something like this before, and I pray everyday that we never have to again, neither of us knew what we were doing and to be honest I still don’t. I regret many things in my life, even though I try not to, but this is one decision I know that I will never regret. Any outside influences are irrelevant and void, they were our babies and we are their parents, decisions that we make for our children about our children are personal and private, but I hope that my words can bring some small comfort to anyone suffering with the same guilt and confusion that I felt.
I believe that one day we will be reunited with Ollie and that he is always with me. A friend told me that our babies DNA lives forever inside us and that brings me immense comfort to know that a part of him will always be with us. To all of the families out there struggling with their choices, whether this is specifically about choice to see your babies or other things which you have chosen to do along this horrendous journey, please be kind to yourself and respect the decisions you made that felt right for you at the time. We only get one life, and I think that it is more important that we focus our energy into learning how to live with this pain, without dealing with regret as well….