18 Feb “You’ll never be the ‘old you’ but you will heal, and even grow.”
This is the story of Katy and her son Theo Benjamin Walton, who was born sleeping in December 2018.
The day my son died my whole world shifted on its axis. What started as a lightening-speed conception followed by a healthy, easy pregnancy suddenly ended in complete devastation at 30 weeks and 4 days, when the consultant uttered the words “I’m sorry, this baby has died”.
Having gone to bed on a Friday night to the usual kicks from my very lively little boy, I awoke at 4am to go to the bathroom and felt nothing. Putting it down to him sleeping, I returned to sleep myself but awoke again at 5.30am knowing something wasn’t right. No movement at all – no amount of sugar, ice cold drinks or prods and pokes were making a difference.
A rushed journey to our local MAU ended in a half-hour wait to be seen – no midwife seemed worried, which put us at ease. This was something they clearly saw all the time – a concerned mother wanting some reassurance. Why should we be any different? Little did we know that a mere half an hour later we were to be told the unthinkable news that our seemingly perfectly healthy little boy, who we’d seen just 2 weeks earlier in 3D with his pouty lips and button nose, had slipped away for no obvious reason. To this day we have no known cause for his death.
What followed was a series of thoughts, emotions and decisions I would never have associated with pregnancy. Was I happy to be induced? What funeral arrangements would we like to make? Did we have a name for him? Shell-shocked, we spent a weekend with our closest family members trying to begin the agonising process of comprehending our loss. All the while, I was still carrying Theo waiting for medication to kick in, ready for him to be delivered just days later. We said our goodbyes, cried and talked – this time bonded our families like never before.
Arriving at the hospital, bags packed and bump visible, I forgave the unknowing smiles of encouragement from strangers, assuming I was about to meet my bundle of joy like any other mother. The reality of the situation was so painfully raw that it was all I could do not to cry in response to every smile.
What ensued was one of the most beautiful and cherished experiences of my life – Theo Benjamin Walton, was born sleeping at 7.39am on Tuesday 18th December 2018 weighing just over 3lb 9oz. With the support of incredible midwives, Theo was delivered naturally but with pain relief, to keep the experience calm and as un-traumatising as it could possibly be. I hadn’t known what to expect – part of me was scared to see him lifeless and limp. But he was so peaceful, to the point I didn’t want to hold him or disturb him. My husband couldn’t bring himself to be there – he was too traumatised by the whole experience and knew his best way to support me through what was going to be the hardest time of our lives was to stay strong for me. He feels guilty for this every day, but one can never anticipate how they’ll feel in this situation or what’s right and wrong. I stand by our decisions – mine to see Theo and his to cherish his memories of his son wriggling about on screen just 2 weeks earlier. This decision has helped us to support each other in a way I know we couldn’t have otherwise.
A short stint in hospital and I was sent home, having registered Theo’s birth and death that same day. Leaving the hospital with empty arms is a feeling like nothing else – the physical ache for your baby is indescribable. Everything about that journey home felt wrong, as if nothing else would ever be right again.
The following week went by in a blur – Christmas came and went, our families stayed by our sides, and slowly but surely the world began to feel less ‘black’. Each day that went by there were more small glimmers of hope, fewer tears, but not a second passed without thoughts of Theo. The things that might have been, the firsts we’d never experience. With a whole year’s maternity leave ahead of me if I needed it, I didn’t even begin to engage with the ‘real world’ until a good few weeks later. The odd coffee shop trip here, a walk there. Yet even these small outings felt like climbing a mountain, and the anxiety was overwhelming.
After one attempt at returning to work far too early I quickly realised I wasn’t ready. It was only after 6 months that I made a proper return to work with reduced hours and reduced duties. To this day, I’ve never gone back to my demanding, marketing role. Theo’s loss put everything sharply into focus and changed my perspective completely, and I now feature work in my life amongst other things that help me feel a sense of purpose, fulfilment and small moments of joy.
I will never be the same again. My family will never be the same again. My career will never be the same again. My heart will never be the same again. Yet I wouldn’t have it any other way. Theo changed me, my husband, his grandparents, aunties and uncles. His existence opened me up to more heartbreak than I ever knew possible, but he also helped me feel love I never knew existed.
To anyone out there going through this terrible, earth-shattering loss – please hold on. You’ll never be the ‘old you’ but you will heal, and even grow. Take it minute by minute, hour by hour and let yourself feel everything you want to. No thought or feeling is wrong. With time, you’ll learn to live as a parent without their baby, but with no less love for them than if they were in your arms. Love them with all your heart and cherish their memory every day. You aren’t alone.
If you have experienced a similar story to Katy, The Baby Loss Awareness Week Alliance are here to help. Please visit our Organisations page to access contact details for your relevant Alliance charity.
If you need help now, please call the Sands Freephone Helpline on 0808 164 3332 or firstname.lastname@example.org