a white feather on water

Dear John…

Not many people know this and it’s certainly something I’ve never shared here but today would have been your 23rd birthday. Although you aren’t spoken of very often in our wider family you will never be forgotten by those whose lives you changed forever the day you born. We love you as much today as we did the day you were born and died.

I remember the day so well, my brother, sister and I had been to school as normal and we’d come home ready for tea as usual. I was excited at it was my birthday at the weekend, I was going to be taking part in my first sponsored walk later that week (it was my first year at secondary school and everyone loved taking part in the annual sponsored walk along the local beach) and you were due to arrive in 8 days time, but that night our worlds changed.

I won’t lie when I found out my mum was pregnant with you I wasn’t very happy – I didn’t like change and you would certainly be a big change in our lives. My eldest brother was almost 15, I was a few days off being 12 and my little sister was 10 – who had a brother or sister 10 years later? I realise now that I was just being a stubborn madam (always was – probably still am) but I came around to the idea and was really looking forward to being a big sister again.

That night, Mum was a little upset when we’d come home from school but she told us it was nothing to worry about, she made us our tea ravioli and chips for the others whilst I had sausages instead. After tea we went to the hospital – mum said this was just for a checkup as her due date was near (on hindsight I think she already had an idea that something was very very wrong). We were to wait in the car with my dad and was told to bring a book or something to pass the time. We waited a while, I’m not sure how long we were waiting but when my mum came out she told my dad to take us home as she had to stay in for monitoring and would ring home when she knew more.

The next thing I was aware of was waking up the next day late for school, I rushed to my brother and said we had to get to the bus stop or else we’d be late. My dad called us all together and said he had been at the hospital most of the night, that my mum had lost the baby and that we wouldn’t be going to school that day. There was nothing any of us could say and I don’t think I even cried at that point. I didn’t really understand what he was saying and expected him to say it was a joke and that we’d be going to see my mum and little brother later that day.

We kept ourselves busy at home, making the house nice for mum coming home, Dad moved all of your things that we’d all helped set up just a few days before. He hid them away so that mum wouldn’t see them when she came back from the hospital. No one knew what to say to each other and sometimes it’s still the same even today all these years later. You see things were very different back then no one spoke about babies dying or the impact it had on those affected. Even now my dad finds it hard to open up and in some ways I think this is why us children find it hard to talk to others about certain topics (although I am probably the oversharer of the bunch and just tell anyone everything about me and my life, my boys, my pets – you name it I talk about it when I’m in a situation that makes me anxious and nervous).

The next few days passed in a blur for us all, we stayed off school for the rest of the week but I wanted to go back for the walk so we went in for the Friday. Everyone asked if you’d been born as they’d not seen us for a few days and I replied yes and then said you had died before you were born. When they heard this everyone would stop talking and give me a look of what I’d describe as pity – I imagine they felt awkward and didn’t know what to say to me or my siblings, but to us, this just made things worse as we didn’t know how to respond either. The same could be said for my parent’s friends and families no one knew what to say and it was made doubly hard as two of my aunties were pregnant at the same time as my mum – they avoided her maybe not on purpose but I know to my mum it felt that way at the time.

All these years later and it’s quite sad that the wider family and friends don’t talk about you – but you’re not a dirty secret but it’s just never been the done thing and it was never done at the time, there was such a stigma all those years ago which is a shame. I’m pleased (that’s maybe the wrong word to use) now that times have changed and we are able to talk about baby loss a little easier. Other family members and friends who have been through similar talk and share their feelings more and open up to others – I just wish the same had been done for us.

As a sister I didn’t feel I had a right to be sad, I wasn’t at your funeral (I told my parents I didn’t want to go) – I’m the best avoider on the planet, I hate confrontation and will busy myself so that I’m not around when others are dealing with bad situations – I’m good at picking up the pieces and I’m a great listener but I really am no good when it comes to being the one there in the first instance. I know now that my grief at the time was just as relevant as anyone else’s and I still think some of the things that happened that night are the reasons for some of my anxiety issues today – I hate being stuck anywhere (but especially in traffic jams) and I never eat before going somewhere or very much whilst I’m out and about. I used to avoid things like wearing the same clothes I wore that night in case something bad happened again – now I can rationalise and realise that this wasn’t why bad things happened but as a child, you can’t reason with yourself can you?

I think overall what hurts me the most is that we never got to see you grow up and see all the things that you could have been, share all the fun we’ve had as a family, holidays, Christmas, birthdays, my boys growing up all the things we take for granted and all the things our brother (who arrived two years after you) has shared with us and I will always wonder why you were taken from us as even to this day we have no idea why it happened to us.

I didn’t really want to celebrate my birthday that year and even now it is tinged with sadness that you’re not here to celebrate your birthdays (and mine) I used to imagine all the parties we’d share and all the fun things we’d get to do. Even now today on your birthday and I turn 35 in a few days time I still wish that you were here with us. But I will do as I always do I will raise a glass to you later to let you know that you’re not forgotten or far from my thoughts.

All my love Always

Louise xXx

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