People who know me well, know that I knit. When Eleanor told me that she was pregnant, I was immediately in full knitting mode. Whilst knitting all the little clothes and the blanket I made for Teddy (although at the time we didn’t know if it was a boy or a girl) I felt that I was putting all my love and hope for that new grandchild in every stitch. I think that those who make and craft, whatever it is they are making, will understand this feeling of investing emotion in the finished article. In a way it embodies the hopes and dreams that we have for a new child or grandchild when the gift is for them . I pictured him/her playing in our garden with Boris and my three dogs. Maybe he/she would sniff the flowers in that wonderfully exaggerated way that small toddlers do!
The word “expecting” is often applied to pregnancy and for a very good reason. We expect to have a new life, a new family member to cherish and spoil and love. In our family there had never been (as far as anyone knew) a stillbirth or neonatal death. It wasn’t something that entered our minds when we thought about this eagerly anticipated arrival. It was something that happened to other people. So when Eleanor phoned me at 7.30am the day after Teddy’s birth (which had been too late in the evening before for us to visit) I knew at once from the tone of her voice that something serious was wrong.
They were to be transferred to a specialist NICU unit later that morning , as Teddy had stopped breathing during the night and had to be resuscitated. I was very worried and upset, but surely these days there are wonderful resources at the disposal of specialists in the NHS? Surely once he is in the right place, I thought, all will be well?
We met Teddy for the first time that day and I was struck by how beautiful and cherubic he looked lying in his little tank, even attached to multiple tubes and monitors. He was a perfect little man. I didn’t get to hold him that day, but stroked him and talked to him for a short while.
The next time we saw Teddy was on Thursday 19th May, two days later, when we were back at St Peter’s. Eleanor and Nico had been told that the consultants wanted to have a meeting with them, which we and Nico’s family were welcome to sit in on. I think we all hoped against hope that they were going to tell us how they would proceed with his care. Sadly, they told us quite the opposite. Teddy was not able to survive with the condition that he had. I can’t even remember the exact words they used, I was blinded by tears and there was a roaring in my ears which seemed to want to block out what was being said. I understood, but couldn’t quite believe what I was hearing. I held him for the first and only time that afternoon and felt joy and grief at the same time.
As I watched Teddy drawing his last gasping, tiny breaths as he was held by Eleanor and Nico, my heart physically ached. It was not only for Teddy, who I would never have the chance to watch grow up into a lovely young man, but equally for my darling daughter, my baby, whose heart was clearly breaking before my eyes. I realised at that moment that it was the first time in her life that I had been unable to make things better with a hug or some advice. My girl was having to face the unthinkable.
In the days that followed we stayed at Eleanor and Nico’s house. It felt as if we could do something by making sure they ate properly. Most of the time was spent talking, crying, hugging and staring blankly in disbelief at each other. Sometimes we managed to smile at some little thing, but it seemed wrong somehow to feel any happiness at that point. In the weeks and months that followed I have tried to just be there if ever I thought that it would help.
We had a funeral for Teddy, but not until many weeks later after the post-mortem. It was unlike any funeral I had ever been to before. When I went to my parents’ respective funerals there was a life lived to look back upon, in spite of the grief. I felt that we had been cheated of Teddy’s chance to live the life he should have had, so instead of helping to provide “closure” (how I hate that over-used word) it made me more angry that he had been taken from us all so unfairly. It seems that the world is somehow turned upside down when a child dies before parents and grandparents.
I have tried to ease my daughter’s pain this last year, as have all the other members of our family and Nico’s, in any way possible. It’s not something I ever expected to have to do. I have been completely amazed by her determination to make something positive out of her grief with the fundraising that she has done for the neonatal unit at Ashford and St Peter’s Hospital in Chertsey. I am as proud of her as it is possible to be. She has done so much good in Teddy’s name.
I hung up the shirt that I was wearing on the day that I held Teddy, and it has stayed in my wardrobe ever since then. I cannot bring myself to wash it. Teddy’s knitted jackets and his blanket wait in the nursery for his little brother or sister. They will surely be as proud of him as we are.
(Forever Teddy’s Grandma)