This is a question I ask myself all too often. How do I continue to be a “good parent” to Teddy when he’s not physically here anymore. I know that once upon a time it would have been the done thing to simply forget about his existence, sweep it under the carpet and move on. Thankfully we live in very different times, and I feel able and confident to speak his name. Sometimes I try and say his name in sentences just because I can. I love to hear it aloud; it reminds me that he was here. My friends, of course, are very much used to this now, and they too use Teddy’s name as much as they would if he were alive; that makes me so very happy. It also makes me feel like as much of a parent as they are, which can be so hard sometimes when you feel like you are on the outside staring into a life you have been robbed of.
I’ve been thinking a lot lately about parenting; what it means to be a parent to a child who isn’t here and how you can do it without those around you thinking you have totally lost the plot. Of course, I talk to Teddy a lot when I am in the house on my own. I sit in his nursery still and I tell him about what we are up to. I think it’s my way of connecting with him; making sure he knows the latest news and that we are still very much thinking of him. I have his photographs on the wall outside the nursery door, so that I can see his face when I am in there. I think that too helps me to feel like he’s included in our home and our family.
Fundraising has been where I have chosen to direct most of my energy when it comes to parenting Teddy. It means I can use his name as part of a positive force, a force for good. We have now raised over £28,000 for the NICU, never in my wildest dreams did I imagine that would be possible. I cannot believe that we have been able to keep the momentum going for this long and that people are still so willing to hear his story and help us raise funds for that incredible unit. Each time we run another raffle or someone approaches me to see if they could donate to the NICU, that’s me being a parent to my son. I’ll keep going too; even if we are lucky enough to be blessed with a healthy, living sibling for Teddy, I really want to try my hardest to keep the fundraising going and keep including it as part of our family life.
So many people contact me on a weekly basis since I started writing about Teddy and my feelings and experiences surrounding his loss. It is very humbling and heartwarming indeed to know that other parents, who need to see these words and know that they are not alone, are reading this. One of the most common questions I get asked by people is “How do you keep going and stay so positive?” I always answer honestly; like anyone I have my down days and I recognise them and go easy on myself if I am able (cancel plans or have a quiet day at home). The more I have focused my energy into the positive things like fundraising , the better I have felt. In fact I have recognised a direct connection with how I feel as to how much of my time I have spent doing things that are for Teddy and his legacy fund. If I spend too much time away from it, I find I’ll easily have a sad day. So for me, channeling my energy into positive fundraising has become as much as a lifeline for my wellbeing as it has for the unit who so desperately need that money to continue to improve their facilities for babies and their families.
It is for this reason that I decided to accept the invitation from St. Peter’s Little Roos fund (for the NICU) to become and active member of their fund group. It’s a bit like a committee; they are essentially the group who meet and decide where the money raised for the fund can be best spent to improve the things that are needed the most. I have already been involved in the re-design of the parent accommodation and collected some beautiful items that have been very kindly donated by the Instagram community, and my involvement in the project has only spurred my enthusiasm for being able to help the unit further. I was so honoured that they asked me to be a part of the group; it really compounded for me the reasons I continue to parent Teddy through fundraising and raising awareness. It also means I get to go back to the unit more often. The first visit we made a few months ago was terrifying, it flipped my stomach and saw me frozen to the spot; but subsequent visits have felt easier. I would go so far to say they’ve eased my pain a little more. I think it’s because he was there; it was the last place he existed, the place he took his last breath. So it will always be special to us and now it makes me feel so happy to know that because of the money we have raised and the work that we continue to do, that less and less parents will have to experience that same devastation and loss in their lifetime.
Being a parent is hard, everyone will tell you that. Being a parent to a child who isn’t here is as hard as it is confusing. We continue to try and weave Teddy and his story into our daily lives, to speak his name and do everything we can to let him know he’s loved and that he won’t be forgotten. I really hope that we’ll always be able to do this and that my sharing our story will enable more parents like us to feel they have the confidence to do the same too.