Despite the chaotic nature of our son Jasper’s sudden and unexpected arrival, the time we spent with him was calm, peaceful and beautiful. When I look at the handful of pictures I have of me holding him, all I see is an expression of shock and disbelief on my face. That makes me sad, as it doesn’t reflect the beauty of the precious time we had with him.
On 24th May 2017 Jasper made a dramatic entrance into the world as a result of me going into premature labour at 23+2 weeks. Despite doctors’ best efforts it quickly became apparent that his tiny body was not ready for the outside world and intervention was withdrawn. All we could do as his parents was take in every detail of him while we held him in our arms, hope that he felt our love and that he wasn’t in pain. I remember looking at my husband and then at the doctor in disbelief as he wriggled in my arms; I couldn’t understand how the perfect, beautiful little boy in my arms could possibly be dying. Although we knew Jasper’s time on earth was limited, we were filled with happiness that he was here and we were with him. I know he was tiny but somehow he didn’t seem that small at the time. He was beautiful and he was our son and that’s all that mattered. We just tried to take in every detail of his being: his nose, his cute little chin, and his small but perfectly formed hands that gripped around our finger, his beautiful little lips and delicate limbs. There was definitely a little bit of both of us visible in him and how proud that made us feel.
I remember my mum saying to me on the day Jasper was born, “You’re both parents now and no one can take that away from you.’’ Sadly, we have at times felt ‘robbed’ of our titles and I have felt on more than one occasion that I have had to justify my worth as a mother to our beautiful boy. As a result, I have even found myself doubting my own status as a mother and I hate that. Along with the fact that our son passed away soon after birth, I’ve often felt that my status as a mother has been questioned on account of Jasper’s prematurity, as if the fact that he was born so prematurely and weighing just 1lb 2oz somehow diminished the love and the pain I feel. The fact that my son was born three months early or how tiny he was or the fact that we had just a few precious hours with him in our arms doesn’t make me love him any less and my motherhood didn’t end with the last beat of his heart. The precious hours we had with our little boy were just the beginning of my motherhood and my husband’s fatherhood.
It may sound strange, but I often feel like we missed out on being congratulated on becoming parents. I have found that it is often hard for others to see past the pain of our loss and they fail to see the happiness that Jasper brought into our lives. May 24th2017 was the worst day of our lives but also the best, as we experienced the joys of becoming parents. Jasper, means ‘barer of gifts’ or ‘treasure’ in Persian and he certainly lived up to his name. Our lives are so much richer for having known him and while the pain of losing him is unimaginably great, the love and the pride we feel as his parents is just as great. As parents, wanting to talk about your baby and celebrate them is the most natural thing. You may not see our son but we carry him in our hearts and we really are no different to any other parents in so many respects; that is something I want the rest of the world to try and understand. We want to celebrate him and to share our love for him with the rest of the world but sadly we are often deprived of that opportunity.
Most people are well-meaning, and they truly believe that in not mentioning Jasper they are protecting us from reliving the heartache of losing him. What they don’t realise is that we live with that heartache every day, regardless of whether someone reminds us or not and their silence is far more hurtful. Like many other parents who have lost a child, as Jasper’s parents one of our greatest fears is that he will be forgotten. I want people to realise that in mentioning Jasper, we are not reminded of our loss. Instead, we are filled with pride and joy that people remember that he existed. In people acknowledging Jasper, we feel recognised as parents and there is nothing more special than that.
We are not religious, but we take great comfort in knowing that Jasper has returned to nature and he has become a part of our landscape. We see him in the beauty of the world around us and a part of being Jasper’s parents has often involved going to beautiful places to feel close to him. Like many others, we have also channelled out love into raising money for various charities that support research into trying to prevent baby loss or charities that support bereaved parents. I think we will forever find ways to express our love for Jasper and keep his memory alive, and I hope that others in our life can continue to be a part of that.
I don’t want anyone to be made to feel uncomfortable by my grief, but what I need people to understand is that my grief is just a result of the love that I have for our son. Please don’t be afraid of saying his name or hearing it. Please allow me to celebrate his life as well as share the sorrow of his loss. When you see a picture of him, you may see the face of a baby who has died and the pain that has brought, but I see the face of my beautiful son whom I love and want to share with you.
I feel more comfortable and confident with my status as Jasper’s mum now and I don’t feel I need to justify it to others so often, but I never want to doubt it again. I’m Hannah, I’m Jasper’s mum, and although he couldn’t stay, he will forever be my son and I forever his mum.