Teddy. Edward Constantine Wright. Born on Monday 16th May 2016 at 6.45pm weighing just 6lb 2oz. He was full term (well 4 days short of his due date). I was induced following leaking waters and reduced movements, and was in active labour for six hours after they broke my front waters. Gas and air got me through (and lots of yoga breathing, posing and trying to reassure myself “You’ve got this”). I must have guzzled down about two litres of Lucozade energy and eaten my body weight in jelly babies during that time in an attempt to “Keep my energy up!”
When he finally arrived into the world I got to tell my husband “It’s a boy!” as they handed him to me. Just to explain, I was on all fours on the floor (crash mat provided, thank you NHS) and my husband was sitting the other side of the hospital bed, so he couldn’t really see what on earth was going on . Teddy was passed around to me and I got to make the important “pink or blue” announcement. I felt like I deserved the glory at the end of that hard slog to be fair.
I won’t lie; it’s hard to tell a positive birth story when your baby never comes home with you; but I always give it my best shot as the moment he was born was, and will remain, beautiful to me. It’s what I cling to in my darkest moments. He lived, he was here, I held him. Sometimes I feel as though I just play it on repeat in my head to make myself believe he was real. I know he was; I have a birth (and death) certificate that says so; along with a memory box and a handful of cherished photographs. What I am saying is, when a childs entrance and exit from this world is all but a fleeting moment; a still birth, a few hours, or a few days in Teddy’s case; your mind often starts to blur lines and forget details as time passes. I feel as though I have to speak his name daily, look at his photos and sit in his nursery; just so I feel him.
Teddy was poorly; he was never going to live. Something we never knew until he was here and it was too late for him. He stopped breathing in the small hours of the morning after the evening he was born; he was revived; and was taken to a specialist NICU unit the following morning where he spent the next three days being cared for as they ran every conceivable test possible on his tiny being. I am so grateful for those three days, for so many reasons. Even though Teddy was in a tank, on a cooler mat with multiple wires and monitors on him; he was still here. He was still alive for me to touch, talk to, read to, brush my lips against his little soft shoulders and the back of his neck, to breathe him in and remember his scent. He still met his grandparents who all spoke to him. As we leant over that tank and spoke to him; I know that we both poured every ounce of our positivity into him; every hope and dream we ever had for him. I used up every wish, every prayer, that this lifetime has given me in the hope he would just wake up; wake up and come home with us.
When we found out there was nothing they could do for Teddy and that he would die that day, I don’t think I could ever describe how that felt. Believe me I have tried to many times over the past months; but it’s a truly inexplicable feeling, one I wouldn’t wish upon anyone. All I can say is this; I felt as though every last breath had been kicked out of my chest, as if a wave had pulled me under and no matter how hard I kicked, screamed or struggled that I was never coming up for air. The feeling engulfed me. Now that this had happened, I knew it was totally irreversible; that our lives, no matter how hard we tried or how much time passed, would never be the same.
In that afternoon, the hours that led up to our final goodbye with Teddy felt as though they moved in slow motion. We finally got to cuddle him again, skin on skin, out of his tank. His grandparents held him close for the first time. We took our only photos as a family of three. We washed him, changed him and dressed him in a romper suit and hat (he had been in just a nappy for days). I finally felt like a proper Mummy, looking after him. They brought Teddy to us in his tank, to our room. It was more like a bedroom than a hospital room; I didn’t want him just being “switched off” in a room full of other babies and their familes, no matter how private they made it, it didn’t feel right. Instead he was brought to us in a room with our family; I sat on a sofa flanked by my husband and my mum. As his nurse stopped pumping air into his lungs she removed the final pieces of tape from around his mouth and handed him to us. Finally he was free from all those wires, all that beeping and buzzing; no more machines, just my perfect boy. As he took his last gasping breaths we read him a story; “Guess How Much I Love You?”. It was a loaned booked from his cousin and I had read it to him in his tank the previous evening in the hope it might make him better. I had never read that book before; and I haven’t read it since; but those words will stay in my mind forever. I was lost in them as I tried to photographically memorise every last detail of his perfect little face, and the weight of him in my arms. Then those tiny breaths stopped. At 8.31pm on Thursday 19th May 2016 Teddy left us, not in any more pain, for his big party in the sky.
As we tucked him back into the hospital cot, we kissed him, stroked his little face and I breathed in that scent for the last time. I felt as though I was tucking him in, kissing him goodnight, but for the first and very last time all at once. As they wheeled him away I caught one last glimpse of him and his toy elephant next to him, and I knew that would be the final time I laid eyes on him. He looked so perfect, so peaceful. I wanted this as my lasting memory; so we chose not to visit him at the funeral directors after that.
We found out some months later that Teddy’s condition was a very rare metabolic disorder; one that stopped him from processing acids in his body; it made him, as the doctors worded it, “non life compatible”. His little body simply shut down. I am so grateful that we were all in such great care and that thankfully the dedicated team of paediatricians were able to find the cause of Teddy’s death. I often wonder how it would have felt never to have found out what happened? What we do know is that Teddy’s condition wasn’t hereditary; neither of us carry a gene that could have caused it; it was, as they say, “one of those things”. I am still unsure how my mind has processed the possibility that this could have happened to us by “chance”. That for some unknown reason we had to be bestowed the cruel twist of fate in life that is losing your child. Knowing and understanding what happened is easy enough; with thanks to medical science. However, for your head and heart to truly comprehend why this had to happen, is an answer I fear will escape me for a lifetime.
All I do know is this; when Teddy first died, in those first moments, days, weeks; I felt as though we were the only ones; complete alone in our loss. The only people unlucky enough to have met and lost their child in one all but too brief a moment. Sadly, I was so wrong. When you scratch the surface of the world of lost babies; your eyes are truly opened to a life, a loving community, that you never knew existed. A collection of mothers who have so much love in their hearts for their lost little ones that their love begins to flow over into the lives of others, to reach out to them and let them know they’ll be ok; that they will survive this. It is in this moment that I can only say a heartfelt thank you to all of those courageous mamas, who just like me had felt alone at one moment in time too. Thank you for reaching out, for connecting with me through Instagram (see social media isn’t all bad!), for sharing stories and photos of your beautiful babies, for offering words of advice, and a place to vent. Most importantly for making me feel than I am not, and will never be, alone.