At the start of 2017, I was pregnant with our second child. We were overjoyed to discover that our daughter, Emmeline, was due to have a little brother in the Summer. She would be almost three when our son came along, and we envisaged all the adventures they would have together as they grew older; endless summer days in the garden riding their bikes and building dens. We were sure that Emme, who even at a young age was strong willed and knew her own mind, would be the boss, and that her little brother would dote on her every word.
It had all seemed so easy. I had fallen pregnant just two weeks after I stopped taking the pill. I had very little sickness, and my pregnancy had flown by. I was a busy, working Mum, and my days were full. As I left the office to start my Maternity Leave in July 2017, I had a spring in my step and was full of joy. I remember colleagues telling me how I had breezed through the pregnancy, and how they looked forward to seeing me again next year.
Looking back now, it was easy, I had a textbook, carefree pregnancy with Arthur. We had a date planned for his caesarean, and it was now just a matter of counting down the final weeks until his arrival.
It was easy, or so we thought. It all changed on the evening of the 17th July 2017. I had seen the midwife earlier that day for the usual 36 week check-up. I had once again breezed in, laughing and joking. We had listened to Arthur’s heartbeat and chatted away. Had I realised in that moment that it would be the last time I would ever hear his heart beating, I’d have stayed longer, listened more closely, cherished every single second.
The day went by, as any other normal day; I ran errands with my daughter, we played in the garden and we talked of all the things we would do when her little brother arrived in just three weeks’ time. That evening, I was sat on the sofa when I suddenly noticed that Arthur wasn’t doing his usual movements. He was an active baby, and was at his most active in the evening. I mentioned it to my husband, who brought me a fizzy drink and some chocolate. I ate them and prodded at my tummy, fully expecting Arthur to be asleep and for him to wake up and give me a huge kick in retaliation for disturbing him. But there was no kick. Still, my tummy and Arthur both remained, still. In that moment, I knew he wasn’t just asleep. I knew something was horribly wrong. I rang the hospital in tears and we arranged to go in immediately.
I don’t remember many things about the night, but I remember some things very clearly. I remember the drive to the hospital, in complete silence. I remember hearing those words “I’m sorry. There’s no heartbeat” and I remember asking my husband over and over again “How is this happening?”
The hours that followed were a blur, I’m unsure how long we remained at the hospital for that evening, but we were told we would have to return the following day for a second scan and to discuss next steps. For me, there was no discussion to be had, I wanted the c-section that we already had planned. The hospital initially saw this differently, and were incredibly pushy towards me now having an induced birth. I had been induced previously with Emmeline and had an extremely bad reaction to the medication used, which led to an emergency caesarean under a general anaesthetic. Armed with this previous experience and mustering up a strength from somewhere, that I didn’t know I even had, I refused point blank to be induced and asked to see my consultant. Within ten minutes he had signed the paperwork agreeing to a caesarean and said it was my decision to make, he only asked that I sleep on the decision.
Arthur was born the following day via caesarean section. It became obvious the moment he was born what had caused his death. He had a true tight knot in his umbilical cord, and the cord was also around his neck. This is something that cannot be predicted, nor prevented. It was an accident and something that would have happened very quickly. Had Arthur been born the day before, he would be here. That for me, is the bitterest of pills to swallow.
We spent the days that followed with Arthur. We took pictures, dressed him, held him, told him we loved him. We tried to make enough memories in those few short days to last us a lifetime. It wasn’t enough time, it could never have been enough time. We should have had forever.
One of the hardest things to do, was to explain to Emme that her brother wasn’t coming home. I feared her reaction; feared what she would say, worried that I had no way of making this better. It was my job to protect her, yet I felt I had failed both her and Arthur. How could we explain this to a child when we didn’t understand it ourselves? We explained that Arthur’s heart had stopped, and that he wouldn’t be coming home with us now, we gave her his fox toy that was with him at the hospital. She listened, she was upset, and then she looked at us and asked if this meant she was no longer getting the new bike we had promised Arthur would give her when he was born.
Children are resilient in a way that differs to adults, Emme wasn’t quite three when Arthur died. Things were very black and white to her; she was, and still is, very matter of fact that she has a brother, but that he died. Now, at almost five and a half, her understanding around loss and the finality of death has changed. Emme will often tell me she misses Arthur and wishes he was here. When she draws our family, she always includes him and Arthur’s fox still sits on her bed, and yes Arthur sent her that new bike she so badly wanted
Shortly after Arthurs death, we were fortunate to fall pregnant again. I spent a lot of the pregnancy on auto pilot. I was petrified about losing another child. I was now also acutely aware of all the other things that could go wrong, and I felt guilty and conflicted the majority of the time. Another week closer to this baby’s arrival was another week further away from Arthur. It was agreed that our third child would be born at 36 weeks gestation and again via caesarean. So less than 11 months after Arthurs birth, on the 11th June 2018, our daughter Charlotte was born.
Charlotte has brought so much love and joy into all of our lives. Her presence doesn’t remove the grief we feel at Arthurs’ absence, there will always be a missing piece of our family. If you are reading this, and have experienced loss, please know you are not alone, but please also know that the days won’t always be as dark as they are in the beginning. Happiness does exist in life after loss, you do smile and laugh, and you will find joy again. It took me a very long time to enjoy doing even simplest things again; like reading a book, but, eventually, the happiness does creep back in. If I could sit with the person I was in those dark days of early grief, I’d tell her this- “The hole in your heart will always remain, but in the time the edges will get less jagged”.
I know just how fortunate I am to hold two girls in my arms, but I will always long for the little boy that I hold in my heart. I will always wonder who he would be, what he would like to do, and what type of personality he would have. It’s in moments of pure happiness that I miss Arthur the most. Often, I will watch the girls running on the beach, or playing together and I will close my eyes and imagine Arthur there alongside them. I imagine the sound of his laughter, mixed in with that of the girls and what raising a little boy alongside them would be like.
Being Arthur’s Mum has given me so much. I am a different person now, but I hope I am a better person because of him. I love more fiercely and I try to be more tolerant with my daughters, we make all the memories we can. Time feels more precious now. Arthur is always missed, always loved, and will always be included in our family.
Arthur, my beautiful boy; the loss is great, but the love is greater.
Instagram – @After_Arthur
Also via @Arthurs_star, an organisation set up to provide support to families after Stillbirth and Neonatal death.