After years of trying to get pregnant we turned to IVF.
A miracle. After only one round, there it was – that illusive second line on a pregnancy test.
Text book pregnancy until a the scan two days before my elective c-section at 37 weeks. I will never forget the expression on the sonographer’s face as she turned the screen to us: one wriggly, awake baby, one still, lifeless baby.
“I’m so sorry, your baby has no heartbeat.”
Jack had died about 12 hours before the appointment.
Our twins were delivered by emergency c-section two hours later. George was super cross about being delivered and screamed and screamed. To this day, the most wonderful noise I have ever heard – it meant that we would get to take one of our babies home.
But the silence after Jack was born was deafening.
Every day nine babies in the UK are born sleeping, that’s about 3,400 per year. Our precious boy was one of those babies.
My husband, George and I spent one week in a hospital room, just around the corner from the labour ward. Midwives holding our hands through dark days and even darker nights. Lactation specialists helping me feed George because my heart hurt and my body ached for my baby.
This was a bad dream wasn’t it?. My midwife will walk in holding him: “So sorry Victoria, no idea what happened here, there was a terrible mix up. Here’s Jack.”
Instead she walked in and said: “It’s been three days Victoria, would you like to hold Jack?”
“No thank you. I will never let go.”
My husband had spent time with Jack, he’d held him and stroked his face.
After another few bleak days having not met my son my consultant marched in, tough-love mode on it’s highest setting: “You have a lifetime to make memories with George, only days to make them with Jack.”
And so he was brought him to us and my heart shattered, tiny little fragments everywhere. I remember sobbing over and over again: “Please come back to me.”
We held a naming ceremony and it was the first and last time we were together as a family of four. I let my tears flood his face, we placed George and Jack next to each other and George stopped crying instantly. He felt his presence.
I was crushed. A great big steel chain wrapped itself around my chest and I couldn’t breathe.
His eyes, beautiful long lashes, stayed closed. His perfect little nose, rosebud lips – still.
My appreciation for our National Health Service grew. My midwives and nurses and doctors and the lady who brought the never ending cups of tea cried with us. This was more than just a pay cheque to them.
We left the hospital.
Family and friends rallied.
Forty years ago my brother, Gareth, was stillborn. My parents didn’t see him. My parents didn’t get to hold him. He was taken away and my Mum was put back on a maternity ward with new mummies nursing newborns. Horrific. My amazing, strong, humble Mum.
One day she said: “My darling, I wished so hard for you to be a girl who would never know this pain.”
My wonderful, broken Dad, of a generation stiff upper lips and ‘manning up’. hasn’t spoken about his son, my Mum has never seen him cry.
My husband wears his heart on his sleeve, we live in a time that embraces male emotion. It’s ok for boys to sob. And I share my life with a wonderful man who does just that.
But while dealing with his son’s death he had to be the strong one because I couldn’t see which way was up. Initially, when the physical pain was too much, he dressed and showered me and when the emotional pain took over, he carried me.
He picked me up and stuck me back together when I thought I was completely broken and he continues to do so. My superglue, my superhero.
We navigated the endless path of grief together. George, our perfect little twinless-twin thrived and we giggled at his baby ways and I stared at him constantly in a way only a mother can.
A never ending journey of heartache and happiness.
During the initial months after Jack’s death, on the good days, sometimes I felt lucky. For nine whole months he was with us. We watched him grow – at first a little blurry spec on the sonographer’s screen then into a perfect little baby with ten tiny fingers and ten tiny toes. I felt him wriggle and hiccup and we listened to the drum of his heartbeat.
There was light, there was hope. There always is.
We wanted to give George a sibling but gearing ourselves up for another round of IVF was unthinkable.
Then it happened. A Christmas Eve miracle. There he was, our third son, a line on a pregnancy test. No injections or hormones needed. Thank you Santa.
But my first emotion? Guilt. As though I was replacing Jack. I still grapple with it some days but I know he would never want me to feel this. Why would I need to replace him when he is always with us?
Apparently a recent study revealed that mothers of male children end up with some of their son’s DNA. It becomes entwined with their own. How heart-stopping, how awe-inspiring, how beautiful.
I remind myself of this often and I did so throughout my second pregnancy.
A perfect nine months and a wonderful, exquisite, chubby rainbow baby with the most delicious smelling little body appeared at the end of it.
We moved house. New beginnings.
Not long after we arrived and the last box was unpacked I woke up one night to a tinny rendition of Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star. It was coming from a musical book, sat on a bookshelf downstairs. We heard it a few times over a number of weeks – no logical reason as it hasn’t happened since. But I have an explanation – it was Jack, telling us you were home, that we were all home. Exactly where we should be. Together.
Two years later: Surprise! A baby girl! The most precious little Daddy’s girl and now Chief Executive Officer of our house.
Life moved on.
For us, the initial bleakness has lifted. Smiles, happiness and laughter reign in our house.
I see Jack every day. In my husband and my children. I talk to him. Sometimes my six year old sets a place for him at the table and my husband and I shuffle off to cry for a few minutes then we return, happy and in awe of our children.
George turns eight this year and we have weathered the storm.
We don’t know why Jack died, we didn’t want any intrusive investigations. I am at peace with that.
We have a wonderful network of people around us who don’t care if they sometimes ignore calls or messages when communication is still too tough.
We are surrounded by loving arms that stretch across counties and countries and oceans and time-zones.
We have family and friends who would do anything to take away our pain.
But I have learned that after loss, there is life. After sadness there is hope. After tragedy there are miracles.
We have Jack.
He will always be with us, in our hearts and our souls. I see him.
He is flying down the banister, he is dancing in the hall, he is laughing in the garden and cartwheeling down the lawn
He is here.
My darling boy. You are here.
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