Nine months have passed since I last held my son, 39 weeks since I was ripped from a safe and comfortable reality and tossed into the frightening and painful world of infant loss.
My son Winter Wolfe was born at full term with 39 weeks and 2 days of healthy growth in my belly. My labour was spontaneous, natural and altogether regular. He arrived at 4.37am on October 23rd, crying, pink and a strapping 7lb 6oz. We fell in love and our future appeared to be bright and exciting. But just half an hour after he began his life, our baby boy stopped breathing and the next day he died.
In the months that have followed our sons unexpected death, I have posted regular updates on my Instagram feed and on there I have discovered a world of support and love. I recently decided that I would like to extend my reach, and so after a full 9 month term of microblogging, onedayofwinter.com has been, excuse the pun, born.
The saying goes ‘every journey begins with a single step’, but the journey through infant loss begins instead with trips and tumbles. The cliché of a rollercoaster really is the best example to use. Life after Winter has brought us the lowest of lows alongside the highest of highs, and the continuous mix of emotions is exhausting and at times, terrifying.
The preparation for a baby’s arrival is full of excitement and anticipation. There is nursery wallpaper to choose, names to ponder, discussions about breastfeeding and cloth nappies, cots to assemble, maternity leave to plan, rompers to collect and baby showers to attend. Every piece of your life is working towards the end goal… bringing your baby home. So what happens when the end goal is erased, when the final hurdle is disguising a cliff edge? Even 9 months into losing our little boy and a whole year since we decorated the nursery he never made it home to, I still sit on my rocking chair and wonder how his room ended up so empty.
And after the run up, comes the jump. Birthing your baby is an experience a mother never forgets. Winters labour was long but relatively uneventful. I was naturally focused on the task at hand and all my energy was squeezed into the aim of meeting our creation. Then comes the immense rush of love you experience when your baby is placed in your arms, that hazy moment of unbelieving and dream like state of ‘wow here is my child!’. I had already pre-typed our announcement message with blank spaces for gender, name, date and weight ready to send with the heading ‘First we had each other, then we had you, now we have everything’. Instead a tearful phone call to parents to ‘come quickly they said he might die.’.
Winters dad held our son in his arms for the first time as he left this world and entered the next. The following days and weeks blur together. We had stepped onto the rollercoaster, and try as we might, there was no getting off. Leaving the hospital with a memory box instead of a baby, registering Winters birth, funeral arrangements, collecting his ashes, Christmas, New Year, returning to work, post mortem results, hospital meetings, registering his death, mothers day, birthdays. Eight months after losing Winter and six months of hoping desperately for another baby, I fell pregnant. We were overjoyed and thanked Winter for his gift, only to miscarry at just over five weeks, the day after Fathers Day.
Each milestone since Winter has become a hurdle, and every anniversary is tinged with a deep hollow sadness. There have been days, recently still, where I have not been able to stop my tears, days where I wonder how life can be so cruel and thieve my only child so quickly. But alongside our pain, Winters life and death has brought with it feelings of immense love, gratitude and meaningfulness despite the suffering we face. To date we have raised around £14,000 through various projects for the baby unit who cared so beautifully for our son, who gave us the chance to spend a day together, to call extended family to meet him, to bathe him, dress him and hold him, to be there for his every transition from birth to life and from life to death. I feel lucky to have seen his big dark eyes and heard his gutsy first cry, I know so many families whose babies were stillborn and were robbed of these simple pleasures. I feel lucky to have had him with me as he grew, to have experienced a naïve and carefree pregnancy, to feel the kicks and document my swelling belly. I know so many families who have never had that opportunity and face a lifetime of infertility and empty arms.
I’m thankful every morning for my life, all thanks to my son. I had become complacent and Winter reminded me that life is so fleeting and with no guarantee of time. We can’t waste even a single drop of this nectar called life. Winter lived for just one day, so when I open my eyes in the morning and feel heavy, I’m reminded that I have a little Winter lifetime ahead of me, to make it worthwhile and full of gratitude. Whether that means cleaning the house and feeling thankful for a roof over my head, or missing my son and feeling thankful he existed simply by honouring my grief. Winter taught me, and those whose life he has touched, to cherish friends and family, and through his brief life we have experienced greater bonds.
Nine months ago yesterday was the greatest moment of my life. Nine months ago today was the most painful but also the most profound. I’m still hurting, it is still raw, and we still have a long way to go yet with huge hurdles fast approaching. But the infant loss community I have encountered, the support I have received from those around me and the strength gifted to me by Winter keeps me going and most importantly, keeps me hopeful for the future.
I love you Winter x
If you are interested in my past micro blogging posts on Instagram and our journey so far then please feel free to add me @life_of_pea x