For Patrick

5 years ago, we were heartbroken - yet honoured – to share with you a post by our wonderful friend Fee. I would not dare try to paraphrase her beautiful, raw words; if you have not read it, I urge you to do so. I think I speak for many, if not all of us, when I say that I try to be the woman at the service station as often as I can.

It’s with infinite love and respect that we welcome Fee back to mark her beautiful baby boy’s 5th birthday.

It’s 2014 and I’m sitting in the GP waiting room with my infant son. A lady around my Mum’s age is sitting by us and starts to chat to me as we wait, as people so often do when you have a baby. As she is called in and stands to leave she says, somewhat wistfully, ‘You don’t know how lucky you are’. I don’t know her story so I smile at her in return but inside there is a voice shouting ‘I do. I really do’.

***

It’s hard to describe where I am, five years later. It seems like yesterday that I wrote on these pages days after we lost Patrick, our first baby boy. It seems like yesterday but also like it was a different life. Five years on I am a mother to two more little boys, something we thought at times would never be possible. Part of Patrick’s legacy is that I find it easy to see the joy in the everyday because I am so grateful for each glorious, ordinary day having lived too many that were extraordinarily sad. I laugh often, worry more, judge less, empathise always. I’ve come a long way for sure but part of me is still in a hospital room on July 27th, 2012, saying goodbye to my little boy.

***

I’ve written before here about the time between Patrick and our second baby, Max; looking back it feels like someone else’s life. I underestimated the impact it had on me, on us, as it was swept away in the sheer brilliance (and of course tiredness) of having a newborn and then a toddler, then being pregnant with a toddler, then having a toddler and a newborn….. It was in fact when our youngest, Jude, was around six months old that it all caught up with me and came crashing down. That is a story for another time but now, after all this time, I feel like I have faced it. I have learnt that part of me will never accept what happened, that it is ok to be angry but equally that I no longer blame myself, that looking forward does not mean never looking back.

***

I feel guilty a lot. Guilty that I have two beautiful children but sometimes still struggle with the aching sadness that it isn’t three. That I am exceptionally fortunate in so many ways, compared to so many people. That across the world there are people fighting for their children in unimaginable circumstances. It is that ‘luckier than some but unluckier than others’ conundrum that leaves me spinning. What happened to us isn’t fair yet it’s so small compared to the plight of others yet it’s so enormous compared to never experiencing a loss at all yet, yet, yet….

***

Less than two years after Max entered our lives, I found myself in another hospital room, metres away from where he was born. I wrote here about Max’s birth which was overwhelmingly joyful but also frantic and unpredictable; fitting for a baby that we had spent the past 18 months fighting for. This time however, things were different – it was just my husband and I in a bright room flooded with December morning light and I was calm. Minutes (seven to be exact) after I told the midwife ‘I really think something is happening’, our little Jude was born. Born into my waiting hands as this time I was ready for what was coming, ready to feel his heart beating against mine, his tiny hand grasping my finger. For the third time in four years I gazed into the face of my newborn son, each time the face an imprint of the one before and I was reminded of what links my three boys. The miracle of new life for sure but more than that the love. The love that broke my heart and then brought me back to life.

***

 

It’s the things I won’t experience that are the hardest. I will never feel his body against mine, seconds old, slippery in my hands. I will never feel his heavy warmth on my chest as I sit hazy with tiredness waiting for the sun to rise. I will never know who he would have been. There is very little I would not give to just be his mother for one day; to hold him, to feel the softness of his cheek against mine. I feel a physical yearning for him that I didn’t really understand until his little brothers were born; it is the feeling we must have to keep our babies safe. It’s the feeling my body can’t switch off even though he’s no longer here. That physical yearning is now somehow a comfort; he may not be here but I have changed. He has changed me.

***

Last week, I met some friends (friends I made right here on AOW) for dinner to celebrate two of our birthdays. Except we weren’t there to celebrate our birthdays I discovered, they had arranged this dinner for me, for me and my first baby boy. They had got together with our wider community and collected an overwhelming sum of money to donate to the neonatal unit at the hospital where our children were born, to mark our baby’s fifth birthday. Alongside this was a book of messages for me, for our family, messages that I will forever treasure as they show that our baby’s tiny life was significant, is remembered. This is just one example of how the people we love show us that they remember him; each gesture is infinitely meaningful and we are indescribably grateful for each one. We have been unlucky for sure but how fortunate we are to be surrounded by so much love.

It is that love that has given us the joyful moments that have slowly balanced the grief and sadness that overcame us five years ago. Love for our children and each other, love for our friends and families that leads us to seek solace in their company; to smile and laugh and feel absolute happiness. The grief and sadness hasn’t diminished but now it is only on certain days that it is weighing heavy. Upon reflection, that is one of the many things I would say to anyone going through similar or not quite so far down this road as us. The joy will come back. Hang on. You are still there. Just hold on.

***

Today I will go to the hospital where all three of my boys were born and leave a gift for the doctors and midwives, thanking them not only for their kindness when Patrick was born but also in gratitude for Max and Jude, both born full term thanks to their wondrous care. Then I will visit the hospital chapel where on this date our baby’s name is displayed in the book of remembrance.  I have stood to read it with his little brothers on the inside and the outside; today they will be standing next to me holding my hands as I wonder how one day I will explain to them about the little boy whose name they both have within theirs. ‘Patrick Hatcher’, it says. ‘27th July 2012. Son of Tom and Fiona’. Five years later, everything has changed yet nothing has. He is still our son. This day still belongs to him. And we are so grateful for the short time we had with him. There is a quote you will see often equated with baby loss that reads ‘I carried you for your whole life, I will love you for all of mine’. And I will, my baby boy, I will.

 

 

 

Categories: Becoming a Mother, Life Experience
8 interesting thoughts on this

8 Comments

  1. Ro
    Posted July 27, 2017 at 7:40 am | Permalink

    Oh Fi, sending you the biggest, gentle hug for today.

    The physical yearning you so beautifully describe to hold again the boy you only held once sounds so powerful; painful and precious.

    Your line “I laugh often, worry more, judge less, empathise always.” really struck a chord with me, this has been my experience of parenting after A’s early serious health issues (although I think you do far better at empathising than I do). I too know how lucky I am.

    I am no stranger to loss in its various forms but not of the kind you experienced with Patrick; each time I have hit a difficult patch these last 5 years I have thought of your post here, of you and your first boy (and as Aisling says, the lady in the service station!). Thank you again for writing here, for sharing your story.

    I hope you continue to heal and to feel the love that surrounds you. Xx

  2. Katielase
    Posted July 27, 2017 at 8:05 am | Permalink

    My wonderful friend, you are amazing. I will never stop being sorry for what happened to you, it was cruel and unfair and you don’t deserve a second of the pain you’ve endured. I am in constant awe of your strength and bravery and compassion, Patrick’s legacy is that he made you the woman that you are and you are someone I feel overwhelmingly lucky to know, who has made me a braver person and a better friend. He has touched and changed lives, he makes us all try harder to be that woman in the service station, and we will all remember him as the big brother our group should have had.

    All my love, always, you incredible Mama

    KL xx

  3. Frances
    Posted July 27, 2017 at 8:55 am | Permalink

    Fi, this is such beautiful writing – I felt like I was right there with you as I was reading. I know that having not experienced such a loss I cannot truly understand what you have gone through these last years, but your strength and bravery are inspirational and you are a truly amazing woman that I feel lucky to know. I will be thinking of you and all your boys so much today and this week and am sending lots and lots of love to all your family xx

  4. Laura
    Posted July 27, 2017 at 9:15 am | Permalink

    Oh Fi, I’ve driven to work this morning after reading this thinking about loss and love in all its forms and kindness and guilt and empathy and about you and about Patrick.

    You often talk about other people’s kindness and generosity and I don’t think you give yourself enough credit. How many people have felt utter despair at a loss and then found your words? How much comfort you’ve given to others with your truth and your hope and your example of a beautiful life well-lived. Such generosity to share your thoughts and writing in the face of such devastation. Such humanity.

    Much love to you, especially today. May it be glorious in its ordinariness.xxx

  5. Gwen
    Posted July 27, 2017 at 9:53 am | Permalink

    Your initial piece was, I think, the first I read on AOW – I still think about the honesty and raw emotion – I remembered it when my friend went into labour early under similar circumstances to yourself, when my colleague had to say goodbye to his grandson, and I particularly remember thinking of you, Tom and Patrick when, a couple of months later, my parents and I found ourselves at a service station at 3am, driving through the night so that we could say hello, and goodbye, to my nephew.
    The honesty of your writing about Patrick, and how you and Tom coped with such a loss, really helped me to think about the unthinkable, and to grieve for the sibling I never knew, and for that I want to thank you. I don’t think I have ever read something with such eloquence and heart on such a difficult subject. So, thank you for that xx

  6. Liz
    Posted July 27, 2017 at 10:10 am | Permalink

    Five years must seem like an eternity and breathtakingly quick. Whilst I cannot begin to truly comprehend the impact of the loss of Patrick your writing helps to understand. You are an inspiration.

    Even though I don’t “know” you it has been such a pleasure and privilege to watch as your family has evolved in that time. Max and Jude are stunners.

    You and all your boys are in my thoughts. Much love xxx

  7. Rach M
    Posted July 27, 2017 at 12:18 pm | Permalink

    Fee, this is so beautifully written. I read your story first in Hong Kong, as I’d just moved there. Your words and advice made me a better friend than I ever otherwise would have been to a friend who lost a baby out there. I’ve always tried to be the lady in the service station, like many of the others writing here. In sharing your story you’ve created an army of those women, ready to reach out, spreading your light. So much love for you and all the family. Rach xx

  8. Penny
    Posted July 27, 2017 at 8:24 pm | Permalink

    Fee it’s the end of the day and still I don’t have the words to do justice to this piece of writing, or the piece you wrote almost five years ago. Just know that because of you I keep striving and trying to be a better, braver friend. And that we may not have lived through your experience, but because of your honesty in sharing it, you will never be alone in remembering him.

    So much love to you and your gorgeous family.

    Px

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Hello! We're Clare, Aisling and Anna and welcome to a corner of the world where smart, flawed, real women talk about the bigger picture; about their experiences, stories and opinions on all aspects of being a woman today, from marriage to feminism to pretty, too.

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