Eight years ago in October 2010 my son, Charlie, died very suddenly. He contracted meningitis at 14 weeks old and died a week later. It was a horrendous week of agonising lows and culminated in us having to turn his life support off. The next day we had to go home without him. My body was still making milk for a baby that wasn’t there, my arms empty, I was in post partum mode and my brain was wondering what on earth had happened?
He was gone but my body and mind couldn’t accept it. I carried on expressing my milk and donated it to premature babies. I couldn’t bear to stop producing milk. It was such a big part of my relationship with him so I wanted to stay in that mode; I wanted to still be the person who had a baby in their arms. For those moments I could close my eyes and pretend he was still alive.
I threw myself into a massive campaign to raise awareness of the signs of meningitis. I tweeted every celebrity I could think of to get people to read Charlie’s story. I did interviews with magazines, newspapers and radio. All the time what I was really doing was pushing my grief away. I put it in the “to do” pile. That could come later. I had work to do.
I couldn’t look down and see the big gaping hole in my life and all his things gone (as requested by me). It was too unbearable to think about. Too awful to be real. So I didn’t think about it. I thought about raising money and saving other people. It sounds admirable and brave but it was just a coping mechanism – a way to avoid going through the grief process.
Then six months after his death I found out I was expecting another baby. We’d made the decision to have another baby fairly quickly for many reasons. Partly so there wasn’t too much of an age gap with our eldest son and partly to give us something else to focus on and look forward to.
Again, the grieving process was put on hold. I was pregnant, I couldn’t grieve. At least that’s what I told myself. It was another reason to put it to the side. Another excuse to bury my head in the sand that he’d gone.
Life went on …