A few weeks ago, Child Bereavement UK launched a fantastic new campaign called #OneMoreMinute to highlight the support that they provide bereaved families, and what those families would say to their loved ones, if only they had one more minute. Its heartbreaking, yet so effective in showcasing grief, pain, loss, and love of the bereaved in its purest form. No frills, or platitudes. Just the honest truth.
I’ll be honest though, I haven’t actually watched the video. I’ve seen snippets, mostly on mute. I feel pretty shit about it. For someone who sits here, behind a blog, attempting to raise awareness of grief, bereavement and child loss, I’ve shyed away from such a poignant campaign. But for some reason, despite thinking its spot on and brilliant, its such a trigger. And I don’t really have many like that – I immerse myself in stillbirth related content generally. I get behind the campaigns, I talk about it, I embrace the honesty. No matter how hard. But this one has floored me somewhat.
The only other thing that I’ve felt similar about, is the stories of the near misses. The babies that wouldn’t be here if their mothers hadn’t been empowered to act by the messages of Kicks Count and the like. The babies that wouldn’t be here if their mothers hadn’t have asked for that help. The babies that almost died, but their mothers acted quick enough on their reduced movements. I scroll past these. They crushed me in the early days. They still can now.
They are obviously fantastic stories. I applaud them. But they aren’t my story and I hate it.
I wish I could sit here and say isn’t the NHS wonderful, they saved my baby because they listened to me when I raised concerns about my babies movements, and took the right actions and the right time, and saved his life. But I can’t. I read all of the information, obsessively. I raised my concerns. Just not loud enough. Not often enough. Not at the right time. Not to the right person. Or at the right place. And Leo died. So no, sadly, despite championing the behaviour of those women, despite acting in that way in my pregnancy with Eli, despite knowing, truly knowing, why empowerment, asking for help and monitoring movements is crucial – I still have an aversive reaction to those stories. They grab hold of that slow burning guilt inside me, and feed it, and feed it fast. They feed my guilt, my self-blame, the feelings that I failed him, and they let it run away so grief consumes. So I avoid them. Because its exhausting when grief overtakes.
And the #OneMoreMinute campaign has been much like that. Please don’t misunderstand that as criticism or dislike – the charity and campaign is incredible. It’s just for me, right now, I can’t go there. I guess one day, I’ll watch it all, I’ll cry for Leo, I’ll nap, write about it, and be okay with it. But, right now it hurts and it hurts because grief is creeping in as we approach the end of the year, and another birthday, and it hurts because of the word MORE. I can’t understand the word more. More, what? We didn’t get anything, let alone more.
Yes, Leo had life. Yes, he existed. Yes, he is our son. Yes, I felt him move, and kick, and hiccup, and turn. But that isn’t the same. It isn’t the existence I ever wanted to only know of my son. So, it isn’t what I want more of. I’d take it, obviously, I’d take feeling him move one more time. But what I envisaged for my son, is life outside the womb. Life, growth, noise, movement, breath – all of this is what I want more of. But we never got any, so wanting more just doesn’t sit right, I can’t engage with it. It just highlights to me the unique cruelty of stillbirth.
I’ve struggled to work out what I would say, if I did have the one minute with Leo. I’ve struggled I think because I don’t know if I would have that minute with him alive, or as we know him, dead. Would what I say to him be different? If we had one more minute in the bereavement suite with him would I say something different to him, than if he had be born and lived for one minute? Does it really matter? Why do I need to work it out?
So Leo, what would I say if you were here, with me, for one more minute?
I would say that I am sorry. I am sorry I didn’t listen. I am sorry I didn’t hear you ask for help. I am sorry that I didn’t shout loud enough. I am sorry I was too easily reassured, too trusting. I am sorry. I am sorry that I let this happen. I didn’t know it was going to happen. I am sorry that you aren’t here with us. I love you. I will always love you. I will never let you be forgotten. I will never let your name go unspoken. I will fight for you. Always. Even if I’m the only person left fighting, left speaking your name, left to remember who you are. I’ll keep doing it. You are worth it all. Knowing you, loving you, grieving you – you are worthy of it all.
– J x