Since losing Otis I have come to learn who my ‘real’ friends are. I know that’s such a cliché, but it’s the truth. I genuinely do not know how I would be coping with losing Otis if it wasn’t for those few true friends I’m lucky to call mine. Those few true friends I have are irreplaceable. Those few true friends have been there for me before and throughout my pregnancy, they didn’t just ‘show up’ when Otis passed away. Those few true friends I have will be able to read this and not question whether I’m writing about them, they will know who they are.
My little sister and my best friend. She has been my absolute rock throughout this entire pregnancy. From sharing our shock in finding out that Chris and I were expecting, to sharing our happiness when we found out we were due a little boy, to sharing our apprehension and fear when we found out our little boy was poorly, to sharing our complete devastation when we found out Otis’ condition was fatal and terminal, to sharing our utter heart break when our son’s heart stopped beating. I don’t often tell her how much I appreciate her, but I really hope she knows. Zoe and I have always had a good friendship as well as being sisters, more so since I gave birth to Cora and Maisie four years ago. Since losing Otis, Zoe has stepped up and helped me mother the girls. She’s going to be an amazing mummy one day! She makes their food, she bathes them, she plays with them and keeps them entertained when I don’t have the energy to. She accompanies me to Otis’ grave every time I take the girls so if they have any questions while we are there they can ask her. She looked after the girls for me at Otis’ funeral because I knew I wouldn’t be able to stay strong enough for them. She sends me little texts nearly every day just as a pick me up, telling me she’s proud of me or that the girls and Otis are lucky to have me as their mummy – and on some days, they are the only thing that get me through the day. I would not be coping with losing my little boy if it wasn’t for her. She’s my hero.
One of my closest friends; Cora, Maisie and Otis’ Godmummy; my adopted mum. Mel has been there for me since I was 6 years old. She loves me and my children like we are her own, she would do for us what she does for her own, she may not always agree with me or what I choose to do and she’s honest about it but she stands by me and is there for me regardless. Mel was the only friend I have who came to see Otis in the hospital when he was born – partly because she’s one of the few who got asked, and partly because she was strong enough to face me. I love her more for what she did when she walked in to the room. She cried. And she cried a lot. I needed that. I didn’t mind that she broke down, I didn’t mind that she couldn’t hold it together, I liked that she cried because it told me that she loves my son. Mel spent a lot of time with Otis and I over the couple of days we had with him before he was picked up by the funeral directors. I’m glad she got to meet him, to hold him, to love on him. I’m glad she knows how he felt in her arms and how soft and delicate his skin was. I will be forever thankful for the support Mel always shows us, but even more so for the selflessness she showed us when I needed her in the hospital that weekend.
Well, where do I start with this one?! She’s special. Super special. I’ve known Jodie for 11 years. We have always been close but we went a couple of years of not seeing each other at all – I guess you could say that life got in the way, something we will be sure never to repeat. Jodie and I started seeing each other very regularly after she had her little boy, Jake, in May of last year. Jodie and I have the kind of friendship where we love each others children like we do our own. She has been there for me since day one with my pregnancy. She was always one of the first people I sent a text to as soon as something changed – after our first scan, after finding out we were having a boy, when I felt Otis kick for the first time, after learning that Otis was poorly, and when he was born. Jodie decided not to come and see Otis in the hospital, I know that a big part of her regrets not doing and I want her to know that it’s okay and I completely understand why she didn’t. I know this woman doesn’t need to have held my son in her arms for me to know she loves him. I know this woman will help me protect the memory of my little boy for the rest of our lives, and she will ensure his little legacy lives on. Jodie has offered to become a surrogate for me if I decide I want another child in the future, without me asking, without hesitation and without thinking twice. I hope she knows I would do the same for her in a heart beat if I could. I cannot put in to words how much hope it gave me, hearing that. Having another baby isn’t something I’m even considering right now and I’m not sure I ever will for fear of feeling like I’m ‘replacing’ my little boy … but it’s so nice to know that I have options. It’s a comfort knowing that I COULD one day hold another baby in my arms that is mine to love, mine to keep. I love her, I love her little boys, and I appreciate her and her friendship every single day.
I actually met Kirsti through her being a friend of Zoe, my little sister. We tend to share the same friendship group now, with us being so close. She has a little boy, Archie, who was born the day I made it public that Chris and I were expecting. Kirsti and I bonded over her newborn and my pregnancy – I could relate to her completely with being a young mum, and she could relate to me too. I went round to see little Archie when he was three weeks old and we have never looked back. It was like we have been the best of friends our whole lives, we just clicked. I love her, I love her son like he’s my own and I’m thankful for them every single day. Kirsti has been my ‘go to’ when I need a rant. She’s been the person I have sent texts to at 2/3/4am in the morning just because I’m fed up. She’s been the person who has seen the raw side of what stillbirth does to a person. She was the person I contacted when I was led breaking down on the bathroom floor of the hospital the night we were told Otis had no heart beat, she was the person I contacted at 3am the day of Otis’ funeral telling her I couldn’t do it – and I don’t think I would have if it wasn’t for her reassurance that morning.
The light of my life. Seriously. The strength and courage this girl shows after being through so much herself is my inspiration. After losing her twin sister a few years ago, Abby has turned her life around and she’s really making everyone around her so proud, especially me and her Godbabies. Abby is the friend who will storm in to my house and drag me out of bed, she is the friend who will force me to do something I may not want to do to show myself I can do it, she is the one who makes me push past the boundaries I set myself because she knows I can go one better, she is the one I can ring 24 hours a day 7 days a week and I know regardless of what she is doing she will pick up the phone, she’s the one who understands the things I say about my grieving process that may come across to other people as being ‘odd’ … I don’t know what I would do without her. I don’t like to think about how different my life would be without her and how differently I would be coping if it wasn’t for her.
Bryony, Kirstin, Gina.
These girls and I don’t see each other often, but we are there for each other. We bonded over the fact we’re all mummies and I don’t know what I would do without these girls. Bryony and Kirstin were the first friends who had the guts to come and see me after Otis’ funeral, they were the first friends to ‘suck it up’ and face me, and I’m beyond thankful they did. They came to see me and just sat listening to me speak about Otis – including the details not many people would want to hear – and they didn’t once look at me as if to ask me to stop, they didn’t once interrupt me or try and change the subject, they just sat and listened, and I needed that. I will be forever thankful for these three girls and the light their little ones – Oliver, Louie, Olivia, Poppie and Millie – bring to my life.
Ashleigh and I have known each other for 11 years and we have always been really close friends. We don’t speak often but it doesn’t mean I love her or her little boy, Tommy, any less than what I did when we spoke every day. Life gets busy, and stuff gets in the way. Since losing Otis I’m trying my best to make a conscious effort to put more time in with Ashleigh because, even though we have drifted over the last couple of years, the love I have for her has never changed and I know I could still knock on her door at 2am and she would answer and let me in. Ashleigh knows me more than most, and she sees behind my ‘mask’, she knows that a lot of what I appear to be during this time is a public front. I love her for seeing through that mask and insisting I speak about how I REALLY feel.
One of my oldest and best friends, and now also my brother-in-law! I don’t know what I would do without his humour. I am so thankful that he will sit and listen to me rant about how unfair this situation is. He doesn’t tell me that it will be okay, he doesn’t usually find the words to say to try and make it better, but he simply AGREES with me. He allows me to see that it’s okay to feel the way I do. That it’s okay to be mad. He allows me to see that it’s okay to want to blame someone or something for losing Otis. It helps more than he knows. He has taken me to ‘see’ Otis at the cemetery on so many late night trips, when I get a sudden urge to go up and he never complains. He also stays strong for my sister which means more to me than anything.
Charlotte, Laura, Louise, Tom, Nicola, Josh, Sam and Maddie.
Thank you, for doing all you can to help me deal with losing Otis. Thank you for being there as my back bone and being the friends that may not be in my life every single day. Thank you for being the friends that I may not see on a regular basis, if at all anymore, but I know I can pick up the phone and call you and you will be there. Thank you for loving me through my worst times as well as my best times.
True friends are important. The few people I trust as my friends outshine those who only show their face when something ‘big’ happens in my life, they outshine the people around me who tell me they are there for me when, in reality, they really aren’t. Friends do not have an obligation to love me and my children, they do not have an obligation to be there for us and pick up the phone to me, they do not have an obligation to sit and listen to me talk about Otis … but they do. And I will be forever thankful for them helping me find my new ‘normal’.
If any of you are reading this, please know I love you.
Otis Dominic Anthony Cullen; We miss you, we love you, we will do both eternally.