Grandparents are so often overlooked when it comes to losing a child through stillbirth. No one seems to ever pay attention to how the mothers and fathers of mothers and fathers who lose their baby really feel. It wasn’t until recently that I did myself. I got in bed one evening and just thought to myself ‘it must hurt them so much, too’ … Not only are Grandparents grieving for the loss of their grandchild, they are grieving for the loss their child has to endure – just like I grieve for Maisie and Cora for losing their little brother.
One of my biggest regrets after losing Otis was not involving Chris’ parents (Bernard and Thelma) more in my pregnancy. My family were ‘lucky’ in a sense that they were involved in Otis’ life from day dot. From the day Chris and I saw those two lines on that pregnancy test, my family had our little boy in their lives. My sister and dad came to scans that Chris couldn’t attend – Zoe had the opportunity to see Otis moving and seeing his little heart beating … Something that Bernard and Thelma will never get the chance to do. I will forever feel guilty for ASSUMING that our little boy would be born alive. I will forever feel guilty for taking for granted our son’s heart beat and ASSUMING it would stay. I will forever feel guilty for ASSUMING that they weren’t too interested in being involved in the pregnancy. I will forever feel guilty for ASSUMING they didn’t want to come shopping for baby clothes, or to help me decorate his nursery. I would give anything to turn back time and invite them both to an ultrasound scan to see their little grandson alive and moving; to give them the opportunity to feel him move and kick in my tummy …
Hindsight is a beautiful thing, isn’t it?
‘All I can tell you is that I have been completely heartbroken since his death. I have never, ever felt such a sense of loss and helplessness as I have felt about Otis. I will hear a line in a song or see his picture (he is my phone home screen) & I’m off. And I truly don’t know why. I never got to hear him cry, see him smile, change a nappy & yet I feel such an affinity with him. I’m in floods now just writing this. I was raised catholic & I attended mass, but I have not set foot in a church since his funeral. If there is a God how did he let this happen? We are not bad people. Heartbroken. That is the 1 word that describes how I feel.’ – Bernard (Otis’ Grandad).
I know now that, they too, feel heartbroken.
I know now that, they too, feel an indescribable sense of loss.
I know now that, they too, would give their very last breath to see Otis take his first.
I know now that, they too, though differently to Chris and I, will forever mourn the loss of Otis.
Losing Otis has been the single, most devastating event that has ever, EVER happened to me. I could not imagine losing a grandchild but then also having to do my best to stay strong to support my child who needs me. I could not imagine having to watch my child suffer the way my dad has to watch me suffer, the way that Bernard and Thelma have to watch Chris suffer. I could not imagine the pain of having to stand and watch my child bury their child. I could not imagine Bernard and Thelma’s agony in seeing their son carry their first grandson – their first grandchild – into the church in his coffin. I could not imagine my dad’s pain in watching me break down and having to try and support me. I could not imagine my dad’s pain in knowing that he could do nothing at all to change what had happened. I could not imagine the pain of losing a grandchild. And I truly hope I never do.
Admittedly, out of all of the posts I have written for my blog, this has been the hardest one. Trying to empathise with my dad, Bernard and Thelma is hard – putting myself in their shoes and seeing this tragedy from their point of view; it really fucking hurts.
I’ve been selfish. All I have thought about since Otis died is myself and how I feel; all I have focused on is my grief and the girls’ grief. I didn’t once stop to ask my dad if he is okay. I didn’t once send a text or a mail to either of Chris’ parents asking them how they are coping. Not only am I realising as I write this that I’ve deprived Otis’ Grandparents of knowing their grandchild alive; I have also ignored their mourning.
I will be forever sorry for that.
One thing I made sure happened when Otis was born, was that his grandparents got to meet him. If anything, I pushed it. I knew it was the only one chance they were ever going to get to see their precious grandson in the flesh.
As soon as my dad walked in to the delivery suite when I had given birth, I saw the love he had for Otis in his eyes, but the sadness that he wasn’t here. It was the most bittersweet moment. My dad spoke to Otis just as he would have had he been born alive; he spoke to me about how surprised he was with his weight and length (we were told to expect him to be small as he had stopped growing); he even joked with me and Nicola (our midwife) about how well endowed he was! It was my dad and my step mum, Sam, talking to and about Otis the way they did and do that made me realise it was okay to enjoy the good times too. It is okay not to be 100% sad and incapable of speaking happy things about my little boy. It was my dad and Sam who taught me that I was allowed to be happy he existed; I was allowed to be happy that he did once have a heartbeat, even if he didn’t anymore; I was allowed to speak about what could, should and would have been had Otis been born alive. It was my dad and Sam who taught me that, one day, I will speak about Otis with a smile instead of tears in my eyes, and that this is completely okay. It is my dad and Sam who have taught me that I don’t have to carry this overwhelming feeling of grief, guilt and regret with me for the rest of my life. They have done all this without even speaking those words, just through their actions I have learned that I can find happiness again. I can love fully again. And in time, I will.
I cannot put in to words how grateful I am for the both of them.
I will always have imprinted on my mind the moment that Chris’ mum and dad walked in to the room to meet their grandson. Their apprehension in meeting him, their nervousness in seeing Chris and I … The second they laid eyes on Otis they fell in love. I could see it just by looking at them; I could see the love they had (and still have) for Otis in the tears falling from their cheeks. I could see the fear they felt in holding him because he was so perfectly fragile. I could see the admiration they had for our little boy’s beauty. I could see the helplessness they felt that there was nothing they could do for Otis, Chris and myself.
Otis really does have the most amazing grandparents. Grandparents who will honour him for the rest of their days. Grandparents who will speak of him and involve him in everything they do. Grandparents that are PROUD he existed and fought so hard to meet them. Grandparents that will treasure every single picture they have of him. Grandparents who LOVE him in death as much as they would have in life.
Thank you, dad. Thank you, Sam. Thank you, Bernard. Thank you, Thelma. Thank you for being all you have been and doing all you do for Chris and I. There are no words in existence to explain how much I appreciate you all.
‘Moments in time that should have been filled with our joy are forever filled with our grief.’ – Bernard.