‘In my professional opinion, I wouldn’t recommend that anybody come see Otis now.’ – The words spoken by our funeral director just three days after our little boy was born.
Otis Dominic Anthony Cullen arrived Earth side on Friday the 3rd of June, 2016. I saw him for the very last time on Monday the 6th of June, 2016. We received a phone call during the morning of the 6th; it was Lianna (our funeral director) telling my dad that she didn’t want anyone going down to see Otis, as he had deteriorated too much, too quickly.
This is, in part, due to the fact that the cuddle cot at the hospital that was supposed to keep Otis’ body refrigerated enough to ‘preserve’ him, was not turned on the whole time we were there. I was, obviously, completely oblivious. I thought that it would have been on, I had never been around a dead baby before so I guessed that it was normal for Otis to deteriorate and change as much as he did in just two days. Apparently not.
My heart shattered hearing those words.
I left hospital with Otis on the Sunday, assuming that I would be able to spend time with him during the week at the funeral home. Because of this, I didn’t say a ‘proper’ goodbye to him at the hospital, so I went against Lianna’s recommendation and insisted I see my little boy that day, one last time.
We arranged to go down at 2pm on the Monday to sort out Otis’ funeral and for me to see him. After deciding what we wanted for the funeral, Lianna took us through to see Otis. She asked me ‘are you sure you want to do this?’ … Of course, I said yes. I didn’t care what he looked like, I HAD to see him to say goodbye properly.
My dad, Chris and I walked in to the room and saw his little moses basket. I was terrified to walk over but I found strength somewhere within me and forced myself to go and stand next to him. Chris struggled to see his little boy in there, and sat in the corner of the room on a chair. I looked down in to the moses basket. He looked perfect. He looked so perfectly peaceful and beautiful. He was cuddling his little teddy Chris had bought me for Mother’s Day when I was pregnant; he had his little wolly hat on and was wrapped in a nice thick blanket, to keep him warm.
But he was blue. Upon leaving the hospital the day before, Otis still had a lot of pink skin, as well as the blue tinge. By the following day he had turned completely blue and because of the way nature works, he had also started to let off a pungent smell.
It was devastating.
As horrible as it is to say this; I was looking at my little boy decomposing in front of my eyes.
It broke me. I broke down. I just wanted to reach in to the moses basket and pick him up, hold him tight to my chest and stay there forever, protecting him. I wanted to change the course of nature and stop this happening to my little boy; but I couldn’t even pick him up – he was too fragile. I cried in to my dad’s chest, then as I pulled away, hands shaking, I took the ring off my finger that Chris had bought me three years ago and placed it around two of Otis’ tiny fingers – his middle finger and ring finger … Then I put Chris’ bracelet that I bought him three years ago in Otis’ other hand. I placed the letters that Chris and I wrote him at the bottom of the moses basket and the teddies off the girls beside his head. I asked for time alone with him, and my dad and Chris left the room.
The second they walked out of that room I collapsed in a heap on the floor next to the moses basket. I didn’t have the strength in me to stay strong anymore. I wanted to take his place. I cried as I knelt beside the moses basket, holding Otis’ hand. I pleaded for this not to be the last time I would ever see him. I begged and begged for it to be me taking his place and nothing happened. I prayed so hard (if there really is a God) for him to breathe my life in to Otis; to take the air out of my lungs and put it in to my little boys lungs. I had already had a chance at living; I honestly did not care. I would have given ANYTHING to take his place and it be me lying in that funeral home, I still would! But nothing happened. This was my reality. It really was my little boy who was being taken away.
I whispered in to his ear:
‘I’m so sorry that I failed you. This shouldn’t be happening. Please, don’t be scared baby. You’re going to be okay. Your grandmas, granny and grandad will look after you when you get to where you’re going. There’s no need to be scared. I love you, we love you.’
I stroked his little head and quietly sang (through a lot of tears) the little lullaby I sang to the girls when they were babies, and still sing to them now when they’re poorly, before saying to him: ‘goodnight baby, sleep well and sweet dreams.’
I planted a gentle kiss on his forehead. I planted a gentle kiss on his cheek. Then I planted a gentle kiss on his lips. I stroked his tiny ear and touched his little fingers one last time… Then I walked out of the room without turning back to look at him. I knew if I looked at him again that I would never be able to walk away.
That day was the single, most harrowing day of my entire life. Giving birth to Otis broke me. Planning his funeral destroyed me. Watching his tiny coffin be carried in to the church by his daddy was painful. Seeing his tiny coffin be lowered in to the ground was a hurt I cannot explain. But saying goodbye to my precious boy’s physical body, knowing that it would be the very last time I ever saw him is a pain beyond comprehension. I cannot begin to put in to words how it felt walking out of that room, away from him.
It went against every motherly instinct I had, walking away from my baby.
I hope he knows, wherever he is, how difficult it was for me to do that. I hope he knows that I didn’t want that day to be the last time I saw him, but I couldn’t bare to see his perfect body decompose anymore in front of my eyes. I hope he knows that I would have spent every waking minute with him for the rest of my life if I could. I hope he knows that we miss him, that we love him and that we will do so eternally.