When I was led on the bathroom floor of the hospital in the shower, arms wrapped around my pregnant tummy, squeezing my bump so tight, screaming NO in to the floor after realising my little boy had really stopped moving; after realising that my little boy’s heart had really stopped beating; after realising that this perfect little boy inside me was going to be born silent and still; I never thought I would have the strength to ever stand again. I really didn’t.
I cannot begin to explain that scream to those who have never experienced it for themselves, or been in the presence someone who has … It’s like an animalistic howl. It’s the most painful sound in the world – the rawness of that howl can be felt in your soul. It hurts to hear it, never mind being the one to FEEL it. That’s the best I can describe it. It hurts. It physically hurts.
It’s one of the things I will ALWAYS have a vivid memory of – that cry; the vulnerability I felt while laying on that bathroom floor. I was laid bare, and not just because I was fully unclothed with being in the shower. My soul was laid bare. Every single part of my being was exposed. I have never felt so open. I have never felt so weak.
I knew, in an instant, that I would never be the same again. I knew as I cradled my deathly still 35 weeks baby bump that I had become a different person. It was like a switch just flipped. One minute I was Natalie ‘before Otis died’ … The next minute (literally), I was Natalie ‘after Otis died.’
And scarily, that’s how quickly it happens, too. In a matter of seconds, it happens. One minute my little boy’s heart was beating; the next minute it had stopped. It doesn’t take weeks, days or hours. It’s that simple. It beats, then it stops. What/who decides when that happens? What/who decides that this particular baby’s heart should stop beating? What/who decides that this particular baby’s heart should stop beating at that given time? Who/want decides that this particular baby should just stop ‘being’? What/who decides that it should happen, full stop?
I remember; through the tears, through the screaming, through the breathlessness, through the physical ache and pain; I remember praying. I remember praying to a God that I’m not sure I even believe in. I remember BEGGING him to put life in to my little boy. I remember BEGGING him to take the air out of my very own lungs and put it in to Otis’ lungs. I remember BEGGING him to take me. I remember BEGGING him to let me sacrifice my own life for him. I remember BEGGING him to take the blood out of my very own veins and put it in to Otis’ veins. I remember BEGGING him to take the beat out of my heart and put it in to Otis’ heart.
Why would an all knowing, all loving God let this happen? Why would an all knowing, all loving God take this pure, innocent little being? Why would an all knowing, all loving God choose such a good family for it to happen to? We aren’t bad people. Otis would have had the BEST life. He would have had the BEST upbringing, alongside his big sisters. Otis IS so loved. We love him as much in death as we would have in life. We love him more in death than other people love their living children. How is this fair?
If a God REALLY exists, why does he choose to take perfectly pure babies who have never even had the chance to breathe, when there are paedophiles and murderers roaming the Earth? Why does he choose to take the life out of an innocent baby, and not those who use their free will to HURT children? Why doesn’t he take those who RAPE children? Why doesn’t he take those who KILL children? Why doesn’t he take those who see it as being okay to have a relationship with a pre-pubescent when they’re well above age themselves?
I don’t know how I found the strength to stand that evening. I really don’t.
Honestly, I would not be coping with the death of my child if it wasn’t for all the grieving mothers and fathers who have wrapped me up in their arms, and welcomed me in to this loving community to help guide me. I connect with every single one of these people in a way different to anyone else I’ve ever known. They just ‘know’ … No words needs to be spoken between any of us. There’s just a universal knowledge of the ache; of the pain; of the heartache, in this childloss community.
I remember leaving hospital on the Sunday after Otis was born (Sun 5th June 2016), and signing on to Instagram. I remember searching a few tags, to try and find people who have dealt with this pain before me, and those dealing with it alongside me. I searched: stillbirth, stillborn, stillloved, stillbirthsupport, stillbirthawareness – and I remember coming across over 1,000,000 tags. How horrible is that? 1,000,000 pictures off people in my position. I then went on to Google, and Googled how to share the news my little boy had been born, but had died. I then logged on to my Facebook page and I shared the news; I shared the status about Otis’ birth and passing, at the same time. Then after I’d done that, I searched for stillbirth support groups. I found a LOT of support groups. I am thankful that there were so many places I can turn, but angry that they have to exist.
Thank you, to each and every single one of you for walking beside me on my journey. Thank you for sharing your journies with me. Thank you for allowing me to see that Otis will never be forgotten. Thank you for welcoming Chris and I, as well as Cora, Maisie and Otis in to your lives. Thank you for the candles that have been lit in my son’s honour. Thank you for the words of hope when I had none. Thank you for the encouragement to share Otis’ story to try to help other people. Thank you for giving me the option to remove these most uncomfortable shoes for a rest every now and then, when I cannot physically walk in them anymore.
In hindsight, I now strangely believe I found my strength to stand that evening through the hundreds of women and men who have been in that position in that very bathroom before me. I believe that those people had ‘woven a net out of their broken hearts’ and they used that net to help me that night. I believe that the scars from the wounds of other loss parents that cover that bathroom floor and that bathroom wall gave me the strength I needed to get on to my feet. I believe that every single baby born in to Heaven in that room knew I needed help; they knew I was suffering and they lifted me.
I’m not crazy. I don’t think those babies physically lifted me; I don’t believe there is a physical net.
You see, when your child dies, a massive part of your heart goes to Heaven with them. I believe that metaphorical piece of your heart joins with those of other loss parents and forms one HUGE metaphorical heart that will only get bigger – that will go on to help those who will need it. That metaphorical heart will protect every man and woman who hears those words: ‘I’m sorry, there’s no heartbeat.’ That metaphorical heart will open you up to the community you have unwillingly become a part of. That metaphorical heart will become your support, your guide, your lifeline.
It is through the heart of this community that I am finding the strength to stand. It is through the heart of this community I am coping. It is through the heart of this community that my little boy’s memory stays alive.
Otis Dominic Anthony Cullen; we miss you, we love you, we will do both eternally.