It has been 115 days since my precious little boy was born in to the arms of angels. I have managed to get through those 115 days; not because it has been easy, but because I have had to.
I have survived, but I haven’t lived.
Surviving and living are two entirely different things. Survival is instinct. Survival is coping. If I was living then I would be enjoying my days. I cannot live with the absence of one of my babies. I survive because I have to.
Otis has two big sisters at home who NEED me. I have two little girls who depend on me. I have two little girls who look up to me. I have two little girls who I promised things to – I promised them that we would get through this; I promised them that they didn’t need to be afraid and that Otis is going to be okay where he is now; I promised them that mummy will be okay; I promised them that I will do my very best to make them happy every single day for the rest of their lives, even when I’m not happy myself.
I owe it to the girls to BE a good mum. I owe it to the girls to ensure they know that they matter as much as Otis. I don’t want to spend every single day crying. I don’t want the girls to think that the loss of their brother is more important than the fact they live. It isn’t.
So I try. I try every second, of every minute, of every hour, of every day to just survive. For them, if not myself.
While I still read them their bedtime stories, I still kiss them goodnight, I still wake them with a smile, I still laugh with them, I still hold them, I still cuddle them … While nothing has changed in the way of me LOVING my girls; everything has changed in the way I be a mum to them. Why? you’re probably wondering …
Since finding out at 34 weeks gestation that my little boy was incompatible with life, my world has ran on autopilot. My mind has protected me very well by being in denial but that denial is slowly, but surely, wearing off.
I have been in denial that my little boy isn’t here. I’ve had it in my mind, despite dressing him in to his burial outfit myself and seeing him in the funeral home, that he is still in the hospital and he WILL be coming home. Today made me realise he won’t.
It terrifies me. I’ve always been a protective mum, but I parent differently now. I get scared, every single time I say goodnight or goodbye to one of my girls, that it will be the very last time I do. Losing one of my babies was once an irrational fear of mine and now it’s completely rational because it’s my reality and that is really fucking hard to come to terms with.
How do I be a mum to my girls without pushing them away; without (metaphorically) suffocating them; without stealing their childhood through not letting them just BE children?
How do I be a mum to my girls when I am absolutely terrified that they, too, are going to die?
How do I be a mum to my girls when I get scared that I’ll have to plan a funeral for them one day, instead of a birthday party?
How? Please, someone tell me.
Denial – shock – is an amazing thing. It protected me for 115 days.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not stupid, every single day since losing Otis I have had little bouts of realisation. I do something, or I think something, that reminds me of the absence of my son and I cry. I have times where I forget he isn’t here and I will go to do something, only to remember that he’s gone.
Yesterday I went food shopping – I like to grab a couple of treats for the children when I go, to keep them entertained while I’m cooking, putting the shopping away etc. I went as far as putting a little hand-held toy for a 3 and a half month old Otis in the trolley and then getting to the check out, before realising that he isn’t here to give it to him. I took the toy out of the trolley, put it back on the shelf, paid for my shopping and left. Then when I got home, I broke down.
I will never see my son play with a toy.
I have those moments quite regularly. The ‘f**k my son isn’t here’ moments.
But today, today was something else. As I sat, alone, by my little boy’s headstone in the rain, I got my first ever TRUE realisation. I sat telling him a story (I now know ‘Guess How Much I Love You’ from memory) and as I was doing so, a tiny star on the ground in the soil below his headstone caught my eye. I had seen the star a couple of weeks ago and thought nothing of it. Tonight, I remembered – that star is one of the stars that were thrown on to my son’s coffin after he was lowered in to the ground.
And there it was. I had, after 115 days, just realised that my son is dead. He is really dead.
He has no heartbeat. He is buried 3 feet under the ground and he is never coming back.
I cannot even begin to describe what that feels like; I don’t want to even TRY to put it in to words because there are no words in existence that can justify it.
Instead of being excited about the pending arrival of my baby, I dreaded every second because I knew that giving birth to him would mean he was dead.
Instead of registering my son’s birth, I registered his death.
Instead of bringing him home in his car seat, he was brought home in a funeral car.
Instead of organising my son’s Christening, I planned his funeral.
Instead of reading my son bedtime stories in a cosy chair, I read bedtime stories sat at his graveside.
Instead of buying my son toys, I buy him flowers for his grave.
Instead of cuddling my son to sleep, I cuddle the blanket that he was wrapped in for the three days I got to spend with him.
Instead of watching my little girls dote on their baby brother, I watch them cry over missing him.
Instead of kissing my little boy goodnight, I kissed him goodbye.
Otis Dominic Anthony Cullen; you are missed beyond words and loved beyond measure. Sleep well, sweet boy.