A few months ago a blogger wrote to me when I was at the lowest point in my life since Squidge was born. She’d read a post entitled ‘If We Were Having Coffee’ and wanted to write her own version and yet she didn’t know who to invite for said coffee until she read my blog and learned how difficult I was finding life.
I did not know this other blogger; I only vaguely recognised her having occasionally read her blog and yet she used her blog to reach out to me and to let me know that I wasn’t alone in the world or in my feelings. She bought tears to my eyes and she helped me to pick myself up and carry on when I didn’t think I had the strength to or even knew how to.
I know that you’re not alone; that you have a partner, family, friends and a whole host of people who visit your blog to support you and for you to lean on. I didn’t know you when you were pregnant, when you were so ill with HELLP syndrome, when Hugo was born or when he died. I didn’t discover your blog until I started writing mine and you were one of the first people outside of my family to read it and tell me your thoughts.
I do not know what it is to lose a child and I’m under no illusions that I could imagine even a fraction of the grief and sadness that you’ve experienced and that you carry with you still. What I do know is what it’s like to stand on the other side; to be the person who has broken that dreadful news, knowing that your words have changed someone’s life in a way that you would not wish upon anyone. I know what it’s like to see love, grief, anger, pain,loss and heartbreak in the expression of one person as they look down at their baby and know that they have to let them go even though every fibre of their being screams at them to do something, anything to save them.
There were so many things that I wanted to say to you when we met but I was shy and scared and rather overwhelmed by being in such a busy, noisy place with so many people that I didn’t know. I wanted to talk to you but I was afraid that you’d think that I was too intrusive or full on; wanting to talk to you about things that must be difficult for you when you barely know me beyond what I write and publish on my blog.
I wanted to hear you talk about Hugo for as long as you wanted; to say his name, show me the photographs you have of him and tell me about what a huge personality he had for such a tiny boy. I wanted you to be able to talk, knowing that I wouldn’t be uncomfortable talking about his life and that he died and that I wouldn’t try to change the subject.
So I’m inviting you to have a (virtual) coffee (or in my case, hot chocolate) with me, somewhere cosy and private, maybe with snuggly blankets and comfy cushions so that I can say all the things that I wanted to say to you, that I still want to say to you but I just didn’t know how to at the time.
I want to tell you that whenever I read your blog, especially when you write about Hugo I can hear your voice inside my head and it stabs me right in the heart. The tears come to my eyes, I feel the lump rising in my throat because I can feel the all-encompassing love that you have for him and that you show that love to others so beautifully that no one could ever doubt it.
I want to tell you what a huge inspiration you are to me, writing such a truthful, honest, emotional, heart-felt blog and throwing yourself heart and soul into conferences and campaigns with the sole purpose of improving maternity and neonatal care for everyone who ever needs it. You had every right to crawl under you duvet and refuse to face the world again and I’m sure that there were days when that was all you wanted to do. Except that you didn’t, and if you didn’t then I can’t and if you somehow found the strength to carry on then I have to as well.
I want to tell you how I look to you to help me be a better nurse; someone who knows what to say and when to say it, who knows how to comfort and support bereaved parents when the worst thing imaginable has happened and the only thing standing between them and the gaping void that their tiny child has left behind is me.
I want to tell you that whenever I see the stars at night or sing ‘Twinkle Twinkle’ to Squidge I think of you and Hugo. I hold Squidge that little bit closer, cuddle him that little bit tighter and I remind myself that I will tell him all about you and Hugo and all the other babies that I hold in my heart when he’s old enough to understand.
I want to tell you all these things but I also want to tell you that I don’t expect you to be all these things.
I know that you may look positive; that your voice may be animated and that you may have a smile on your face but I know that these things don’t mean than you are ‘fine’. I do not expect you to be ‘noble’ in your grief; to try and hide the emotional mess and turmoil because society expects you to cope, be brave and carry on. Society may expect these things from you but I hope you know that I do not.
Finally, I want you to know that even though I can’t understand how your life must be, I know that you would rather be none of these things if it meant that you had Hugo in your arms.
So I hope you’ll join me for that coffee, virtual for now but maybe in the not too distant future we’ll be able to manage a real one.
Louise is a full time mum and a part time neonatal nurse who has battled depression for many years but particularly during her pregnancy.
She blogs at 23weeksocks (http://23weeksocks.com) about lots of different (and seemingly unconnected) topics that she’s passionate about, including mental health, antenatal depression, neonatal care and baby loss.
In 2015 she was shortlisted in the ‘Fresh Voice’ category for the BIB (Brilliance in Blogging) Awards and the ‘Bereavement Worker’ category for the Butterfly Awards. She was also one of the keynote speakers at BritMums Live reading ‘Twinkle Twinkle’ which was her account of caring for a premature baby on the day that he died.