I cried myself to sleep last night. I won't shy away from it. It's not the first time and probably won't be the last either.
I had been looking through a book and found photos of Patrick tucked into it. He was so big, the biggest of my three children. He was so perfect. Looking at photos of him (I've said this before and will say it again) broke my heart.
I am filled with disbelief when I look at photos of Patrick. There really was no reason for him to die, to not be here with us. Disbelief that this has happened; disbelief that this now overshadows my life.
I view everything as 'Before Patrick' and 'After Patrick'. My 'After Patrick' life is filled with sadness and constant 'what ifs'. I try to be happy and feel joy with my other children. Don't misunderstand me when I say that. I am happy, but everything is tinged with sadness.
I wish it was different, but I do not see how it ever can be.
There was a feature on Radio 4 this morning called, 'We Need To Talk About Stillbirth'. So many issues were raised in that feature which I fully agree with.
There is so much stigma around stillbirth. I know of so many people, and I would fall into the category myself, of not mentioning the child that has died because people may feel uncomfortable. The question, 'how many children do you have', is an example. Do I mention Patrick? There is a real feeling among bereaved families about not mentioning the child in case it makes the other person uncomfortable.
I always think about other family members who have died. There is no stigma around a mother or father, or brother or sister, passing away and those people are remembered by their family. Why is it different for a child born sleeping?
I do wonder how other people view stillbirth. I think there is some feeling of there being something wrong with the mother, or family, as to why the child was stillborn. Maybe this is why the child is never really mentioned. It is heartbreaking for the family.
I love hearing of other people trying to change society's perception of stillbirth. That is what I am trying to do here in fact. I hope I see the stigma around stillbirth disappear in my lifetime.
It has been 64 weeks since Patrick was born sleeping.
My son brought me a toy which should have been given to Patrick. I had items for Patrick - clothes, toys, some things I had knitted. The bag that I had packed for the hospital had been put away in the weeks after his death, and I only came across it recently. In that bag was this toy.
My son favours this toy. I keep putting it away and he keeps finding it. The other day he brought it out to me. He showed it to me and told me that it is Patrick's toy.
We talk about Patrick often. I try to talk about him whenever the opportunity comes up. It is important for me to know that me other two children are aware of Patrick. He is their brother and I want them to know this.
My son does know that Patrick is his brother, but at the moment he is too young to understand what this means. It breaks my heart to hear him mention his name and to know that that is as close as he will get to him.
It is so hard to look at my son and know that Patrick should be standing next to him.
I wish I knew that it gets harder before it gets better.
My tipping point was six months after Patrick was born. I wanted some type of memorial. I wanted someone to talk about Patrick, but no-one did. I could not understand why no-one was mentioning him or why we were not lighting a candle at least.
I remember chatting to a counsellor on that day. It was a coincidence that it happened to be that day. I had asked for help and that call came at my lowest.
During our conversation, he asked me why I needed someone to talk about him. I felt that because he was never mentioned, that I was unable to talk about him, to remember him properly. It was as if Patrick had never existed.
The counsellor told me to take some time for myself that day. It was a difficult day and I needed to be gentle. He told me that I did not need to follow the lead of others; that what they did or did not do should not determine what I do on that day, or any day. He was right. I needed to do something to celebrate his life and memory.
That day I began to light a candle for Patrick. I feel 'better' for doing it. I feel like I am acknowledging his presence each day; acknowledging his place in my life.
We visit Patrick every Sunday. At the start, after he died, I visited him more often. Now, however, it's once a week.
I know that the grave is where Patrick is laid, but I do not believe that I need to visit the grave to be close to him. Patrick is with me all the time. I think of him constantly.
I do not like to visit Patrick's grave. I always feel so sad and helpless. I feel completely lost. I do not find comfort in visiting his grave. I know some people do, but I do not. I wish I found comfort. I wish I felt closer to him. Patrick's grave is simply his lying place.
I am writing this to show that there is no 'right' way. I used to think that I was supposed to feel something other than sadness when I visited his grave; that I should find comfort in visiting him. I have accepted that this is not the case. I used to think that I was a bad mother if I did not visit his grave more often. This is not the case either. I visit his grave once a week, but I do my own daily 'rituals' to remember him. I feel closer to him in daily life than simply standing at his grave.
You need to find what is right in your own way. If visiting the grave is too difficult then maybe you can erect a bench on your favourite walk, or plant a tree somewhere special. That way you can still take the time to reflect on your baby and what has happened.
Do what is right for you.
Nothing can prepare you for it. Nothing.
For me, those words, 'there is no heartbeat', signalled the beginning of a journey I never could have imagined being on.
The feelings of utter devastation, of being completely lost, of a sense of sadness I had never felt before were only some of the initial states I passed through. Those first few days and weeks are a blur. I was on autopilot trying to understand what was going on. I felt such emptiness, not only during my days, but also within myself.
For me it did not get better, there was no 'moving on'. I did not know how to handle my new situation. I did not know what to do.
These pages are what I now know and what I wish I had of known right at the start.