Leading up to the burial and memorial we were busy, we had deadlines and jobs that needed doing. I was surprised at what I was capable of doing, just because it needed doing. Had I known about Elijah a year ago, and that he would die, I would have imagined I would have had to be carried from one place to another, perhaps with someone moving my lips for me so I could speak. I did collect the “order of service” sheets from the printers myself, and I did order and collect the flowers for his coffin face to face with the tearful florist. No matter how distressing the jobs might seem, they needed doing – so we did them.
It is now 4 weeks and 2 days since he died, I should be 35 weeks pregnant today. The past 4 weeks have been surreal in many ways. Elijah never came home, we never had the chance to prepare for him at home, so we don’t have an empty room to stand in and note his absence. We have a collection of old baby things in the attic, but these almost entirely belong to Jonah and Amos. The new baby cards are still up, but almost all of them have a sympathy card in front of them. I wasn’t particularly big, and retruned to feeling physically much like my old self rapidly, so I don’t feel physically like I’ve recently been pregnant or recently given birth as a reminder either. Expressing milk is a very detached form of feeding a baby, so I don’t have the memories of feeding him myself. I have the tops that I wore when I held him, and the blankets that he died in. While in hospital, there was occasional talk of keeping momentos of his time in NICU. I kept certain things to show him when he was older, just to prove to him how incredibly small he once was. I have a tea-bag sized nappy, and a CPAP mask the size of a 5 pence piece. We also have the hair that they shaved from his head when they put in a cannula. In the white box we were given as we left the hospital are his wires, and his blood pressure cuff. I didn’t want to bring home the box, I wanted to bring home the baby. That’s not how it works though.
There are so many scenarios that could have played out with my pregnancy. We could be in several different positions to where we are now. I may have lost him at 14 weeks as we thought, but we didn’t. Or at 22 weeks when I was finally admitted myself, but we didn’t. He might not have got NEC, and therefore he might be aiming to come home in about 4 weeks time, or we might still be battling through with him being due to be in hospital for another 10 months, working out life with minimal intestines. Or I might just be finishing work at 35 weeks pregnant. But we’re in none of those positions. He’s not here now, he’s been and has already died, but we did get to have him for a while. While that is incredibly hard, I realise we are so lucky that we did get him for at least a few weeks. We got to see him with life and character. Not everyone gets that much.
We’ve been away for a week at a cottage in the North Yorkshire Moors. It was good to get a change of scenery, and the boys loved it. James and I got chance to rest and relax, and we got exercise and a lot of fresh air. We got chance to sit and think and talk too. The time that Elijah was alive was so intense and so out of the ordinary for us, that when we are a 4, it can feel remarkably normal – yet with a clear and ever present difference. Sometimes I feel physically sick and am definitely a little more anxious about the boys well-being. I woke up one night last week having a bad dream…you know the usual… I’d (along with a group of friends) crucified a homeless man, and the police were coming. My anxiety levels were high, but when I realised it was just a dream the relief didn’t come, it just shifted back to our current reality. It’s hard to describe how we are, or how it feels. We can still have a lovely time, and we don’t forget – he’s in the background sometimes, but if I shift the focus back to him, then it naturally overwhelms me. We are so fortunate to have Jonah and Amos as a distraction. I know I hold them more keenly, and more tightly. Amos fell asleep on my lap in the pub on holiday, I can’t remember the last time that happened. That was lovely. I am caught between an aching for Elijah and loving his big brothers, but at the same time still finding them exhausting and too lively. I am told this is normal.
James returns to work on Wednesday. I am still entitled to my maternity leave – which is of course horrible, no longer having a baby, but is less mean than no longer being entitled to it because he has died. I have bought a new bike. I have loved watching cycling since Stephen Roach won the Tour de France in 1987 – but despite my longest friend Catherine trying her hardest to teach me as a child, (she was 36 days older than me.) I didn’t learn to ride a bike until James taught me in Finland when we were 21. I can’t do inclines, declines or corners – which living in Sheffield leaves me somewhat scuppered. I say “new bike” – it’s a second hand, folding shopper. It’s bright blue and I love it. I hope to get better at cycling this year, and since buying it 13 days ago, I’ve already cycled further on it than I’ve ever ridden in my life. I also hope to focus a little more on my photography – to learn a little more of the technical side. I’m pretty much a photographic chancer to date.
We’re doing alright considering. There are many triggers that set us off, and we cry. We miss Elijah terribly. But there are still 2 big boys here who need us, but seem to be getting more independent by the day. Amos said yesterday “I wish Elijah could sleep in the tent with us, I wish we could have kept him.” He speaks words of truth.