On the dining table, next to a vase of white roses, there's a Chinese lantern, a handful of poems, a candle and a small teddy. On the wall in the kitchen there's a calendar open at the month of July 2014. On the calendar, there's a date that jumps out of me every time I walk into the kitchen. It doesn't jump out at me because it's ringed or underlined or marked- in fact- it's one of the only boxes on the calendar for July that doesn't have anything written on it.
It doesn't have anything written on it because it doesn't need to be marked for me to remember that date; that date is branded on my memory forever more without the need of a reminder, plus what word would I write to mark the occasion anyway? Birthday, anniversary, death? None sound right when they come out of mouth, probably because all of them apply.
The date on the calendar is the 16th July and that day is Harry's day; the day my first baby- my son- was born, lived and died. This year- 2014- is the first anniversary of "Harry's day"... And all I have to offer him is that small collection of stuff on my dining table.
Today is the 8th July and it has been 50 weeks, 6 days, 15 hours and 32 minutes since I had my first baby Harry. That means it has been 50 weeks, 6 days, 13 hours and 27 minutes since my son died.
A lot has happened in that time. I have gone through post-mortems, organising a funeral I couldn't bring myself to attend, my birthday, finding out I was pregnant again, Harry's due date, Christmas, my first wedding anniversary and giving birth to my perfect little rainbow.
I have mourned, bargained, cried, smiled, been angry- very angry, cried, laughed, panicked, smiled and cried some more. But more than any of those, I have spent most of my first year as "the girl who had a baby that died" in the most horrific state swaying between gut wrenching guilt and vomit inducing panic.
Guilt because I couldn't keep him safe. Guilt because I was pregnant again. Guilt because I wasn't there for him. Because, you see, once my little man was born and doctors tried and failed to help him, he was placed in my arms for a cuddle and I reacted in a strange way. I barely looked at him, I didn't cry and after all of 2 minutes I passed him back to husband. And that was the first, last and only time I saw and held the baby I adored from the moment the test turned positive.
Why? I couldn't really tell you. I'd like to say it was because I felt the bond so strongly once I held him that I knew the longer I held him the worse it would be when he was gone because his going was inevitable, we knew at that point. I loved him so much. He looked just like my husband, he already had hair, he was beautiful... but I let him die alone, motherless, without a cuddle. I couldn't even bring myself to attend his funeral to say goodbye- what sort of mother am I?
I punish myself with the choices I made every day. If I had that time again, if I knew how much my arms would ache for him and how I would spend weeks screaming and crying into my pillow I would have held him and never let him go. I would have attended his funeral and held my husbands hand and said a proper goodbye to my little baby. But that's not possible and I have to carry the ramifications of that with me forever.
Which leads me to the vomit inducing panic. Panic because I was pregnant again, panic because I failed my first child, panic because I didn't want him forgotten. I've lost count of the times I've been hunched over the toilet in a cold sweat, hyperventilating and vomiting. I have no idea how many times I've laid awake at night, angry at some flimsy brush offish comment someone has made about Harry now I was pregnant again. The panic hasn't really stopped since my rainbow arrived, neither has the guilt which I imagine will be with me forever, etched into my heart.
I don't think I will ever be the person I was before. It feels like my heart has been ripped apart and sewed back up clumsily, the scars are big and thick and ache every now and then. Not a day goes by where I don't think of my son. My daughter has the same shaped eyes he had. I've learnt that time does not heal you but it gives you context. You can get up again, you can still live, but rather like a broken bone that never truly heals it aches in cold weather, a constant reminder.
My daughter smiled her first proper smile the other day. Me and my husband were talking away to her and she looked me right in the eye and smiled the most beautiful, glorious smile. Every morning since, when I look into her Moses basket and she catches sight of me, she smiles the same wonderful smile. It fills me with the most amount of joy, happiness and sadness it's unbelievable. Joy and happiness because I have never felt a love so strong, sadness because Harry never had his first smile.
So, at this moment, this is right where I am; I'm sat on my sofa in my freshly decorated flat typing away. My newborn daughter is lying on my chest, supported with my left hand while I awkwardly type with my right hand because I can't bear to put her down for longer than 5 minutes. The cats are now both fighting over their food bowl and my husband is having a nap.
On the dining table, next to a vase of white roses, there's a Chinese lantern, a handful of poems, a candle and a small teddy. In 8 days time, my husband and I will go up to the place we scattered my sons ashes, let off the Chinese lantern, light the candle, read the poems and think of him. I will cry and a part of my heart will break again.
My daughter is 4 weeks, 3 days, 18 hours and 57 minutes old. As I look down at her perfect face with eyes like her brother, I cry tears of happiness and sadness. The small teddy on the table is for my daughter from her big brother; so she will grow up knowing that she has a big brother who is now an angel in the sky and he sent her the teddy as a present from up in heaven, where he is loving and protecting her forever.
Right where I am now is here, trapped in this bubble of mixed sadness and happiness.